Drug trafficking in Kenya

Despite efforts of Kenyan police forces frequent seizures reveal how traffickers still find this country as a valid point of transit for drugs loads direct to both Africa and Europe.

A classified cable from the US Embassy in Nairoby, Kenia, dated May 16th on 2006, directed to Combined Joint Task Force of Africa described a series of drug seizures at the Nairobi's International airport.
After some consistent cocaine seizures in April, drug trafficking in Kenia's still going on.
We are referring to the arrest, in April 2006, of three individuals at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in possession of 4.2 kilos and 8.2 kilos of cocaine.

Two of them were just landed from Nigeria carrying 4.2 and 8.2 kilos in their luggage. The third one was just landed from Amsterdam, where he arrived from Sao Paulo Brazil, and was found to have ingested 1.8 kilos of cocaine.
Anti Narcotics kenyan Unit was informed in May from Intelligence that West African drug trafficking syndicate was using flights from the region to smuggle cocaine into Kenya. Only one of the three arrested was been previously provided to customs and immigration officials as a suspect drug trafficker.

This unusual wave of drug seizures, partly due to a rise in drugs consumption in Kenia, was connected with the relative easy access to Nairoby International Airport.
This is in line with the fact that, while cannabis and heroin are still cheap in Kenia, cocaine remains still too expansive to presume that the one seized was directed to fueling internal market. But religious groups from Mombasa belief, was despite the evidence, that recent cocaine price decrease from 20 to 4 USD for kilo was due to a supply glut.

Some experts suggest that cocaine seized in Nairoby was probably directed to Mauritius or Seychelles where the prize is close to the one in Europe.Contribution to investigations by the three suspects was less than zero, but telephone agenda of one of them revealed high level relationships, such as several former ministers and a now Member of Parliament.

All cocaine seizures recorded in 2005 on UK airports, all of them of small quantity like 3 or 5 kilos each, concerning Kenya Airways flights spread the theory that kenyan cocaine's direction was Europe. But a quality test between the two type of cocaine ran by International experts revealed it as a fake theory.

Another possibility was that cocaine seized in UK came from the large shipment reported to the kenyan authorities by Dutch intelligence in 2004.
Frequent seizures reveal how traffickers still find Kenya as a valid point of transit for drugs loads directed to others destinations.
Investigations conducted by Kenyan authorities have not led to interesting results in terms of top leaders of West African drug trafficking syndicate involved.

A UNODOC analysis.

Ninety percent of the opium produced in the world comes from Afghanistan. The near Pakistan is mostly used as a smuggling hub together with a refining one. In fact, the large number of heroin refining laboratories  near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan mean that Peshawar have became the heroin capital for Pakistan. Opium coming from the northern and the southern part of the country  is collected near the Pakistan coasts, especially in Makran and Karachi. From there drug is shipped along the Indian Ocean to Kenya, prudently avoiding somalian pirates. This route is the most famous in Kenia. Heroin trafficking to East Africa can take place by sea, by air or by land.

Most exploited routes by sea does not use regional ports but for safety reasons, preferring to stay in the open sea, or stop without exposing the flag in some small ports of Kenya or Tanzania.  In July 2014 kenyan authorities seized 342.67 kilograms of heroin on the Al Noor container (now Khalijia 3), which was flag-free, off the Lamu island, north of Mombasa.

Drug is introduced in Kenya through small islands, such as Pemba and Shimoni, or through the old part of the Mombasa port, according to recent seizures. Transport in these small islands is usually made from the sea with small boats. Legislation provided for by international maritime law, which allows warships to board ships stopped at the roadstead only if they do not expose the flag of the state of belonging, make it easier for law enforcement. This explain the large number of seizures. High number of hotels and tourists on the island allows both traffickers and local drug dealers to hide among the people.

Container ships remain the most used instrument for smugglers to traffic large loads of heroin. For example the container port of Kilindini, which moves each year 700,000 containers, is one of the most involved port of sub-Saharan Africa. This reputation Kilindini earned is following the seizure of a ton of cocaine in 2004. Ever since then no other big seizures have been made in this port. The fact is that is quite difficult to inspect a large number of container. For instance, only one percent of containers stationed at the port of Kilindini is actually inspected.

There are no alternative traffic methods, for all modes being complementary to each other.

Pakistan heroin directed to South Africa is smuggled all the way to Tanzania.

Dirt roads and major routes are both used to avoid maritime interception. A large number of consignments have been detected at the Lunga Lunga border point between Kenya and Tanzania. Also panya routes has been used by traffickers. What can be said with some certainty is that small loads of drug have been preferred to  larger one across Indian Ocean, also to reduce seizures risk. In this sense all way of transport must be seen as integrated between them. According to a drug dealer all mules coming directly from Pakistan use to land in Malawy.

Since 1998 the type of heroin smuggled on kenyan coast has quietly changed. At the beginning the most smuggled quality was brown sugar, so called due to its brown color, originally coming from the Golden Crescent, the area including Afghanistan, Iran an Pakistan. This quality is not much pure and it can be easily smoked.

The other quality called White crest is much purer and usually comes from the so called Golden Triangle, the area including Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Actually this last is the must popular kind of heroin available in the african market according to users reports.

To this changing of smuggled heroin correspond a loss of centrality for the port of Mombasa, which is actually been substituted, as a smuggling center, by the capitol Nairobi.

Traditionally airport traffic is connected with local supply. This is true especially with Kampala airport, which is not as easy as the International Jomo Kenyatta in Nairobi.

Nationality of couriers involved in the traffick regards in general people from Nigeria, Tanzania and Kenya; this suggest how recruiters operating in the same region. (cm)





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