Pubdate: Mon, 16 Aug 2004
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Copyright: 2004 Nation Newspapers
Author: Bertha Kang'ong'oi
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Youth)


The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has listed Kenya as one
of the major transit countries in East Africa, of South Asian heroin
destined for Europe and North America.

In it's 2004 Fact Book Report, the CIA also notes that Kenya is also
strategically placed to be a useful transit for hard drugs from India
on their way to Southern Africa.

But unfortunately, Kenya does not just remain a transit country. "Some
of the drugs on transit find their way into the local market and are
increasingly becoming a problem to us," says Mr Stephen Sosio, the
Programme Cordinator, Public Awareness of the National Agency for the
Campaign Against Drug Abuse, NACADA.

Mr Sosio confirms the CIA report about Kenya being a major transit
route for hard drugs: "Drugs, especially heroin from countries like
Pakistan and Afghanistan pass through Kenya on their way to European
countries," he says. "Then there are those from South American
countries which usually come to Kenya from West Africa on their way to
South Africa," he adds.

But why Kenya? There are a number of reasons why the drug traffickers
find it somewhat easy to transit their "goods" through Kenya. One of
the more obvious reasons is that the kind of profit involved in
narcotics trade is so big that most people will shelve any kind of
moral responsibility for it.

"With the kind of economic hardships that most Kenyans are facing,
involvement in drug trafficking becomes an easy option for anyone
struggling to make ends meet".

Porous boundaries are another major setback to Kenya as it becomes
easy to bring the drugs in and out of the country. "Corruption, a
lukewarm political and administration goodwill based on ignorance,
indifference and denial of the problem is another aspect that we the
Kenyan authorities will have to address," says Sosio.

He also cites weak legislation and conflicting law enforcement by the
mandated agencies as one of the reasons there is no proper
coordination in combating the drug traffickers.

"Without proper policing and administration, we will be under siege
from both the Asian and South American drugs which are finding their
way in and out through our borders and in the process, landing here
for keeps at an increasingly high rate".

But even as a small percentage of the drugs finds its way into the
country, Mr Sosio says these have not become a major problem here as
they are in other parts of the world. "They generally circulate around
the urban centres and rarely find their way into the countryside," he

"But it is this very reason that has made the Kenyan population
ignorant of the situation at home," says Mr Sosio. "When you talk of
drug and substance abuse, everyone thinks of the hard drugs. Very few
take what we have here as a matter of great concern".

At this point, Mr Sosio tells me of what his organisation has called
the Big Six. It has nothing to do with wildlife! "These are the big
drugs and substances of abuse here in Kenya," he says. "They are
alcohol, tobacco, miraa (khat), bhang (marijuana), inhalants and
pharmaceutical drugs such as valium and piriton".

He goes on to say that these substances have become too common in our
society that they have also become accepted as normal to use.

"What is more disheartening is that the youth in our society are the
ones using and abusing these substances to their own detriment". He
quickly remembers the Kenyan boxer who has been banned from taking
part in the Athens Olympics after failing a drugs test. " Most likely,
Munyasia was ignorant of the fact that miraa contains a stimulant that
the rest of the world considers a drug! It must have come as a
surprise as well to many Kenyans who have never thought of miraa as a

Another clear indication that the situation has gone farther than many
might want to believe is another recent incident where students taking
part in a national music festival were found with alcohol.

According to a study done by NACADA in 2003, the most abused
substances by students, between the ages of 10 and 24, are alcohol,
tobacco, miraa, inhalants and bhang in a decreasing order.

"Most of us ignore the student problem until it stares us in the
face," says Mr Sosio.

NACADA advocates that the only sure way to fight and keep off the hard
drugs is to first deal with what we have on our hands. "Fight alcohol
and you will be fighting the hard drugs as well," says Mr Sosio. "A
person who is hooked to alcohol or any other substance or drug
qualifies to become hooked to these hard drugs".

Drug and substance abuse undermines order in families, societies and
hence in the government.

Mr Sosio adds: "There needs to be a change of attitude, even in
parenting, to have lasting solutions that will make a difference even
in future".

The study conducted by NACADA also found out that drug and substance
abuse impacts negatively on health, education, the economy and
national stability.

To some degree, it is responsible for road accidents, reduced
production and efficiency at work, violence and psychiatric cases. It
therefore undermines human development and adversely affects the
youth, the world's most valuable asset. 
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