'I chew muguka', its use alone not problematic, says Mbeere MP Ruku

Mbeere Member of Parliament Geoffrey Ruku during an interview on Spice FM. [The Standard]

Amidst the ongoing debate regarding the ban on muguka in Mombasa, Kilifi, and Taita Taveta counties, Mbeere Member of Parliament Geoffrey Ruku has opined that the primary issue lies in consuming the substance alongside other illicit drugs, particularly for individuals grappling with the disorder.

Ruku expressed his views in an interview with Spice FM on Tuesday, May 28. 

While he couldn't cite specific sources to support his claims, he remarked: "I chew muguka. What exacerbates the described disorders is when you combine muguka with miraa, smoke bhang, cocaine, heroin, and other illegal substances."

The lawmaker’s remarks follow the recent prohibition of muguka in Mombasa, Taita Taveta and Kilifi counties. He was part of a group of MPs who conferred with President William Ruto on Monday evening regarding the ban.

"We reached a consensus that muguka is legally sanctioned in Kenya, and no entity has the authority to prohibit muguka and miraa in Meru. This trend from the coastal governors is concerning. Only the president holds the authority to issue an executive order; governors cannot unilaterally do so.” 

“The actions of coastal governors must be halted…Any proposed law amendments should be made through the proper channels of the National Assembly.

No provision in the constitution grants them such mandate," Ruku stated.

In a gazette notice on May 22, Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir declared a ban on the entry, transportation, distribution, sale, and use of muguka and its derivatives within Mombasa. 

He specified that vehicles carrying muguka would be denied entry into Mombasa, instructing county departments to enforce the directive rigorously.

Nassir cited Chapter 1 of the 2010 Constitution, Article 2, as the basis for his decision, asserting, "The County Government of Mombasa is committed to promoting the right to health and fostering health awareness among its residents."

On Monday evening, President William Ruto directed the Agriculture Ministry to organise a consultative meeting to address concerns regarding the muguka ban and implementing the Miraa/Muguka Regulations 2023.

The government insisted that muguka is legally recognised by national legislation, rendering any contrary laws or orders null and void.

"The Crops Act 2013 and the Miraa Regulations 2023 were duly passed by the National Assembly and the Senate with the concurrence of the Council of Governors... The future of Miraa/Muguka lies in expanding cultivation, aggregation, grading, pricing, packaging, and value addition of the crop.

Consequently, the government has allocated Sh500 million in the 2024/25 Financial Year for value addition of these designated crops."

Ruto on Tuesday said he has engaged the governors of the three counties to forge a way forward. 

“Governors Abdulswamad Nassir, Gideon Mungaro (Kilifi), and Andrew Mwadime (Taita Taveta) have agreed to participate in a meeting of all stakeholders to be convened by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock this week as was agreed with the leadership of Embu County on Monday,” said Ruto. 

Former Chair of the National Council Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) John Mututho also weighed in on the issue, highlighting that muguka contains significant amounts of cathinone and cathine.

"Some of the clients we are concerned about at our rehabilitation center are users of muguka and miraa. The levels of cathinone and cathine are remarkably high, chemicals that scientific data has indicated can impair normal bodily functions," he said during an interview on Citizen TV.

"And at the addiction stage, it affects your reward center, dopamine. Men, during the addiction stage, experience seminal leakage; they are not stimulated," he added.