Gachagua accuses police of laxity as 26,673 youths use injectable drugs

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [DPSC]

Police officers have been accused of laxity in the fight against drug abuse at the Coast which has seen more than 18,000 youths use injectable drugs.

According to data by the National Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse Authority (Nacada), about 26,673 people in the country inject themselves with heroin, cocaine and other drugs, with 89 per cent being youthful men and Coast region taking the lead in drug abuse.

The data indicates Mombasa, Kwale, and Kilifi are among the top five counties in the country, accounting for 43 per cent of people who inject themselves with drugs, followed by Nairobi and Kiambu.

On Monday, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said enforcement has been the biggest impediment in the fight against drugs at the Coast, with police officers claiming they could not act decisively because of "calls from above" which he said was just an excuse to abet crime.

“With about 18,000 injectable drug abusers in this region, we cannot sit back and watch as our youth are driven to extinction,” said Gachagua.

Political leaders, including governors and MPs, accused police of laxity in arresting drug barons, which has seen the illicit business thrive and turn youths into addicts and zombies. 

The leaders also said reports by Nacada on drug hotspots in the county were shallow and not reflective of the situation on the ground.

Gachagua spoke during a Coast region Alcohol, Drugs and Substance Abuse multi-stakeholders conference at the ASK ground in Mombasa county that brought together all security agencies from six coast counties.

“At least 80 per cent of our problem is enforcement. We cannot continue to discuss the issues, and we know the sellers and where the drugs pass through. I want to confirm issues of orders from above and phone calls ended when President William Ruto was sworn in,” said the DP.

Among the issues that came up during the conference was that police officers were allegedly receiving phone calls not to arrest drug barons and turning a blind eye to traffickers and drug sellers.

Gachagua said that no police officer should take orders from above, stopping them from arresting anyone dealing in drugs.

“We would like to know who is calling you not to arrest people. Ruto, I, Kindiki and the Inspector General have not made such a call, and Amin can't make such a call,” he said.

The DP also accused Coast politicians of being silent on the fight against drug abuse while the youths perish.

He said some of the leaders are silent because they could have benefited from the proceeds of the drug money during campaigns.

However, Senate Speaker Amason Kingi, Cabinet Secretary Salim Mvurya and Kwale Governor Fatuma Achani defended the Coastal leadership, saying a lot has been done and vowed to support the government's fight against drug abuse.

“There is nothing new we are being told today. The enforcement level is the challenge. Today, at the law courts many young men and women are being arraigned with one roll of bhang, yet the barons are sitting pretty. We need to go to the source. We know who the dealers are. None of us were elected using the funds from drug barons,” said Kingi.

Gachagua called on the Officers Commanding Station in Mombasa to ensure they have dealt with the juvenile machete welding gangs or risk being sacked.

“We need to sit down with the Coastal leaders. There is one DCI in Lamu East, and he is drunk.

We can't accept this. Do your work, and within two weeks, let’s see people in court. Lacking jobs is not an excuse to join gangs and criminality. We don't want any more gangs in Kisauni and Likoni,” he said.

He also called on the Pharmacies and Poisons Board to map chemists per county and any other outlet that is not registered to be shut down permanently.

The DP said the chiefs will soon have AP officers to help them in administration duties to deal with crime.

He reiterated that police officers will serve for only three years at a station and be transferred to prevent laxity.

The DP said the national government will now be issuing liquor licenses to regulate bars and liquor stores in the country that are next to schools.

He announced that all the liquor licenses issued contrary to the law shall be null and void.

“The national government will now be issuing liquor licenses while the county government collects the money. Most of the governors are looking for money, so they issue licenses without even knowing where the bar is located. If governors give liquor licenses we shall all die,” said Gachagua.

He warned that the government shall focus on OCS when sending police officers home because they are the ones in charge of the stations.

According to Nacada alcohol consumption at the Coast region stands at 13. 9 per cent against the national average of 11.9 per cent, with youths aged between 15 and 35 being most affected.

The data noted that cases of children aged 11 and even below, abusing alcohol and drugs have been reported.

Gachagua said that between January and September 2023, more than 160,000 liters of toxic illicit brews was seized.

He noted that Kilifi county has the highest usage of packaged and traditional alcohol while Mombasa is leading in consumption of chang’aa, with Taita Taveta having the highest usage of second-generation alcohol.

“While Mombasa, and indeed the Coast Region, was mainly a transit for illegal drugs and substances, it has now become a profitable destination- with a thriving market. Hard drugs, including heroin and cocaine, have permeated the Region, with the most affected Counties being Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu,” said Gachagua.

The DP also said they will work with County Governments to establish rehabilitation centres in each County hospital to bridge the gap.

Gachagua challenged counties to channel revenue collected from alcoholic drinks licenses to build and equip rehabilitation centres.

“We cannot concentrate resources on development as our children are ruined and killed. This will be part of the support system in the recovery strategy as we seek to restore dignity to our youth,” said Gachagua.

Inspector General Japhet Koome said that he will camp in the Coast region to ensure that the said drug barons who have been spared by officers are apprehended within a week.

“We must change as a National Police Service (NPS). I will be here until Friday, I want to see these barons being arrested and taken to court,” said Koome.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki warned that the drug cartels will be treated as terrorists and bandits, and their assets confiscated by the state as proposed by the Director of Public Prosecution.

“We will go hard on them the same way we have gone on terrorists and bandits. We should borrow the terrorism legislation on fighting drugs. Any official in law enforcement and public service who contributes to the death of Kenyans by allowing drug barons will not be transferred but sent home,” said Prof Kindiki.