OPINION: Uhuru’s support for war on drugs key in keeping the country clean

By Michael Cherambos

The war on drugs is not an issue typically associated with our country. Although Kenyans are not major consumers of drugs, our country has nevertheless become an important hub in the global illicit narcotics industry.

East Africa and particularly Kenya plays an important role as a transit destination, facilitating the transfer of over $10 billion (Ksh.1 trillion) worth of drugs annually, according to UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates.

Our location in between South Asia, the point of origin for drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and Europe as well as the United States, has made our country central for traffickers. They take advantage of our coastline as well as long boarders to smuggle in drugs destined for global markets.

In response, President Uhuru Kenyatta, spearheading the war on drugs in our country, has taken a number of important measures to ensure that, “our war on illegal drugs is steadily being won.”

Key in this regard has been developing the capacity to identify drug shipments and stop these before they enter our country. Crucial here was the creation of the Kenyan Coast Guard Service in 2018.

In his dedication speech for the service at Liwatoni in Mombasa, Uhuru tasked the coast guards with, “ensuring that our oceans will no longer be used by drug traffickers, human traffickers, illegal arms and illegal fishing”. The coast guard has since become a highly effective service, at par with many of its international counterparts, and has proven instrumental in securing our naval border and deterring drug traffickers.

Having equipped our country with the necessary tools, the government has also sought to formulate a guiding strategy. Employing the proper strategy is imperative if we want to win the war on drugs once and for all and not simply be victorious in independent battles against criminal elements.

The main target of these efforts has thus been organisations responsible for overseeing and coordinating drug smuggling, rather than the low level smugglers. By expending the country’s resources on identifying these, the

President has taken a macro approach which has proven effective. These efforts were even lauded by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, according to which this strategy has enabled Kenya, “to remain vigilant and aggressively pursue drug traffickers”.

The global reach of some of these trafficking organisations has led Uhuru to also coordinate his government’s efforts with international partners. Given the direct threat that terrorists and drug traffickers both pose to global safety and stability, these are issues that cannot be tackled without international cooperation.

In 2017, in his fourth State of the Nation address, Uhuru explained how “we are actively cooperating with several foreign law enforcement agencies to identify and bring to book the individuals involved in the international narcotics trade”.

These government efforts made as part of the war on drugs could not be complete without work to curb domestic drug related issues. Despite the fact that drug abuse in Kenya is not at the level of that in Europe or the US, any form drug consumption in our country is too much.

The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) has proven particularly important in these efforts. The government has over the past few years significantly invested in this organisation.

It has thus far assisted with millions in funding which has been used to provide intravenous drug abusers with clean needles, administer methadone to the over 50,000 Kenyans who use heroine and most recently at the end of 2019, launch a novel UN-backed anti-drug policy.

This policy has sought to take an active approach in supporting Kenyan substance abusers in their efforts to make a change in their lives and stop using dangerous drugs.

The war on drugs cannot be easily won. It is an uphill battle that many countries have been fighting for decades already. However, with the tools provided by the government as well as coherent government policy in place, this is a battle we can win.

The future security of our country demands it. History has proven in many other cases that without perseverance, drug smuggling has the potential to rot a country from within. A host of countries in South America have exemplified this.

However, under Uhuru’s leadership alongside extensive government efforts, we can rest assured that this important battle will continue to be fought.

Michael Cherambos comments on topical socio-political issues; Michaelcherambos1@gmail.com

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