US should deal with its own drug problem

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The recent naming of Kenya\’s Members of Parliament in drug trafficking; in the WikiLeaks cables by US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger, amounts to a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

And even though the list was later tabled in Parliament by Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, it is true to say that the American envoy ignited the whole saga and caused untold distress to a number of MPs.

The sad thing about the whole debate is that it enhances and indeed perpetuates the negative global perceptions on Kenya.

I have always resisted the Western media portrayal of Kenya as a case study of corruption, hunger and civil strife, without paying attention to the fact that this is the land of David Rudisha and other great athletes, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai and the ancestral home of American President Barack Obama.

While drug trafficking is a serious crime, it is always important to note that this is a global vice that is heavily entrenched in the US. And when it comes to international crimes, Kenya does not even begin to feature in the global radar or even as the world\’s laboratory rats for human rights violation, drug trafficking, corruption or incipient murder.

Picture this; At exactly the same time as the post-election violence in Kenya was killing 1,350 people in early 2008, the Israelis were killing even more people, using fighter-bomber jets on the unarmed Palestinians of Gaza, who live in both slum and siege conditions, yet there is no case pending at the ICC.

When it comes to drug dealing and use, the United States of America consumes 60 per cent of all illicit drugs produced in the world annually, the worst such habit in world\’s history. But our newspapers and broadcast channels and Internet chatter are full of all the sound and fury of the WikiLeaks fallout, of the ICC affair and, finally, as we saw at the tail-end of 2010, of allegations of drug dealing, use, money laundering, gunrunning and human trafficking.

The dictates of responsible journalism demand first and foremost a reportage and analysis that are truthful, proportionate, mindful of regional, international and even global precedents, comparisons and contrasts, and many other sensitivities. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

The disjointed, even disembodied, out-of-context, in-a-vacuum handling of The Hague and the drug dealing affairs by Kenyan media late last year were inept to the point of incompetence.

The drug trafficking issue must be constantly framed as a matter of shared responsibility between the world\’s biggest consumer and all other nations. If it is not tackled in this man­ner, then the world is embarked on an exercise in futility.

If you want to glimpse a society that is truly in the grip of drug dealing and abuse and whose power elite, including its legislative, intelligence, policing and military formations, is swamped by these twin vices, look first to the United States of America.

Take just two of the most significant US Government reports on drug dealing and use ever compiled, which are in the public domain. They are, CRS Report for Congress -Mexico\’s Drug Cartels, dated October 16, 2007, by Colleen W. Cook, an analyst in Latin American affairs, and Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy, subtitled "A Report Prepared by the Sub-committee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate", and dated December 1988.

Combined, both reports add up to only 110 pages and are freely available in PDF format on the Internet. They make for engrossing reading on the drug problem across three decades and the transition from the 20th to the 21st Century.

Ms Cook works for the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade Division, and Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy Division and her report on the Mexican cartels for members and committees of Congress was compiled under the auspices of the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy report is a publication of the Second Session of the 100th US Congress and the harvest of a sub-committee headed by three congressmen, all of whom have had a worldwide name recognition eminence – John Kerry (later a presidential candidate), Brock Adams and Daniel P. Moynahan.

Both reports are full of the most fascinating and intricate detail, including, in Ms Cook\’s report, full-colour maps of Mexico delineating Mexican cartel areas of influence and their presence in the United States itself.

If Kenyans – and the rest of the world – do not look closely at the American case, which constitutes the planetary epicentre of the illicit drugs problems and its allied scourges of money laundering, gunrunning and human trafficking, then no true perspective, no sense will ever be made of these veritable crimes against humanity.

And where there is no context, perspective or sense there most likely will never be counter narcotics meaningful action – only, to quote William Shakespeare, the sound and the fury, signifying nothing.  This is the first in a series of articles on drugs
 
(The writer is the Director of Information and Public Communications of the Republic of Kenyaemail:emutua @information.go.ke)

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