A Ugandan woman suspected of drug trafficking at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta
International Airport, June 6, 2010 after she was arrested with cocaine
Monday, September 09, 2013
East Africans consume cocaine worth Sh13 billion per year.
At the same time some 22 tonnes of the drug are trafficked via the region annually, a UN report reveals.
to the latest report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
(UNODC) year, 64 tonnes of heroin were trafficked to or through the East
African region undetected between 2010 and 2013.
Transnational Organised Crime in Eastern Africa: A Threat Assessment
report estimates that up to 22 tonnes of the drug is trafficked to and
through the East African region annually, with local consumption alone
amounting to $160 million (Sh13 billion) a year.
the last three years between 2010 and 2013, the only documented
seizures by law enforcement officers in Tanzania, Kenya, the Seychelles
and Mauritius were just a mere 1.6 tonnes. This means most of the
cocaine is undetected.
The East African region is
preferred by the Asian traffickers, mainly from Afghanistan, Iran and
Pakistan. The East coast of Africa has become both a destination and
transit point because of the growth in local demand for hard drugs and
heightened enforcement along the traditional Balkan routes.
perhaps explains the uptake in 2012, with perhaps a dozen detections,
mostly concealed in luggage. For instance, in 2011, 102 kilogrammes were
seized in Mombasa but by 2013, the amount had increased to 194 kilos.
the Tanzanian town of Tanga, the seizures increased from 145 kilos in
2010 to 813 kilos in 2013. These incidents the report states, favour the
theory that trafficking has recently increased. Overall, seizures in
the East African region stood at 1,011 kilogrammes in 2013 from 145
Seizures along the Balkan Route, which transits
Pakistan/Iran and Turkey before crossing southeast Europe, were down to
679 kilogrammes in 2010 from 1,804 in 2006 occasioned by, among others,
the declining demand for heroin in Europe.
However, the UN says that the traffickers could have also devised other means, which are yet unknown, to get to Europe.
flow has indeed increased, either due to growth in local demand or
growth in the use of eastern Africa as a transit area or both. One
theory links these seizures to disruption in the traditional path taken
by heroin on its way to Europe, the so-called
Route. If Eastern Africa were to become the new “Balkan Route”, the
impact could be enormous, similar to the impact of cocaine in West
Africa. Until recently, though, there is little evidence that this is
happening,” the report said.
“The latest wave of
seizures should attract international attention to the issue, but until
the extent of transshipment can be ascertained, consumption within
eastern Africa remains the primary concern.”
drugs leave Afghanistan they are moved overland to the Makran Coast, a
strip of desert coastline that crosses from Pakistan to Iran along the
coast of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman where many of the
inhabitants are West Africans and native Asians.
The traffickers have their point men in East Africa, who are mostly Tanzanians and Kenyans operating across the border.
2011, for instance, Nyakiniywa Naima Mohamed alias Mama Lela, a
prominent Kenyan trafficker from Majengo slums, was arrested in Tanzania
after US President Barack Obama named her as one of the drug kingpins.
drug kingpins however employ couriers of various nationalities
including South Africans and West Africans. They are the ones
responsible for trafficking of drugs through Bole International airport
“Some are undoubtedly South Africans recruited due to the reduced scrutiny their passport brings.
it is common for West African traffickers to carry South African
passports, acquired through corruption, fraud, or marriage. Eastern
African heroin dealers who have spent time in South Africa may also have
acquired a South African passport.”
Based on arrests, Nigerian nationals are the second most-prominent couriers, with a large number of them living in Kenya.
most prominent of these Nigerians is Anthony Chinedu whose deportation
to his country caused Kenya diplomatic embarrassment when the Nigerian
officials detained the plane and the immigration officials who
accompanied him for over a week,
When they leave Afghanistan, the UN
says, the traffickers prefer to use small boats (skiffs) to carry the
drugs, the contents of which are then transferred to dhows from the
“The Pakistani section of coast is
thought to be the most common launch point, likely because traffickers
seek to avoid the harsh penalties they face if caught in Iran. The dhows
intercepted with heroin have taken a direct route across the Indian
Ocean, avoiding the coast of Somalia where traffickers would be at a
greater risk of piracy.
three images of dhows caught with heroin aboard showed their cargo
holds were empty, indicating the only purpose in making the journey
south across the Indian Ocean was trafficking,” the report says.
possibility, the UN said, was that the heroin may be trafficked on
cargo dhows plying the traditional cargo routes, making many stops at
small ports as they move slowly up and down the coast.
“On arrival, smaller craft may be sent to meet the dhows and transfer cargo at sea.”
movement of the dhows southwards to East Africa is dependent on and
increases during the Kaskazi monsoon trade winds, blowing from December
to mid-March, which explains the reason four out of the five recent
large seizures made in the region occurred during this period.