Kenya and other East African nations are now major destinations beyond their role as transit hubs for illicit drugs across the globe, the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) now says.
Nacada officials, who are attending a Heads of Drug Law Enforcement Agencies in Africa (Honlaf) meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, have called on the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act of 1994 enacted to prohibit the cultivation of certain plants, including cannabis, as one of the strategies in the fight against drug abuse in the country.
Kenya’s head of delegation Beverly Opwora, who is also the secretary for national administration in the State Department of Internal Security, noted that, while the country has undertaken substantial efforts in this area, much is yet to be achieved.
“We are open to working with other countries, particularly our neighbours, to address illicit cultivation which, at times, is facilitated by cross-border movements and activities,” she added.
Nacada acting CEO John Muteti stressed the authority’s heightened efforts in public education as a deterrent to cultivation and consumption of drugs.
“Through Nacada, Kenya is developing a National Policy on Alcohol and Drug Abuse that advocates for the development of programmes that target not only illicit cultivation but also addresses the plight of vulnerable persons including women and children engaged in the cultivation. We have rallied other stakeholders to assist in generating alternative livelihood projects for affected populations,” he said.
Kenya has continued to deal with cross-border trafficking with seizures of considerable amounts of marijuana worth millions of shillings on the Kenya-Ethiopia border reported.
“The continued illicit cultivation and trafficking of drugs across the borders calls for cross-border cooperation among African states so as to stem this trend. Globally, there is a strong push for the commercialisation of controlled substances such as cannabis for non-medical purposes, an initiative Kenya strongly objects to. As a country, we believe drug users require treatment and not discrimination or incarceration,” she said.
Kenya also grapples with a large-scale abuse of bhang, some of which is cultivated locally while the rest is imported from the neighbouring countries, particularly Ethiopia. The drug now is recorded as the leading cause of mental disorders in Africa.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the East African region is attractive to international drug trafficking syndicates as they are quick to exploit non-existent or ineffective border (land, sea and air) controls, limited cross-border and regional cooperation as well as serious deficiencies in the criminal justice systems.
In March this year, while releasing the Global Report on Cocaine 2023, UNODC said Nigeria tops the list of cocaine smuggling regions in Africa.
“Based on aggregate reporting to UNODC, by Nigeria and other countries, on the main cocaine trafficking routes during 2018-2021, trafficking of cocaine was reported from Nigeria to 20 countries or territories, including countries within the Sub Region (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Liberia), transit countries in Africa (Algeria, Ethiopia, Morocco), and countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region (Australia, China, Hong Kong, China, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka), in the Near and Middle East/ South-West Asia (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates) and in Europe (Turkiye, United Kingdom).”
Prof Muteti said Nacada is advocating for empowerment of life skills amongst children and the youth, positive parenting and strong families and workplace prevention programmes alongside treatment and rehabilitation.
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