The Fight against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is a Collective one.
On Tuesday June 26th 2018, the world came together to commemorate IDADA and I had an opportunity to do it at the American Reference Centre (ARC), United States of America Embassy Gigiri here in Nairobi. IDADA may look and sound new to many of us here. It stands for International Day Against Drug Abuse but we celebrated it collectively with illicit trafficking. For those of us with a little knowledge on drug abuse understand that they work alongside with money laundering and illicit trafficking.
On that day, we had an opportunity to interact and chat the way forward with two US DEA agents together with the country director in charge of anti-narcotics unit. DEA stands for Drug Enforcement Administration agents who are part of the whole US security units with a specific task of ensuring there is no illicit trafficking, manufacturing, selling or distribution of drugs. Drugs trade are very harmful because they tend to work hand in hand with guns violence and money laundering.
One of the agents was quick to note that as a country we are lucky that our drugs issues have not reached the level of gun violence experienced in other countries. Take for instance a country like Mexico or Colombia, they have experienced a lot of gun violence for a long time now with such horrific narratives of exchanges between people like Pablo Escobar and his competitors during his hey days. Even after his death, drug barons still operate in the country of Colombia through Mexico and into the US, no wonder there are many DEA agents in Mexico because of the close proximity with USA.
DEA agents are not just sent to any country as I came to learn. There must be a good working relations which can lead to cooperation between the two countries. Lots of countries understand that the fight against drugs is not a single man show. It needs a collective approach because at one point the country either acts as a source, market or a route for trafficking of the drugs. And to work out the problem needs proper cooperation between the local administration and other foreign bodies and countries.
That explains the reason why USA has DEA agents in Kenya. It is because our country may be used as a route for transporting drugs to the USA or may be used as an origination point for money being laundered to the US because of drugs. Such activities have a negative effect because they may affect regional cooperation and peace in America and around its environs. The gravity of such a need pushes America to a point of sending its drug enforcement agents here in Kenya. We were informed that by early next year they will have an office in Tanzania and from the point where I stand I see that it will be a move to strengthen drug fights within the region.
In fact 10% of the DEA agents work overseas with an aim of dismantling groups that deal with drugs trading, laundering and manufacturing. Such groups are usually termed as DTO’s (Drug Trafficking Organizations) with a well-organized structure from the funding to purchasing and as far as distribution that usually targets the vulnerable people amongst us. Their key targets are the children that come from rich backgrounds or those youth who live in slums and can be used as criminals. At the end, thugs are made who go around violently robbing people to meet their addiction and so that they can help sustain the structures of the DTO’s.
On the other hand the youth from rich backgrounds get so much hooked to the stuff which at the end of the day makes them use the resources in their disposal to satisfy their need. At this point, a lot of things change. As I noticed fingers start being pointed, especially from the society and parents, indicating that the anti-narcotics officers are not doing their work. It turns out that even a certain individual in America who embarked on a journey to find solutions for the drug issue got struck due to finger pointing. He was directed to the created demand which in turn blamed the origination of the drugs who at the end also blamed the middle group of so called “traders” who worked tooth and nail to legitimize their businesses by influencing even the lawmakers. He arrived at a conclusion that the best to do is let the youth make choices with these drugs by their own conscience.
It is a big business for your information because a gram of cocaine makes about 20 sachets of the injectable which for instance costs about two to three dollars per sachet. A kg of heroine on the other hand costs about thirty to forty thousand dollars and this is the reason why the money made out of the business has so much influence around our leaders to even the security systems. What do we do in such a case of dangerous money that often costs lives in usage and trading?
It narrows down to a collective approach from all departments of our societies. The DEA came up with a strategy they called the 360o approach to use in their own country first which is very relevant to us also. Chief in the approach is the law enforcement part that deals with ensuring that the perpetrators of drug dealing are cracked down and their organizations dismantled and finally see them brought to book. This is a role that falls squarely on the mandate of the law enforcement agencies (such as DEA) and they do it very well.
The second approach is the diversion to pharmaceuticals. It has been realized that some strategy has been diffused that is slowly using pharmaceuticals as a channel for drug trafficking. Again some drugs such as pain killers or even the cough syrup is abused in itself. Opioids are the top drugs that are giving America and other countries across the globe a huge headache at the moment and especially their relation with pharmaceuticals.
It calls that another strategy be developed to track drugs to these uncommon territories that are beginning to be a major challenge. This is the reason chemists have been incorporated into the drug enforcement division for testing and ascertaining the components in drugs on our pharmaceuticals shelves.
Lastly in their approach is community outreach that demands the need for the larger society to play their part in ensuring a drug free world. This has to begin from our homes where we take an active role in proper parenting that doesn’t give room to our children to be drug users or lords. We are also supposed to make sure that we speak and rise against drug use and abuse. We are at an era where we are not supposed to keep quite when we see drugs taking the centre stage in our families, communities and even governments. This the most critical part of the approach because virtually the work force is huge. All the more than seven billion of us are a work force in these. All we need is to play our part and I am sure we could have made a milestone in the fight against drug abuse and illicit trafficking.
I conclude this article by reiterating what the country director of the anti-narcotics unit said as we closed the forum that the best fight against this drug abuse is perhaps to make sure we deny the drug lords a market for their drugs. Internalize the statement and smile at the poignant implication knitted within it.
Copyright @ 2018.