Kenya a popular drug trafficking
Written by Albert Muriuki
March 11, 2008: Kenya has become a popular hub for international
drug traffickers operating from the Far East, a new report says.
Heroin is the most trafficked drug through Kenya.
And it is mainly brought in by air from South-West Asia with
Europe as the final destination, says the report by the
International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) that comes a year
after the World Customs Organisation reported that Kenya was a
pivotal route for heroin traffickers from Afghanistan and Iran
The INCB study warns that heroin abuse is on the increase in
Kenya, especially around the trafficking routes of Nairobi and
The report notes that in Kenya the method of consumption is
changing from smoking to injection.
Also mentioning Ethiopia and Tanzania as other main drug hubs, the
report says “data on seizures of heroin in Africa suggest an
increasing presence of illicit heroin markets in the region.”
“Kenya being a regional hub with a vibrant and busy airport is the
most affected,” Stefan Liller, the head of the United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) for the African region, said.
Experts say the drugs are mainly trafficked by couriers on direct
flights from the Arabian peninsula and Pakistan. In South Africa
as opposed to Kenya, the report says, parcel post remains the
favourite means of trafficking drugs.
In what points to the fact that Africa’s role in the international
trade in heroin is limited to its acting as a passage way, the UN
says abuse of the drug remains low on the continent.
The World Drug Report 2007 says that only an estimated 980,000
persons consumed heroin in Africa in 2005 representing 0.2 per
cent of the total population aged 15-64 years.
Concern is also growing over the increasing role that Kenya is
playing as a transshipment point.
In 2006-2007, the UN says, a large number of suspicious shipments
containing drugs passed through Kenya and other African countries.
“A total of over 75 tonnes of the two substances were prevented
from being diverted to or through the region, representing the
highest amount ever recorded for Africa,” the report notes.
Drugs control experts have blamed weak legislation, lack of
specialisation among prosecutors and stringent laws for the
increase of drug abuse in Kenya.
Rosemary Owino, a deputy chief State counsel at the office of the
Director of Public Prosecutions, said better training of
prosecutors and enactment of relevant control laws are needed to
curb rising cases of drug trafficking in Kenya.
She added there was need to coordinate the activities of the
different bodies fighting drug abuse and trafficking in Kenya.
Doubts were, however, raised as to whether Kenya’s punitive laws
on drug abuse were aiding the fight against the menace or fuelling
Ms Fatuma Sichale, a deputy director in-charge of the legal
services at the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, said the
stringent laws were aiding traffickers by prompting them to bribe
security agents to avoid possible harsh punishment.
“We are now being told that the problem is actually increasing
instead of decreasing since the enactment of these punitive laws
three years ago,” she said.
“Offenders would rather pay bribes than face the full wrath of the
Dr Philip Emafo, the President of INCB, said any suggestion that
legalisation of drugs would resolve the drugs problem ignores
“The first international controls of narcotic drugs introduced in
1912 helped to reduce the scourge of opium addiction in some Asian
countries. Some 60 years later, accession to the 1971 Convention
on Psychotropic Substances contributed to a significant decline of
abuse of these substances that presented serious health problems
in the 1950s and 1960s,” he said.
The largest ever heroin haul in Kenya in December 2004 was 1.1
metric tonnes with a street value of over Sh13 billion.