What the drug traffickers found in Kenya is a weak criminal justice system, an easily corrupted police force and judiciary, and an easily ‘bought’ political elite.
WE OPEN THIS piece by admitting our personal interest in it. This interest shall become clear as you read on.
Drugs: Kingpins and the spread of the scourge
Some years ago, a colleague from South America within the Transparency International movement warned me, “We are fighting the drug menace in our part of the world. All that pressure means that the narco-traffickers will relocate to friendlier parts of the world to do their business. Africa is next.” My friend’s remarks were prescient.
Parts of West Africa have been slammed to the wall by the trade and now it has spread to East Africa. The entire ‘good governance’ industry has been forced into a major rethink as international crime networks involved in everything from arms to drugs and the trade in people emerge with a sophistication and resilience easily able to challenge states with nascent governance institutions.
As a public we got wind of the scale of it in 2004 when two large related seizures where made: one in Malindi (837.5 kilograms) and another in Nairobi (304 kilograms). Quietly, we all knew and subsequent investigations by the media (not the authorities) have lent credence to suspicions we had back then that if crooks were confident enough to move over a tonne of cocaine through Kenya then it was something they had done before; it was part of a system. That the drugs got seized at all was the aberration not that such a large amount of the product was being moved through the country.
In October 2011 the International Peace Institute published, ‘Termites at Work: Transnational Organised Crime and State Erosion in Kenya’ that clearly outlined the sheer scale of the problem in Kenya. In 2004 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) had sounded the alarm that South American cocaine traffickers who were using West Africa as a transit zone to Europe were dealing in volumes of cocaine far in excess of expectations.
In an October 2008 report entitled: ‘Drug Trafficking as a Security Threat in West Africa’, UNODC revealed that cocaine seizures had doubled every year for the previous three years! The cocaine route seems to be from South America to West Africa by air or sea. Seizures made from specially adopted aircraft indicate each bearing a load of between 600kg and 700kg – worth about US$33 million wholesale in Europe. Flights have been detected to Mauritania, Sierra Leone, and Guinea Bissau. According to the British Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), “Most cocaine transiting West Africa is controlled by Colombian traffickers based in the area on behalf of groups in Colombia, and there is a continuing increase in Colombians using West African criminal groups for the secondary distribution of cocaine to Europe.”
The International Peace Institute report explained: “The UNODC has traced the origins of the cocaine trade in East Africa back to networks from West Africa, which have been active in smuggling cocaine from Latin America to North America and Europe for many years. These networks’ global trafficking routes change and are augmented continuously to keep law-enforcement agencies guessing and to remain a step ahead of them. They are out to keep the risk of international trafficking as low as possible.
For heroin traffickers who source their product in Pakistan and Iran and target North America and Europe, the location of East Africa makes it an ideal transit area. From there they can arrange for the heroin to be reshipped by sea or air to new destination countries with different couriers and through a multitude of transport routes. But it is not obvious why international cocaine traffickers, who source their cocaine from faraway Colombia, Peru, and other Latin American countries, have increasingly used East Africa as a transit area over the past twenty years.
According to the UNODC, “These are probably two of the reasons why West African drug traffickers began to explore East Africa as a transit region. What they would have found in Kenya is what any international organized-crime group would find attractive: a weak criminal justice system in which the public had little trust, an under-resourced and easily corrupted police force and judiciary, and a political elite in which some could be easily “bought” and politicians and senior government officials who protected each other enjoyed impunity from prosecution.
In addition, Kenya had well-frequented international air and sea ports and well-functioning communication, transport, and banking infrastructures. Combined, these factors make Kenya an exceptionally attractive base for international drug syndicates to operate from. That is presumably why West African international drug networks decided to make Kenya a base—the risk was low. The UNODC found that: “West African networks, with their experience in cannabis and heroin smuggling, are actively networking in Latin America, and are responsible for the emergence of cocaine trafficking and abuse in eastern Africa… Unfortunately, the situation has been worsening in the last 10-15 years.”
In its World Drug Report 2010, the UNODC estimated that approximately thirty-five metric tons of heroin flow into Africa annually and that only about 1 percent of this is intercepted. Global interception rates average approximately 20 percent. But any attempt to establish how much heroin flows into Kenya or the sub-region of East Africa remains elusive. No one knows. The IPI consider the UNODC figure of thirty to fifty tons of heroin trafficked into East Africa each year difficult to substantiate. Within Kenya, heroin consumption has increased, causing serious social problems with more than 200,000 addicts estimated countrywide.
Drugs: Now a truly Kenyan problem
IN MIDDLE CLASS circles, first in whispers but with increasing volume, it’s now clear that we have an internal drug problem as well. Kenya is not only a trans-shipment point for drugs from the Far East to the West – we have become consumers as well. The Coast has been particularly hard hit, especially by heroin delivered as ‘brown sugar’.
