Livestock transporters on Kenya’s Moyale-Nairobi highway are using animals to smuggle bhang from Shashamane in Ethiopia into the country, it has been revealed.
The transporters are reportedly smuggling the drugs by putting them inside the animals or in panels placed underneath their lorries.
This was revealed at the start of a stakeholders consultative meeting at the Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development in Nairobi attended by, among others, Kenya's Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo, National Authority for the Campaign Against Drugs and Substance Abuse (Nacada) boss Victor Okioma and Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome.
“We have Christmas coming up and then of course the new year and there is expectation that there will be a spike in substance abuse, hence the need for the various teams convening today to come up with measures and mechanisms of ensuring that we have this under control. This includes issues around compliance so that we have facilities selling alcohol properly licensed and measures of quality control put in place,” said Dr Omollo.
Crackdown on illicit drugs
The meeting is meant to plan a nationwide crackdown on illicit drugs and counterfeit alcohol during the festive season.
The official said the crackdown is not aimed at making the sale of alcohol difficult, but to ensure that it is conducted within the law.
“The government is not against legitimate alcohol business. Licensed trade in legitimate alcohol is an important economic activity that will be accorded the necessary support and security,” added the PS.
The meeting will also review a Nacada report on the spread of the drugs being abused and their effects, as well as assess the outcome of the crackdown that was carried out about six months ago.
“One of our major concerns currently is the influx of cannabis from Shashamane in Ethiopia through Moyale, Wajir, Isiolo and Nairobi to Mombasa. It’s a big challenge and we have had a number of meetings with the security teams in that region trying to map out the routes they are using and I must say we have seen lots of progress in terms of curtailing the influx,” said Mr Okioma.
He added: “Sometimes they will come like they are carrying goats and they have certain provisions for those drugs. This is the kind of information we want to share with the officers.”
Drugs and mental illness
According to Nacada, emerging trends in drugs and substance abuse also show that Kenyans are mainly abusing alcohol, tobacco, miraa (khat) and cannabis in that order, all of which have been directly or indirectly linked to some cases of mental illness in the country.
The authority is currently validating its survey on the status of alcohol abuse in Kenya, which is done every five years, ahead of its release to the public.
An assessment done last year revealed that diazepam, which is highly addictive, benzhexol (artane), flunitrazepam (rohypnol), amitriptyline, chlorpromazine (largactil) and codeine were the most commonly abused prescription drugs in Kenya, mainly by persons aged between 10 and 35 years. Others were carbamazepine, tramadol, chlorpheniramine, benadryl, haloperidol, propofol and olanzapine.
Heroin was found to be commonly abused in the counties of Nakuru, Kiambu, Uasin Gishu, Kisumu, Kiambu and Isiolo, and its demand in the country is growing.
Other substances that the authority has encountered are yet to be identified and have been referred to the Government Chemist for analysis.
Twenty-three counties in Kenya, most of them in Central, Rift Valley, Western, Nyanza and the Coast regions were found to have high levels of drug abuse.