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Port proximity makes Mombasa a hotbed of drug trafficking

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By MOHAMED AHMED
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Mombasa has remained a hotbed of drug trafficking, with more than 50 people having been arrested with heroin worth millions of shillings in the last one year.

Foreigners are among suspects who have been arrested with the highly valued drug that has turned thousands of young people in the Coast region into zombies.

Among the foreigners are six Tanzanian nationals who were arrested with the drug on diverse dates.

A police report obtained by the Nation indicates that 52 people were apprehended in Mombasa between April 2018 and April 2019.

In that period, the biggest seizure that police made was in April 2018 where three Tanzanians were arrested with 10 kilogrammes of heroin worth Sh30 million.

The latest arrest in April 2019 was that of five people who had 2.5 kilogrammes of heroin worth Sh5 million.

In March this year 1.5 kilogrammes of the deadly drug valued at Sh3million was seized from a trader who does logistic businesses in East Africa.

Another seizure during the recorded period is that of 1,012 sachets of heroin from different suspects. On average, one sachet weighs 500 grams.

Mombasa Police Commander Johnston Ipara said the over 50 arrested during the period were drugs distributors.

He said the county is still attractive to the drug traffickers who are using the sea to make their entrance into the country.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), international airports in Nairobi and Addis Ababa in Ethiopia are key entry points for illicit drugs into the East African region.

This, UNODC says, is primarily due to the frequent commercial flights from Asia and the Middle East.

It notes that the seaports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa are also key entry points favoured by the drug traffickers.

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Speaking Wednesday, Mr Ipara blamed porous sea borders blamed and lack of commitment by the neighbouring countries for the illegal trade.

“But the strict surveillance that we have is what has led us to arrest more people than any other county in the region. These people thought they would make Mombasa a transit point but we have proved them wrong,” said Mr Ipara in an interview with the Nation at his office.

Cases of those who have been arrested in connection to the illicit trade are ongoing at the Mombasa Law Courts.

Some of the suspects who have been arraigned have been released on bond as they continue with their cases.

The Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya Organising Secretary Sheikh Mohammed Khalifa called on the Judiciary to deal harshly with the suspects.

Sheikh Khalifa said some of those who are released on bond end up continuing with their illegal businesses.

“That’s why we need to see tough bonds being given to these people. Our society here at the Coast has been ruined because of drugs, particularly heroin. Our youth have been turned into be zombies because of this menace,” said Sheikh Khalifa.

He applauded the police for their efforts but called on the government to do more to seal gaps that allow the trade to thrive in the region.

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Kenya: Oparanya – Nasa Coalition Never Helped Orange Party

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As political realignments continue despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya — who is also the ODM deputy party leader and chairman of the Council of Governors — is emerging as a key player in Raila Odinga’s camp. Our reporter talked to him on the political game plan and state of devolution

Is ODM warming up to signing a coalition pact with Jubilee?

The essence of any party is to get power, and you cannot be in existence just for the sake of it. The fact that we want to get power as ODM, we must look at options that will make us get that power.

Therefore, we are willing to go into a coalition with any party that we feel can help us get power. I think Jubilee is more attractive in view of its membership and size.

ODM is still a member of the National Super Alliance (Nasa). Do you intend to withdraw from that pre-election pact and chart a new political path?

As the ODM deputy party leader, get it from me, Nasa is no more. It was an amorphous, hopeless coalition that never helped us at all. In any case, it reduced our numerical strength as a party due to numerous sibling rivalries witnessed during the General Election as we fought amongst ourselves.

It wasn’t a good move to have ODM, Wiper, ANC, Ford Kenya, and even CCM, members field candidates in various positions. This made us lose many seats.

Jubilee reaped big from some of our zones since they fielded single candidates while we had several contesting for one position. For instance, in places where we garnered 60 per cent of the votes as a bloc, Jubilee got 40 per cent and won because we divided the 60 per cent amongst ourselves. This is why we have to rethink such a deal.

What is your game plan going into 2022?

Personally, I have stated that at the end of my two terms as governor, I will be vying for President while banking on my development record.

For ODM, we had agreed to hold our grassroots elections in March to strengthen the party and go all the way to conduct our polls at the national level, but this was before the Covid-19 pandemic. We are optimistic that once it is behind us, we shall continue with our plans.

Second, we are also crafting a winning strategy and have already mapped out regions we did not perform well in the last elections, like Mt Kenya and the Rift Valley.

Going forward, we will be seeking coalitions with major parties from the regions to endear ourselves there. In Mt Kenya, for instance, Jubilee is the most attractive in terms of numbers.

ODM nominations have in the past been characterised by chaos that political observers have linked to voter apathy in some of your bastions, how do you plan to tackle this in future?

Our main undoing as a party has been nominations. We have found that we spend too much energy on nominations to an extent that by the time we are facing the main election, most of our candidates are exhausted and depleted financially.

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Therefore, they face fresh candidates a majority of whom have been selected by their respective parties without any rigorous process.

The nomination management has also been an issue due to inadequate resources to carry out primaries. We put up a committee that came up with resolutions that we can even select or have a small electoral college within ODM and make a decision on a candidate depending on the circumstances. We must approach the next elections differently if we are to succeed.

Your party leader Raila Odinga says the country will hold a referendum before the 2022 elections. Is this tenable?

The problem is Covid-19. It is a real challenge and we don’t know when it will subside. But if it can be out of our sight by end of September, then we can have the vote within the three months – October, November and December will be ideal.

As CoG chair, how do you rate the performance of counties seven years into devolution?