Many crackdowns later, is war on drugs success?

Some bigwigs have fallen but the vacuum is quickly filled by others

In Summary

• Properties of people linked to drugs have been raided, ships with consignments burnt

• Stakeholders say the crackdowns have not changed much, fight has long way to go

Police raided the home of Ali Punjani on August 12 last year
Police raided the home of Ali Punjani on August 12 last year

Kenya’s port has been named the new route of drug trafficking to not only the country but the entire continent and beyond.

The port of Mombasa has also been reported as the route of narcotic drugs coming from Asia and Latin America, heading to Europe.

As a result, the Coastal region has been turned into a drug-filled zone, where substances of any kind are readily available and at affordable prices.

According to a status of alcohol and drug abuse report by Nacada, at least 424,606 people use one kind of drugs in the Coastal region, with Mombasa leading with 323,143 people or 34 per cent and Taita Taveta trailing with 58,924 or 20.7 per cent.

The report further found that bhang is the most used drug, with 151,645 users, and Kwale county youths use it the most at 7 percent, while Mombasa County leads with current use of heroin, 5.2 per cent, and cocaine, 2.6 per cent.

The statistics indicate the fight is far from over and more effort needs to put in place while dealing with the menace. 

Kenya is known to have produced one of the world’s most dangerous drug lords, Ibrahim Akasha. Akasha was later shot dead in Amsterdam, where he went to meet an associate.

After his death, the drug fight seemed to have gone silent until 2010, when the US government linked four Kenyan politicians to drug trafficking dealings. However, the US report was swept under the carpet as no investigations were carried out against the alleged traffickers.

The fight came back to life in July 2014, when a Kenya-destined ship was captured trafficking 3 tons of drugs.

Mv Al Noor is said to have been ferrying drugs from an Asian country and was destined for Kenya.

However, the owners of the consignment remained a mystery as import documents did not reveal the information. The ship’s crew were later charged with drug trafficking alongside three Kenyan clearing agents.

Four months later, two brothers of a famous crime family were arrested alongside their accomplices.

The Akasha brothers, Baktash and Ibrahim, together with Pakistani Gulam Hussein and Indian Vijay Goswami, were accused of trafficking tons of drugs to the US.

According to the US authorities, despite them facing criminal charges at a Mombasa court, they continued to trade in drugs as usual and used some of the proceedings to bribe and beat the justice system.

In April 2015, 7.6kg of heroine was found stashed in an underwater tank on a luxurious yacht in Mnarani, Kilifi county.

Also, another 2kg were nabbed from a suitcase that allegedly belonged to a Seychelles national, who was to sail the boat to Madagascar.

Subsequently, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered a major crackdown on drugs, its dealers and their dens at the Coast. The crackdown gained momentum but faded within few months without any significant results.

In January 2017, the fight against this menace, which has turned thousands of Coastal youths into “zombies”, scored a rare win when the Akasha brothers, who were considered to be the brains behind the supply of drugs in Kenya and Africa, were arrested and extradited to the US.

Since then, several raids on homes or businesses linked to persons suspected to have a hand in drug trafficking have been conducted.

In August 2019, the house of Ali Punjani, who had been previously linked to the Akasha brothers, was raided by the police.

However, no drugs were recovered and Punjani was not arrested as he was not in the country.

Edited by T Jalio