Teenagers at some of Nairobi’s most prestigious schools have gotten caught up in the problem as well helping create a fledgling but lucrative drug rehabilitation industry in the country. In parts of Mathare there is a business model for getting out of the slums: go to one of Nairobi’s popular night clubs and spot the really spendthrift teenagers. If they are Asian, its better if they live in Parklands, for Africans Karen, Loresho etc are preferred and then of course there is the steady trade to the Kenya Cowboy mzungu tribe of repeat customers and their friends in the international NGO set.
Four free ‘hits’ and usually the teen is hooked. Mummy and Daddy pay for the habit until they force the kijana into rehab. For a young enterprising drug dealer from the slums, four teens hooked on brown sugar means you are out of the slum in about three to four months guaranteed. Teenage girls are preferred as they present opportunities for diversification because in lieu of cash they can trade sex as well.
When grappling with corruption it’s a given that the most insidious, socially deadly and institutionally destructive form of corruption is the one that comes with the trade in illegal narcotics. The corruption that comes with drugs is unlike anything else. Forget procurement scams, security sector air supply fiddles and the like.
Drugs eat up governance institutions starting with police, customs and immigration and then move up the food chain into the judiciary, revenue authorities and then into parliament and always make a move to be on the right side of State House or right inside it. We sometimes forget that in the middle of his most aggressive and violent phase of consolidation of power in Columbia, one of the world’s most notorious drug dealers, Pablo Escobar was elected as a deputy/alternative representative to the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia's Congress, as part of the Colombian Liberal Party in 1982.
The fact that drugs are a clear and present danger for us Kenyans was brought home to us on the 1st of June this year when President Barrack Obama using his powers under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act 21 U.S.C. 1901-1908 (the "Kingpin Act"), designated a number of individuals as drug ‘Kingpins’ with all the implications that come with this.
For example, once one joins this exclusive club the US government, acting through the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), targets and ‘designates’ an individual or business based on foreign policy and national security concerns. Collectively, the individuals and businesses are called “Specially Designated Nationals” or "SDNs." The designee's assets are frozen and the status seeks to limit its international trade and cut off all financial transactions that are subject to U.S. domestic or extraterritorial jurisdiction. The list was interesting mainly due to the ‘colourful’ cast of characters who included:
Manuel Torres Felix (Mexico): also known as El M1 and El Ondeado (reportedly Mexican slang for Insane, Crazy or Out of his mind), reportedly a leader of a cell of the Sinaloa Cartel, and an alleged drug trafficker. Manuel is brother of Javier Torres Felix (El JT), a close associate of the cartel boss, one Joaquín Guzmán; Javier was arrested and extradited to the U.S. in December 2006. Gonzalo Inzunza Inzunza (Mexico): for whom the ‘El Macho Prieto’ ballad or ‘Narcocorrido’ was allegedly composed by Luis Salomon El Arremangado. Inzunza Inzunza, Gonzalo (a.k.a. Araujo Inzunza, Gonzalo; a.k.a. Leon Andrade, Bernabe; a.k.a. “Macho Prieto”), was born on the 17th August 1971 in Sinaloa, Mexico. He is a Mexican citizen Passport No. 040016733. Haji Lal Jan Ishaqzai (Afghanistan): a.k.a. Ishakzai, Haji Lal Jan; a.k.a. Ishaqzai, Haji Lal Jan Muslim; a.k.a. Ishaqzai, Hajji Lal Jan of Sangin District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan born on the 11th of November 1950 in Helmand.
Kamchybek Asanbekovich Kolbayev (Kyrgyzstan): a.k.a. Kamchi Bishkekskiy, a.k.a. Kolbaev, Kamchibek; a.k.a. Kolbayev, Kamchi; a.k.a. Kolbayev, Kamchibek; a.k.a. Kolbayev, Kamchy; a.k.a. Kolbayev, Kamchybek Asanbekovich; a.k.a. “Kolya-Kyrgyz” born on the 3rd of August 1974 or 1st January 1973 in CholponAta, Kyrgyzstan. He is a Kyrgyzstan citizen holder of passport A0832532 (Kyrgyzstan) that expired on the 17th of March 2009. John Harun Mwau (Kenya): born 24th June 1948, a Kenyan citizen with two passports, Diplomatic Passport A921579 (Kenya); Passport A608142 (Kenya); alt. Passport B037832 (Kenya).
