Tanzania and Kenya may be working overtime to bust drug dealers in their territories, seizing tonnes of marijuana and kilogrammes of heroin every so often but the traffickers keep coming.
A report released by the US department of State says Tanzania remains the region’s significant transit country for illicit drugs, enabling their movement to Kenya, Uganda and Europe.
The report says Tanzania-based trafficking organisations and courier networks operate globally and play a prominent role in the Southwest Asian heroin trade, using Dar as the launchpad to control the trade in East Africa.
The 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs shows that the country’s location, porous borders, and persistent corruption present challenges to drug interception.
“Traffickers transport heroin via small vessels to Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania and over Tanzania’s land borders with Kenya and Mozambique to destinations in Europe and North America,” the report said.
Domestic drug use in the country is also increasing. In April 2020, Tanzania’s Drug Control and Enforcement Authority (DCEA) seized 300 kilogrammes of heroin in Dar es Salaam and arrested a Nigerian and two Tanzanian nationals. The seizure represents one of the largest in Tanzania’s history.
The report says that drug traffickers use financial incentives to influence politicians, law enforcement, and others in positions of power.
In August, the DCEA seized more than five metric tonnes of marijuana as a result of multiple drug investigations. In September, the Tanzanian Police Force (TPF) seized 51kg of heroin and arrested eight suspects.
Washington, in the report, also says that there are indications that domestic drug use is on the rise in Tanzania.
“In June 2020, Tanzania opened a methadone clinic in Tanga Region, on the border with Kenya. Contacts suggest the clinic will serve a growing number of persons suffering from substance use disorders, likely resulting from traffickers who pay employees in narcotics instead of cash,” it said.
In February 2019, Tanzania’s DCEA arrested prominent businessman, Abdul Nsebo and his wife Shamim Mwasha for alleged heroin trafficking. In October, DCEA destroyed 120.9kg of seized heroin and cocaine, the highest in the region.
In August 2019, a US federal court sentenced 10 Tanzanian citizens for their part in a transnational heroin trafficking ring. Among them was Ali Khatib Haji Hassan, an international drug kingpin designated and sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury, who was extradited to the US with two associates in 2017.
The report has also fingered Kenya in drug trade noting that its geographic position in the Indian Ocean and major international air transit location makes it an attractive target for narcotics traffickers moving drugs from Asia and Latin America to Europe and the Arabian Peninsula.
“The growth of illegal drug abuse within the country, especially in coastal areas, is a concern. The government of Kenya and civil society emphasise vigilance against the drug threat, publicly reject the illicit narcotics trade, and support demand reduction and mental health efforts, but official corruption is a major factor in the effectiveness of all Kenyan government endeavours,” the report said.
Washington says that Kenya remains a transit country for a variety of illicit drugs, including heroin and cocaine, and domestic drug consumption is growing within the country. Precursor chemicals used to produce methamphetamine and other illicit drugs also transit Kenya.
“Heroin originating from Southwest Asia enters Kenya both from direct shipping across the Indian Ocean via south Asia and, increasingly, from countries to the south, such as Tanzania and Mozambique. Most of the heroin entering Kenya is destined for international markets, principally Europe. Cocaine enters Kenya primarily via transshipment through Ethiopia from South America,” it said.
According to a September 2018 Interpol report, drug traffickers were using the Eastern African coast as their open transit route for illicit drug trafficking from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru with destinations including South Africa, Europe, the US and Asia.
Tanzania and Kenya have however managed to intercept drugs transiting through their territories since then. In April 2020, Tanzania’s Drug Control and Enforcement Authority (DCEA) seized 300kg kilogrammes of heroin in Dar es Salaam and arrested a Nigerian and two Tanzanian nationals. In August, the DCEA seized more than five metric tonnes of marijuana while in September, the Tanzanian Police Force seized 51kg of heroin and arrested eight suspects.
In Kenya, law enforcement agencies arrested an international trafficker of wildlife and heroin currently under indictment in New York.
The Anti-Narcotics Unit seized approximately 18kg of heroin and two metric tonnes of cannabis, along with trace amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, and rohypnol.