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William Ruto declares war on Coast drug barons

President William Ruto plants a tree during the official opening of Devki steel Limited at Samburu in Kwale County. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

President William Ruto started his maiden tour of Coast yesterday, where he declared a renewed war on drug barons and illicit alcohol, which have ravaged the region for many years.

Ruto said illicit alcohol and drug substances have killed several people and wrecked families across the country, and that it was time to eradicate the vice.

The president issued a stern warning to drug cartels that have turned Kenya into a key drug transit point, saying they will be dealt with.

“Our young people will not be used as drug peddlers anymore. We will also deal with illicit alcohol that has killed and blinded our youths and broken families,” said Ruto.

Data on drug abuse released during the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, indicated about 29.3 per cent of Mombasa’s population are drug addicts.

Security agencies at the Coast say the drug problem has fuelled criminal activities in parts of Mombasa, where machete-wielding juvenile gangs have wreaked havoc.

President Ruto said he was ready to fulfill his campaign promises, including one to deal with drug barons.

Speaking during the opening of a Devki Steel Mills factory in Samburu, Kwale County, Ruto also ordered a review of policies that allow the import of steel products into the country.

The head of state said the policies were a product of intense lobbying by middlemen and brokers who wanted to make a kill at the expense of local manufacturers.

"In the last five years, our manufacturing sector's contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has gone down from nine to seven per cent because investors have been frustrated," said Ruto. "All those policies enacted to support the import of steel products by the middlemen and conmen will be removed."

He said 16 steel manufacturing firms have shut down, leading to the laying off of 5,000 workers since policies to allow import of steel products were enacted in the country.

Ruto further promised to revive the controversial plan to extract coal in Kitui. He said the country was spending Sh12 billion to import coal from South Africa and that it was time to tap the coal resource locally.

He said his administration will also engage the county governments of Taita Taveta and Tharaka-Nithi to exploit the huge Iron-ore deposits.

“Devki Mill is currently importing 5 million tonnes of iron ore from Uganda, but this can stop once we have started to exploit the iron ore in Taita Taveta and Tharaka Nithi,” he said.

Devki Chairman, Narendra Naval, said the Sh30 billion plant can produce 1 million tonnes of steel, but it was currently churning out half the amount due to lack of market.