05-07-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
From a transit route to other countries to a real market, with a really worrying spread at all levels. We are talking about hard drugs and Kenya.
This seems to be the price to be paid for the growth of certain social groups and the frustration of many unemployed young people, displaced by the lack of social inclusion and assistance in their growth. Situations on which mafias and unscrupulous businessmen have always and everywhere marched without the slightest scruple.
Thus the African country, from a simple crossroads, is becoming one of the catchment areas for cocaine and heroin consumers.
"Unga" (flour) as they call it here.
At one time, Mombasa was only a port of call from Iran and India for large cargo ships filled with drugs, which then stopped off in Cape Town before making their way to South America. Corruption and sloppy controls made it a safe stop.
The outward leg of the journey was loaded with hashish and opium, the return leg with cocaine. An important shipment, discovered in 1994 in the Kenyan city and then 'mysteriously' disappearing, was packed in coffee packets.
For some years now, the Kenyan stage has been becoming safer and more frequented than the famous 'Balkan route', which has been made an obstacle course for smugglers by anti-migrant controls after the Syrian civil war.
Drugs are also being shipped from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Mombasa, and as well as continuing to other shores, there is the possibility for dealers in death (or life of shit, if you prefer) to sell them in the country, perhaps thanks to corruption, simply to facilitate transit. According to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), heroin and morphine seizures in Africa increased tenfold from 2008 to 2018, with the majority occurring in East Africa.
According to UNODC, a dose of 'unga', the 'brown sugar' heroin that is snorted or smoked, costs only 120 shillings (less than one euro), a price that brings even the poorest people to take it.
"Drug traffickers are really identifying Kenya as one of the most stable countries on the continent," said Amado De Andres, former UNODC Director for East Africa. "Heroin used to be destined for distant markets, but over time, local interest has grown steadily.
Today it is estimated that of the 42 tonnes of drugs arriving in Kenya, as many as five are retained for sale in East Africa and the rest go elsewhere by land. The total business in Kenya alone is estimated to be over €125 million a year.
"Kenya was previously a transit route, and has increasingly become a destination for heroin," confirmed Victor Okioma, director of the government-run National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA).
The increase in heroin users in Kenya is confirmed by a study by the Geneva-based NGO Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, which speaks of 55 thousand frequent users, doubling Ministry of Health figures dating back to 2018 of 27 thousand 'heavy' drug users. The number of drug addicts is increasing, but there are only ten detoxification centres in the country and they can only help 7,000 of them. In the meantime, the government has increased access to methadone, the heroin substitute, which helps keep withdrawal symptoms at bay and enables drug addicts to get clean.
In August 2014, President Kenyatta had witnessed the destruction of 3.5 quintals of heroin found by the Kenyan coast guard on an Iranian ship, hidden in the false bottoms of diesel tanks. The ship was set on fire on the high seas in a televised demonstration ceremony. However, this event does not seem to have deterred organised crime from transporting drugs to Kenya.
In recent days, Lamu Prefect Irungu Macharia, speaking to the Daily Nation newspaper, denounced the critical situation on the island, where young people appear to be among the most frequent users of heroin and cocaine, leaving out the classic soft drugs such as marijuana and miraa.
Hard drugs are transported from distant areas of the Kenyan coast such as Shimoni and Mombasa," explained Lamu's security authority. "They arrive in Lamu County by road or even by sea, hidden in boxes with clothes, onions, perfumes, packets of flour and other household items that make it difficult for security agencies to detect them.
In other counties, the situation is no less dire, and the pandemic crisis has aggravated the situation. According to NACADA, about one per cent of adolescents aged between 14 and 18 in Kenya have admitted to using the drug and being addicted to it, and heroin is also consumed in primary schools.
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