COVID-19 SHUTDOWN

Traders protest ban on miraa transportation, sale

Unhygienic handling at source and during transportation cited as reason for the ban

In Summary

• Religious leaders from Garissa have also called on the authorities to close all miraa selling outlets.

• The majority of those who sell miraa are women who need the money to sustain their families.

Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi and county commissioner Jacob Narengo
BAN: Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi and county commissioner Jacob Narengo
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

A day after Garissa, Wajir and Mandera banned the transportation and sale of miraa, those in the business have started feeling the pinch.

Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi was the first to announce the ban to prevent possible spread of the novel coronavirus. Soon after,  Mandera Governor Ali Roba followed suit.

Religious leaders from Garissa have called on the authorities to close all miraa selling outlets.

 
 

Somalia, which is one of Kenya's biggest markets for the mild stimulant, has banned the importation of miraa.

On Tuesday, Governor Abdi said transportation and sale of miraa had temporarily been suspended in the area. He spoke after meeting the county security and intelligence committee led by county commissioner Jacob Narengo.

“Due to the unhygienic way in which miraa is handled at source and during transportation and trading, we are asking the relevant authorities to suspend transportation and sale of miraa to minimize the risk of transmission of coronavirus. We appeal to the County Security Intelligence Committee to enforce the order until it is lifted," he said.

Asked about the effects the ban will have on those who depend on the trade to sustain their families, Abdi said even though he sympathised with them, the health of the general public superseded everything else.

“There is little we can do. We cannot compromise on the general health of our people. As a county, we also get revenue from miraa sellers, but for now, that is not important,” Abdi said.

The majority of those who sell miraa are women who need the money to sustain their families.

Habiba Mahat, who has been in the business for 10 years, said suspending the sale of miraa means her family will have to go hungry for the entire period she will not be selling.

 
 

“Miraa trade is what I have known all my years. I use the little I get to sustain my family. When you tell me to stop selling, what do you want me to do?” she posed.

Halima Hassan said if the ban will help curb the spread of the virus, then it is welcome.

“I want to look at the bigger picture. I'm at risk of contracting the virus just like many other Kenyans, so why should I risk my life and that of others? I can only pray that this pandemic is contained fast so that we get back to our normal lives,” she said.

Muslim leaders in Garissa said the earlier the move was taken the better for everyone. 

The clerics from SUPKEM, CIPK, director for religious affairs Garissa county and Association of Quranic Teachers spoke to the press at Garissa SUPKEM offices.

SUPKEM national organising secretary Abdullahi Salat said they would be at the forefront in discouraging people from selling and buying miraa.

The Star came across county askaris and police officers patrolling areas where miraa is commonly sold in Wajir town. "We are not taking chances on this one. It is a directive and our work is very simple: To make sure it is followed," an officer said.

Edited by A. Ndung'u