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War on narcotics merely perfunctory

ALEXANDER CHAGEMA
By Alexander Chagema | February 9th 2017

I refuse to be hoodwinked into believing the Government has finally launched war on drug traffickers.

It is not like the Government just discovered narcotics’ prevalence in Kenya following the arrest of the Akasha brothers and their accomplices to go gaga over it.

The manner of their arrest and extradition leaves Kenya’s jugular dangerously exposed. A country that abducts its own citizens (the operative word is ‘citizen’ irrespective of whether they are criminals or law abiding) at night and deports them to a foreign land to face justice abdicates its sovereignty while indicting its own maligned justice system.

Arresting the Akashas and handing them over to Uncle Sam could very well have been a product of coaxing.

I have a hunch they might have been a trade-off for something the Government considered worthwhile. Like financial aid and technical support in fighting Al Shabaab.

There is nothing to persuade me it was out of political goodwill to fight the drugs menace in the country. And when Deputy President William Ruto, surrounded by uniformed officers averred drug traffickers were in for a rough ride, I felt exasperated.

Drugs don’t just find their way into the country with all the security checks at marine and airports and through customs where gadgets and sniffer dogs are on hand to detect such things. It takes complicity at very high levels.

In Columbia, for instance, drug networks are alleged to have tentacles at the very top of the military, police, Judiciary, civil service and the Cabinet.

In the Akashas' case, the irony is that several police raids to their homes have yielded as much as the invasion of America into Iraq over weapons of mass destruction yielded. That is why I consider the current operation against amorphous drug cartels a wild goose chase.

In 2004, a consignment of cocaine whose estimated value was Sh6.4 billion was seized in Mombasa and Nairobi. In May 2014, an Australian navy ship intercepted another ship off the Kenyan coast with drugs worth Sh25 billion; reputed to be the biggest catch in Africa.

This incident put our coast guard in very bad stead. Two other ships have since been seized by the Kenyan Navy with drugs on board, some of which were, through much hyperbole, destroyed at sea with President Uhuru bearing witness.

There was a lot of hysteria about this being a warning to drug dealers that their days were numbered.

Despite all the publicity this generated, nobody paid for those sins. I stand corrected if ever anybody was arrested, charged and jailed over the consignments.

I hold no brief for anybody that sells death to Kenyan youngsters battling family problems and unemployment related stresses. Such individuals are animals that must be hunted and caged. Their immense wealth and connections at high places notwithstanding, they must be taken out of our midst, but in a structured way.

Kenya’s action comes close to aping Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who has no faith in his country’s legal system, he gave trigger-happy security officers carte blanche to hunt and kill known drug dealers without the benefit of a court trial.

In the short term, that has paid dividends but once they regroup and change tack, Duterte might discover he has bitten more than he can swallow without choking.

The mighty US, with all the resources and technology at its disposal, has not stemmed the entry of drugs through its borders.

It is claimed Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, before he was gunned down in October 2015, used to put 15 tonnes of hard drugs in the US daily. That speaks of serious money and superior, protected logistics.

In comparison, the Akashas are nothing but expendable errand boys. Their removal leaves no void. The drugs will still come in. Massive corruption in Government that is partly driven by drug money will guarantee this.

If the case of Mexican drug lord El Chapo who has managed to escape from maximum security jails twice tells us anything, it is that as long as some affluent, well-connected individuals remain ensconced in posh offices with access to the corridors of power, we are just making perfunctory noise in an election year to win votes.

Forget the hullabaloo from sycophants seeking political favour; the president must be willing to go full hog and claim some prominent scalps along the way to make an impression in the war on drugs.

That may mean losing support from some quarters, but if losing the presidency is the price to pay for saving Kenya, surely, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said countless times the country comes first; it is time to prove it.

The Government must wage a war capable of bearing tangible results to convince a sceptical public that is used to getting lots of promises with little or no follow-up action.

In this regard, the Opposition must cease being an opposition and play ball. We must raise a responsible drugs-free generation for a better Kenya.

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