Pubdate: Sun, 21 Dec 2008
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Copyright: 2008 Nation Newspapers
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


There have been press reports that the authorities at Vigilance House
may have "downgraded" the Anti-Narcotics Unit, the team that is
assigned the task of fighting drug syndicates and arresting and
prosecuting the masterminds.

The unit is normally headed by a top police officer, sometimes in the
rank of senior assistant commissioner of police, which to some extent
signals to the public the seriousness with which the force is taking
the fight against drugs.

The police spokesman has told the Sunday Nation that the unit is
merely being reorganised and will come out stronger. Whatever the
case, it would be unwise not to have a strong anti-narcotics team
given the disturbing drugs situation in the country.

ALTHOUGH DRUGS WORTH MILLIONS of shillings continue to be trafficked
into the country by sophisticated and well-organised international
drug syndicates led by West Africans, and barons from Eastern Europe,
the ANU which operates under the Director of Criminal Investigations
is reporting fewer successes of late.

No major seizures have been made since 2006 despite a World Drugs
Report indicating that large quantities of heroin, cocaine, cannabis
and methaqualone continue to be smuggled into the country.

Kenya leads Burundi, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Rwanda and Seychelles in the
region in drug trafficking incidents.

A few years ago, the Commissioner of Police found it fit to appoint a
senior assistant commissioner to head the unit. All detectives who
served in the unit during the December 2004 seizure of the Sh6.4
billion cocaine haul have apparently since been deployed to other duties.

By Friday, the unit was under the command of a police

The Sunday Nation notes Spokesman Eric Kiraithe's reassurance that the
unit is very much active and functional.

His argument that ANU "exists to be felt and not to be seen" is
probably also a good one.

HIS REVELATION THAT THERE IS AN "intention" to acquire new vehicles
and equipment for the unit is also a blow for the right cause.

But Kiraithe's sentiments must be taken in the context of an alert by
the National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (Nacada) --
the government agency whose job is to co-ordinate public education
campaigns against drug and substance abuse -- that the drug problem
has reached crisis levels.

As reported in this paper, Nacada estimates that in Lamu district, 10
young people are dying every day from drug-related complications. They
have found that Nairobi and Coast provinces are hard hit by drugs,
Eastern and North Eastern by miraa, Central, Rift Valley, Western and
Nyanza by bootleg and bhang.

IN ANY CASE, THE GOVERNMENT needs to think more seriously about
Nacada's capacity. Although it has a high-sounding title that makes it
look as though it is national in character, it only exists in Nairobi
and has skeletal staff. It doesn't have a single office anywhere else
in the country and yet the problem it is trying to solve is national
in character.

If the Lamu estimates are accurate, then the drug problem in Kenya has
reached unacceptable levels. Every government agency should be alive
to the possibility that the war on drugs could easily be lost.

The time for action is long overdue. If nothing is done, and done
quickly, society is in danger of losing a good part of this and the
next generation to drugs and bootleg while crime barons rake in
billions of shillings.

Part of the reason drug barons thrive in any country is because they
corrupt those who are entrusted with the job of taking them out of

To what extent has that happened here? 
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