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All eyes on politicians in fight against drugs use at the Coast

Coast Parliamentary Group, led by their chairman Dan Mwashako, protests against sale and chewing of muguka in the Coast region. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The ban on muguka by Mombasa and Kilifi counties has revived decades of blame game over drug abuse ravaging the youth at the Coast.

On Wednesday, anti-drug abuse crusaders at the Coast expressed fear that the ongoing debate on muguka has been sacrificed at the altar of politics pitting Coast and Mt Kenya politicians.

However, the fight against the sale of the stimulant, classified under the Crops Act 2013 as a cash crop, has also exposed Coast leaders accused by those from Mt Kenya of indecisiveness in combating heroin and cocaine.

On Wednesday, Taib Abdulrahaman, executive director of Mombasa Reach Out Network, said politics has over the years hindered the war on drugs in the region and shrouded the debate on the effects of muguka.

“The fact is, muguka is a stepping stone to heroin and cocaine for most addicts in Coast. Those we rehabilitate from heroin start chewing muguka before the relapse again,” said Abdlurahaman, who called for sobriety in the debate.  

He said research indicates that youth aged between 15 and 25 years were the most affected by the stimulant, adding that Muguka’s socioeconomic impact at the Coast was bigger than estimated.

“Drug abuse is fought through prevention, demand reduction and supply reduction,” he said.

Coast Parliamentary Group Chairman Danson Mwashako promised to lobby other regions to support the Bill introduced by Kilifi North MP Owen Baya to ban the sale of muguka and miraa.

“We will stand strong to make sure that the interests of Kenyans are respected. We have agreed to work with all leaders to stop muguka from coming into the Coast region,” said Mr Mwashako.

On Monday, Baya, who is also the Deputy Leader of the Majority in the National Assembly, sensationally claimed that Coast leaders would not fear mobilising their youth to stop vehicles transporting muguka to the Coast.

On Wednesday, Kisauni MP Rashid Bedzimba said that muguka use is high at the Coast because of unemployment and so dealers have created demand for it.

He added, “We cannot waste our children through muguka. Youth need to be firm. Next time, we shall burn their vehicles. Claims that we do not fight heroin and cocaine are a distraction from muguka,” he said.

The ban on muguka came barely two months after Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua sustained attacks against Coast governors and a section of MPs, accusing them of sitting on the fence in the war against substance abuse.

In what was described by Coast leaders led by Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir as “usual empty threats,"  Gachagua gave police an ultimatum of two weeks to arrest drug barons at the Coast.

“Some of the barons who are wealthy are politicians and businessmen who have made billions of shillings from selling drugs to our youth at the Coast, God will punish them,” said the DP in Mombasa.

A month after the DP’s warning, Yusuf Ahmed Swaleh, alias Kendereni, an alleged heir to the late drug lord Ibrahim Akasha was gunned down by unknown people in the Kiruwitu area in Kilifi County.

His lawyer, Jared Magolo, said Swaleh, who was facing numerous charges of drug trafficking, was picked by people who identified themselves as police before his body was found.

Swale reportedly had links to a Tanzanian woman, Jumanne Amir, who is facing drug cases in Mombasa after she was arrested in 2021 at Moi International Airport with 5.3 kilogrammes of heroin worth Sh15 million.  

However, in his warning to drug barons, Gachagua also took a swipe at Coast political leaders, accusing some of them of being silent in the fight against drug abuse as the youth perished.

“Why are some of the coastal leaders silent on this issue, or could it be that they benefit from the monies for their campaigns? These are the questions we are asking,” said Gachagua.

Irked by the sentiments, Nassir and other Coast leaders launched a barrage of attacks against the DP, accusing him of politicising the war and dared him to arrest politicians selling drugs.

“If he has intelligence and resources, why has he not arrested the barons? He should stop deceiving the public and shadowboxing. Arrest the barons and parade them for us to see,” said Nassir.

In an interview with Spice FM after banning muguka, Nassir denied claims that his ban on muguka was political, adding that he had no powers to go after armed drug barons or guard the country’s borders.

“God forbid if I’m given those powers to arrest then Kenyans will see what I will do. Counties have no powers to man ports, airports and borders, this is the function of the national government,” said Nassir.

Nassir has defended his credential as an anti-drug crusader, saying he has for decades led the war through his mantra “Arosto noma” a colloquial phrase meaning “craving for drugs is dangerous.”

A 2023 report by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse revealed most drug addicts at the Coast were using a mix of heroin and xylazine, a veterinary sedative drug also known as Tranquiliser, because of the short supply of heroin and cocaine.

Rich Out Network’s Abdulrahaman said the family of a former minister, the late Shariff Nassir, including the governor, has been very consistence in the fight against drug abuse at the Coast.

“Nassir has been consistent against drug abuse at the Coast and supports the rehabilitation of the addicts. It is something very close to his heart. He started before he even joined parliament,” he said.

Coast, particularly Mombasa, has over the years been described in many security reports as the main transit point of the southern route of global drugs destined for Asia and Europe.

Some of the heroin and cocaine en route to Asia, Europe, and the United States has, however, found its way into the little villages at the Coast and turned into drug dens. After UDA came to power, Coast leaders called on President William Ruto to be consistent, depoliticize the war on drugs, and revive international connections to track the drugs.

The 2023 report revealed that most drug addicts at the Coast were using a mix of heroin and xylazine, a veterinary sedative drug also known as Tranquiliser because of the short supply of heroin and cocaine.

A 2023 report by Nacada revealed that the use of xylazine has spread along the coast at an alarming rate and has devastated many families.

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