Kenya popular spot for cocaine smuggling – report

The report was released by Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime

In Summary

•Kenya continues to struggle with drug abuse and narcotic smuggling, affecting thousands of youths especially in Coastal Kenya.

•A report now say the country is a key transit point for cocaine smuggling in the region with criminal groups using Mombasa port and airports.

Coast police chiefs inspect sachets of heroin and cocaine at regional police headquarters in Mombasa, on August 25, 2019
Coast police chiefs inspect sachets of heroin and cocaine at regional police headquarters in Mombasa, on August 25, 2019

A new report has shown that Kenya is a popular point and route for the smuggling of cocaine in the region.

The report, titled ‘A Powder Storm, The Cocaine Markets of East and Southern Africa’ released last week, notes that Mombasa port and key airports as transit points for cocaine in the country and the region.

“There is strong evidence indicating that the Nairobi market, fed by cocaine supply chains through the Eldoret air hub, maintains a strong reciprocal cocaine trafficking relationship, along overland traffic links, with Mogadishu (Somalia), Juba (South Sudan), Kampala (Uganda), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania),” the report reads in part.

“These embedded and resilient market connections see a myriad of illicit and ‘grey market’63 goods (including an array of illicit drugs beyond just cocaine) flowing regularly between these regions as a socio-economic by-product of the diasporic connections between these major urban centres.”

The report was released by Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC) and authored by Jason Eligh, a senior expert and illicit drug market and policy analyst at the GI-TOC.

It notes that Kenya is a popular country for the landing and onward transnational transport of cocaine from South America, through Brazil, to and through the region.

The report also says that Malaba is a significant smuggling transit point of smaller consignments of the drug from the Coast to international transit locations through Kampala, and Kigali in Rwanda, as well as northward to Juba and Addis Ababa.

“The trade in khat (known locally as miraa) plays an important role in facilitating and maintaining the traditional smuggling routes that are then exploited for the movement of cocaine and other illicit drugs to Kenyan coastal locations such as Lamu, Malindi, Mombasa, and Isebania," the report reads.

"Kenya is also a significant micro-trafficking point for the distribution of cocaine by air and sea to the Indian Ocean Island states of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles."

The report explored current cocaine markets in 16 East and Southern African countries including Kenya, Botswana, Comoros, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Lesotho, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Reunion.

It points out Coastal ports in South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya as the primary nodes of domestic, regional and onward transnational distribution of cocaine adding that South Africa has rapidly become the continent’s biggest cocaine market.

It notes that the region’s growing popularity as a transit route is supported by poorly monitored coastal container port facilities, weak marine enforcement capacity and political environments that favour illicit traders.

Eligh notes that the use of illegal drugs increased as the transit points gained prominence.

Illegal drug use and trafficking have continued along the Coastal towns including Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu despite proclamations by top government officials of stringent efforts to fight the vice.

In Mombasa, officials say that rehab centres are overwhelmed by addicts and the rate of relapse for those who successfully recover is high.

Eligh’s report noted that: “Collaboration between criminal networks and state-embedded actors is widespread in the Kenyan cocaine trade. In fact, politics and crime are so interlinked they can appear to be inseparable.”

Previous drug seizures in Coast have revealed the involvement of state and security agencies in the lucrative enterprise with some officials who get in the way either transferred or killed.

The report found that large volumes of cocaine are moving to and through the region by containerised shipments, general maritime cargo vessel shipments and micro-trafficking initiatives by air and by sea.

“The regional cocaine trade is empowered by the collusion of state agencies, corruption and state capture, and fueled by law enforcement incapacity, incompetence and, in some cases, indifference,” report reads.

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