Pubdate: Sat, 06 May 2006
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Contact:  2006 Nation Newspapers
Author: Ambrose Murunga
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


On my last trip out, I bumped into someone involved in the trafficking
of narcotics; and received a priceless education. Forget media reports
of suspects being placed under observation at airports to expel
'pellets of drugs they had swallowed'.

First, the 'body couriers' do not swallow the pellets. They are not
even pellets. They are crudely assembled packages the size of half a

One would choke swallowing one of these containers; so the dealers
adopt a more ingenious mode: the packages are introduced up the
courier's nether regions.

Where a bigger consignment has to be 'bodied in', the courier is
sedated and the packages pumped up into the large intestines.

Secondly, the real movers behind the narcotics trade in Kenya are
unlikely to be arrested any time soon. Incidentally, they are known to
the police and other authorities.

And even without the suspected protection from crooked police officers
and politicians, it still would be difficult to pin the drug 'dons'
under our current laws. They hardly touch the drugs themselves, and
naturally, the couriers never meet or see them.

A while back, such subtlety and caution was not necessary. In fact,
trafficking in drugs was the royal thing to do.

That was the time the Queen of England and her empire were the biggest
drug pushers in the world. They even went and beat up China - twice -
when the Chinese tried to stop the traffic in narcotics.

The Queen's name was Victoria. It was this same lady who modestly
observed that "most Englishmen feel India should belong to me", and
promptly declared herself Empress of India.

Anyway, back to China. Britain needed tea and silk from China, and
they had to pay cash for them. That drained the Treasury, because the
Chinese wanted little from the West.

Her Majesty got concerned at the imbalance in trade. A solution had to
be found, and fast. Then someone shouted, 'Opium', and the Queen
smiled her approval.

Opium, a potent narcotic, was cultivated large-scale in India. The
Empress of India, aka the Queen of England, directed her merchants to
export the drug to China in exchange for tea and other valuables.

The Emperor of China saw the devastating effect opium had on 40
million of his soldiers and the civilians, and he got upset. He banned
the trade in opium and wrote to the Queen, asking her to discontinue
her drug habits.

The Queen, in turn, asked the Emperor to open Chinese ports and towns
to 'free trade', including narcotics. The Emperor refused and said: "I
shall never legalise a vice that feeds on the misery of my people".

He further impounded stocks of opium from British traders. The opium
was destroyed.

The British, enraged by the seizure of their precious cargo, sent in
the Royal Navy with their fancy cannons. The Chinese only had junk
ships and antiquated weaponry.

The Royal Navy wasted the Chinese coastal towns, and then sailed
inland. The Emperor, facing imminent humiliation, conceded defeat and
talked peace.

Among the concessions was the legalisation of trade in opium and other
hard drugs.

France, Russia and the US also wanted part of the narcotics action. So
Britain and France beat up China again, 15 years after the First Opium
War. Russia and the US were included in the subsequent treaties for
'free trade'.

Some 150 years later, trade in narcotics is still as lucrative as
Queen Victoria left it. This time, it is mainly South Americans, the
Afghanis/Pakistanis and Nigerians writing the script.

Kenyans and Tanzanians have been relegated to the less elegant roles
of couriers and the provision of transhipment facilities.

Going by the trumpet blasts by the police on every arrest and recovery
of drugs, I suspect that is all there is on the detection end. But
what is the true extent of the narcotics trade in Kenya, and are we
doing enough to minimise the traffic?

There are no reliable statistics on drug trafficking in Kenya.
Conservative estimates put the global trade in narcotics at US$ 450
billion per year.

The US, in spite of its 25-billion-dollar-a-year war on drugs, has
seen the population of narcotic convicts in prison shoot up from
45,272 in 1981 to 495,261 last month.

Prime indicators of narcotics proliferation - rate of arrests and
prosecutions, amounts of drugs seized, number of known user
communities - have not been consistent enough to create a distinct
pattern for Kenya.

But there is sufficient evidence that traffickers consider Kenya a
soft base for repackaging and transiting drugs to other points. That
is not just offensive; it is also a national security threat.

Presently, there is not much to show that we are taking the threat
posed by drug trafficking seriously. Take our Anti-Narcotics Unit, for

The only active station appears to be at the JKIA. Here, a chief
inspector is head of station, and there have been a string of profiled
busts in the recent past. The rest of the outposts are lifeless.

Mombasa Port, which should attract priority status because of its
ability to handle bulk imports, is headed by a corporal. No disrespect
to the corporal, but Vigilance could demonstrate better commitment

The assault on narcotics demands integrity on the part of officers
involved, whether under cover or overt. To minimise the prospect of
compromise, officers in this section should be offered incentives
similar to those of their colleagues at the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority.

Issues like training, funding and kitting of the anti-drug unit should
not be left to the occasional donor. The Government must take full
ownership of the war on narcotics, and provide facilities to match.

So while we may celebrate the arrest of the rectally abused courier,
the Queen's comrades-in-trade are slowly winning the war on narcotics.

We, and the future, are the big losers. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake