What you need to know:
- Seventy-six Kenyans are currently jailed in China. Majority of the Kenyans in Chinese jails are serving death sentence for drug-related cases.
- In August 2018, Rose Achieng Ojala, a mother of three, was sentenced to death in Malaysia after being found guilty of possessing the drug methamphetamine.
- In October 2018, a drug trafficker known as Mary Mukami Mwangi was jailed for 20 years after being found guilty of drug trafficking.
During her heyday, Peninah Lema Munyithya, popularly known as Pesh, attracted publicity and media attention with all manners of stunts, notoriously among them exposing her nudes in social media.
Most photos of the then-Mt Kenyatta University student were taken in high-end clubs in the company of Nigerian men.
Then in July 2015, her photos literally broke the internet after she was arrested in the town of Kumasi, Ghana, with a haul of drugs.
During her sentencing, the court was told that she was part of a cartel trafficking drugs between Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and several other countries.
Pesh, who still has seven more years to serve in her 10-year jail sentence, is among the growing number of Kenyan women who are actively involved in drug trafficking.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s “World Drug Report 2018”, women may not only be victims, but also active participants in drug trade.
The report says that the proportion of women sentenced for drug-related offences is higher than that of men.
Although there are no official confirmed statistics, the government estimates that a good number of the 1,300 Kenyans serving jail terms abroad include women drug traffickers.
According to a statement issued by Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma in October last year, 76 Kenyans are currently jailed in China. Majority of the Kenyans in Chinese jails are serving death sentence for drug-related cases.
One of the high-profile prisoners is Ms Floviance Razan Owino, whose predicament of facing the hangman’s noose in 2015 led to a campaign by a section of Kenyans to have her repatriated back to Kenya.
“Her issue raised a lot of publicity which forced the Chinese and Kenyan High Commissions to allow her parents to visit her in prison in China. It was a first for such kind of a visit to be done,” Mr Okweh Achiando, her lawyer, recalls in an interview with the Sunday Nation.
Mr Achiando says that when they arrived in China, they were shocked to discover that there were dozens of Kenyans in jails who had been sentenced to death.
China is among the countries with laws that allow execution of drug traffickers. “Together with others, the sentences were later commutated to life imprisonment,” he said.
According to various government reports, there are many Kenyan women jailed in various parts of the world for engaging in drug trafficking. Most of them are in South Africa, Nigeria, China and India.
In June last year, a Kenyan identified as Marium Mweke was arrested in New Delhi, India, with two Nigerian men.
Ms Mweke was on her way to deliver 2.5 kilogrammes of heroin to a peddler in Punjab.
During interrogation, the woman confessed to Indian police that she belonged to a cartel which had brought in more than 120kg of heroin to India using capsules hidden in the cavities of carry bags and through drug mules.
In August 2018, Rose Achieng Ojala, a mother of three, was sentenced to death in Malaysia after being found guilty of possessing the drug methamphetamine, which she was trying to smuggle into the country.
According to the Daily Express, a Malaysian newspaper, Ms Ojala had ingested 68 capsules totalling to 400 grammes and concealed three capsules of the drug in her private parts.
The 40-year-old was arrested in Kuala Lumpur airport. During her trial, she claimed that she had been forced to swallow the drugs at gunpoint, but the court disagreed with her and insisted that she concealed the drugs intentionally.
Back at home in Kenya, several female drug peddlers have been arrested and arraigned in court. In August last year, a multiagency team arrested a notorious drug queen in Mlolongo.
The woman was found in possession of two kilogrammes of heroin valued at Sh3 million. She was also found with passports and e-tickets which detectives said belonged to drug couriers connected with her.
In October 2018, a drug trafficker known as Mary Mukami Mwangi was jailed for 20 years after being found guilty of drug trafficking.
The woman was found with 83 pellets of cocaine weighing 929 grammes at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), as she was leaving the country for Indonesia.
Another suspect identified as Mary Nyaguthie was arrested in September last year at JKIA with 18 pellets of narcotics.
In July 2015, former Kenya Airways hostess Priscilla Kolongei was released from Lang’ata Women’s Maximum Prison after serving 13 years out of an 18-year sentence.
Ms Kolongei was caught with more than 27 kilogrammes of heroin in March 2002 as she attempted to smuggle them into the country from Mumbai, India. The drugs were worth Sh27 million.