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Go whole hog in war on drug lords

By Kipkoech Tanui | February 17th 2017
President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Deputy President William Ruto. (Photo: Beveryne Musili/Standard)

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have declared war on Kenya’s drug lords. The two made the declaration in Mombasa, which in international circles is perceived to be the golden gate for drugs from Asia and South en route to Europe and US.

Listening to them you are left with no doubt they have a list of suspects and the dragnet is closing in. The declaration was made at the Coast, which has suffered two misfortunes. One is the radicalisation of the youth and relocation to Somalia to train with Al Shabaab.

Secondly, many families have suffered the agony of seeing their children sink into drug abuse and eventually die an excruciating death in the grip of heroine or cocaine.

One painful case was a former Mombasa Kanu supremo whose drug addicted son once interrupted his press conference only to ask for Sh200 presumably, for the next dose. There is no illusion that Kenya has a strong, well-connected network of drug traffickers. The US Government in 2010 gave a list of suspects to then Minister for Internal Security, George Saitoti.

He read it to Parliament and they were the familiar people Kenyans call ‘pharmacists’; ‘The Boss’ John Haroun Mwau, Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, Kiambu Governor and former aide of Mr Mwau, William Kabogo, Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, businessman Ali Punjani and the usual culprits – the Akasha brothers; Baktash and Vijaygiri. Last month, the two brothers were extradited to US in handcuffs and on a chartered plane.

The people whom Prof Saitoti named in Parliament in 2010 have denied the charges, including Mr Mwau who is fighting to get back his assets and cash, to the tune of millions of dollars frozen by US authorities.

Mr Joho meanwhile has asked Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto to go for the main culprits, insisting he was not a ‘pharmacist’. But it is important to note the third reason why the President and his deputy made their declaration on drug cartels in Mombasa.

It was not just to get the message closer to Mr Joho’s ear but also a political strategy to pluck some feathers from the wings of his rising popularity in the region and in Raila Odinga’s Orange party.

It probably can be argued that Mr Kenyatta is keen on slowing Mr Joho’s star but for Mr Ruto, you can safely bet he wouldn’t mind breaking the Governor’s leg as part of the effort to clear the stumbling blocks to his 2022 race. It happens that the Mombasa governor who is also battling questions about his university degree, has been on the lip in Coast as either a serious contender after 2022 or a bankable running-mate with deep pockets.

The war against drugs isn’t an easy one because even for those named by the late Saitoti, the claims against them have been very speculative. The drug cartels have survived regimes.

They mutate and adopt well to changing circumstances. They have strong connections in the police, Judiciary and the Executive.

We may never know whether the chopper carrying Saitoti and his Assistant Joshua Orwa Ojode was brought down over the Ngong Forest, but we must take cognisance of the fact that drug cartels and Al Shabaab were mentioned as likely suspects. But there was also talk of mechanical failure or human error.

But even as we wish the President and his deputy luck in this war we also have a duty as good citizens to point out that politicising this fight on drugs is the first indicator it is not going far. After all, drug traffickers must surely be on both sides of our politics, with loyalty to no one in particular but the protection of their wealth and the camouflage of their operations.

They also suffer no indignity, so long as the money is coming. Remember that the senior Akasha and the lord of them all, Ibrahim was brought back a dead man in a sealed coffin. The pathologists removed the naked body, put it on a slab at City Mortuary, then turned it round to take pictures of every mark in the body. They also took fingerprints.

The Government had to be 100 per cent sure this was not a decoy but that he had indeed died in the hands of a cycling assassin in an Amsterdam’s street coincidentally named Bloedstraat (Blood Street).

Reports suggest that he was taken out by a rival group over a deal gone sour in the Sodom and Gomorrah of The Netherlands. Next, you hear that his sons have taken over, with rumours that they too, even got to killing each other in battle to control his ‘businesses’.

That is how enriching and bewitching this business Mr President and DP is. These cartels will fight back and when you forewarn them they just lie low, like antelopes, but just for a while.

They also have connections right through the arms of government and as usual, they buy their loyalty, through well-connected people. We can be sure that some of them are even secretly financing both your party and the Opposition for that is their survival strategy.

Yes, go for them but go the whole hog, not along party lines. You lose the confidence of the Kenyans when it appears you have 100 arrows in your quiver, one of them poisoned, na umetengea just one suspect.

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