Mwau is the MP for Kilome. Naima Mohamed Nyakiniywa (Kenya): a.k.a Mama Lela a.k.a. Nyakiniywa, Naima Mohamed; a.k.a. “Mama Naima”) was born on the 2nd of September 1962 in Kenya and holds a Kenyan passport A735832. Javier Antonio Calle Serna (Colombia): a.k.a. Calle Serna, Javier Antonio (a.k.a. “Comba”; a.k.a. “Combatiente”) who was born on the 2nd of February 1969 in Puerto Asis, Putumayo, Colombia, ID number Cedula No. 16760066.
It was this colourful cast of characters – including two Kenyans – one of them an Assistant Minister at the time – John Harun Mwau that were the subject of President Obama’s designation in June. Six months previous, the Minister of Internal Security and Provincial Affairs, George Saitoti had revealed in parliament, the names of Kenyans on a list provided to the Kenya Government by the then US Ambassador who were subsequently under investigation for alleged involvement in drugs and these included Mr. Mwau, his Juja MP counterpart, William Kabogo, Ali Hassan Joho, Makadara MP, Gideon Mbuvi a.k.a. Sonko and businessman Ali Punjani.
All protested their innocence vigorously and the police were reported to have found nothing against them in subsequent investigations. The Juja MP presented his own list of drug dealers before parliament (presumably he was in a position to be knowledgeable on these matters?) in which he included the Saboti MP, and Presidential candidate, Eugene Wamalwa in a move that was rubbished by the US Ambassador. This distraction failed to gain traction outside circles on the inside.
No further statement of clarification has emerged from the government as to why there appears since 2004 at least a robust circumstantial pattern with regard to allegations vis-a-vis the drug trafficking involving senior Kenyan figures including ostensible public officials. This has been accompanied, especially at the Coast, by a deepening and spread of the scourge of drugs in Kenya and disturbingly, the same names are repeated with regard to this problem everywhere one turns from the Nairobi pub to the White House!
DRUGS: THE DETRACTORS AND DISTRACTORS
ON THE 27TH of October 2011 matters the Hansard records the Juja MP, Kabogo, making the following remarks:
Mr Speaker, Sir, whether he has information that Mr. John Githongo and others members of the organisation called Inuka Kenya including two foreigners, a Mr Stela and Mr Davies have been recruiting Kenyan Youth and member of Bunge la Mwananchi at Jeevanjii Gardens among other places in apparent conspiracy with international media to hold demonstrations carry placard scandalising the reputation of members of parliament and other prominent Kenyans with a view to posting the scandalous information internationally through internet. If so, what action is the Minister taking on the investigating this matter…”
Mr. Kabogo’s claims were utter nonsense of course. That said, his idea of Kenyans demonstrating for their right to live in a country protected from drug traffickers, gangsters, indeed all manner of anti-social elements was actually not one that should be dismissed as entirely hallucogenic. Indeed, in parts of the country communities had and continue to agitate against drugs and drug dealers. Then on the 6th of this month, the MP for Kilome, Mr. Mwau, stood up and uttered the following fiction:
Madam Temporary deputy Speaker, I thank the hon Assistant Minister for the lengthy reply. However, I would like to know whether he is aware that out of his response both the British and US governments have decided to retaliate because they do not want to take defeat. they have recruited one John Githongo and One Ndungu Wainaina to recruit youth so that they can demonstrate in Mombasa Nairobi, Nanyuki, Nakuru and Eldoret purporting that the Government is hiding something, What is he doing about that because it is wrong for foreign governments to continue tarnishing the names of innocent people just because they have money that they can give through United State Agency for International Development (USAID) or (Department for International Development DFID)
The question may be asked what bothers these two particular MPs to the extent that they utter falsehoods against Order 82 the Standing orders, to wit the violation of the immunities and privileges of the members of the National Assembly. While our organisations are transparently recipients of funds from a variety of sources including US and UK government agencies among others the allegations made by the two MPs were nonsensical distractions; distractions from the key issue at hand here – Kenya faces an unprecedented crisis as both a transhipment point for drugs and now a consumer of narcotics laying waste to a generation of youth in some communities especially at the Coast.
This crisis is sustained for profit by individuals and officials connected to and at the very top of our society and some of its most important governance institutions. Indeed, it is like a fungus this malady spreads like weeds infecting institutions at every level of our society. The corruption among other ills that accompany it become the wisdom teeth of our ills – deep-set and painful to uproot.
Misuse of parliament
We need to halt the drug menace now – the brave young men at the Coast being blinded by drug dealers. Keep in mind that if you can afford to buy this paper and have teenage children they are the preferred clients of this seemingly untouchable class of narco-entreprenuers that infect our society, politics and economy. Wecannot say we have not been warned. Meanwhile Ndungu and I wait for the ‘investigations into the legless claims of Messrs. Mwau and Kabogo from within the privileged precincts of parliament.