Pubdate: Sun, 19 Dec 2004
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Copyright: 2004 Nation Newspapers
Author: Caleb Atemi
Bookmark: (Heroin)



Back to 1990, the year the incredible happened to the cool, serene and 
beautiful beaches of Malindi. The event rocked the peace of the coastal town.

A young Italian man sauntered along the sandy beaches kicking and picking 
sand. A can of beer in his hand, he whistled his favourite tune.

After a few days stay in Kenya, he had learnt to say jambo and exchange 
niceties with the locals. But he loved his beer most. One day, in the dead 
of the night, the local police and anti-narcotic squad raided a dingy 
joint. They seized a number of drug dealers, commercial sex workers and idlers.

The young man, Eduardo Agnelli, was among those held. His arrest and 
subsequent arraignment in court sent shock waves across the globe. He was 
no ordinary mzungu tourist. He belonged to one of the wealthiest and most 
powerful families in Italy and Europe. He was the son of Jiann Agnelli, the 
late owner of Fiat.

Eduardo, a drug addict, was in possession of heroine, one of the deadliest 
substances available on the drug market. After a lengthy and tedious court 
case and high-level political intervention, Eduardo was set free.

On November 15, 2002, Eduardo, facing the prospect of serving ten years in 
prison, jumped to his death in Italy's River Stura. He was aged 46.

His arrest bore testimony to the porous nature of Kenya's borders and 
coastline. Malindi especially was, and still is, fertile ground for drugs, 
crime and illicit trade.

The lively town boasts more than 3000 luxury homes and private villas that 
are rented out to tourists at exclusive prices. At the height of its 
business, the town can accommodate more than 2000 men and women from 
different parts of the world.

Many of these individuals, whose criminal record the Kenyan authorities 
never bother to check, normally hide behind the huge walls and big gates of 
the expensive villas. Others stay in the privacy of the 600 plus private homes.

How alert are we to the deadly international trade in drugs? How awake are 
we to the realities that terrorists could easily slip into Kenya and build 
up a base? How careful are we as a country when it comes to allowing in 
visitors? Do we simply open the floodgates for the sake of the dollar and 
sacrifice our country's security?

Drugs, arms trade, terrorism and HIV/Aids are topics that must keep our 
thinkers and rulers on their toes. A little slumber and these evils could 
destroy us all.

It is clear that many drug dealers, small and big, have turned Kenya into a 
haven. A drug addict in Malindi recently intimated to a close friend of 
mine that at least 20 restaurants in that coastal town are used to arrange 
drug deals.

The restaurants, most of them owned and operated by Italians, sell drugs to 
customers from Europe who find Kenya a safe hiding place from those seeking 
them out for criminal activities. With big money, they can easily slip 
through the police dragnets and judicial systems.

While the drug dealers in Malindi did a roaring business, another baron, 
Ibrahim Akasha, boasted daily from his Mombasa base of his invincibility. 
He was the untouchable. No police officer or judge could touch him.

His cheek knew no bounds. He was known to threaten and even slap 
journalists and senior police officers. Akasha was being protected by some 
powerful individuals up there.

It is now in Malindi and Nairobi that the police have focused their 
attention following what they describe as the biggest seizure of illicit 
drugs in Africa - a haul said to be Sh 5 billion.

But how well are we fighting drugs? Mr Joseph Kaguthi, chair of the 
National Agency for Campaign Against Drug Abuse, has staged one of the 
boldest fights in Kenya. His warnings normally fall on deaf ears.

Many observers argue that police officers and anti-narcotic officials 
specialise in harassing petty dealers and addicts. Rarely do they follow 
the big players in the business.

Drug dealers the world over are known to bribe even the most strict and 
patriotic officers and judges into silence and complicity. When a deal goes 
sour among drug gangs and families, that is when the police catch up with 
huge hauls.

To fight drugs successfully, we must re-establish the sense of patriotism 
that has been lost in our societal decadence.

We must critically re-evaluate the operations along our borders and points 
of entry.

We must arm, pay and handsomely reward our policemen and women. It is 
tragic that even now, Malindi has not a single speedboat for police use.

Our tourist police units have no intelligence unit to smile about. Neither 
do they have stamina to engage in big antidrug campaigns. They merely 
specialise in harassing beach boys and commercial sex workers.

In Nairobi, the police should focus more on the wealthy neighbourhoods 
where global crime are orchestrated.

The mixture of drugs, crime and sex is so deadly that few societies can 
withstand their demonic power. Yet this concoction has become part and 
parcel of our commercialising world.

Since drugs, like HIV/Aids, know no bounds, the recent seizure should give 
our ruling elite and the wealthy sleepless nights.

No one is safe from drugs. Not even the son of the richest man in Italy 
could withstand the effect of the deadly substance.

Eduardo's arrest on our own soil, his arraignment in court and subsequent 
death is a lesson no one can ignore. 
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