NAIROBI, September 22 – Drug laws enforcement and control experts meeting in Nairobi have singled out opium as the most abused drug in the region.,
The experts meeting under the aegis of the Paris Pact Round Table said there was need to find lasting solutions that would curb the increased use of the drug and other narcotic substances commonly abused in Eastern Africa.
“Unless an urgent solution is found, Kenya and other countries in the region risk losing thousands of youths who are recruited every day into the drug cartel,” the conference was told.
Many of youths are recruited as couriers, while the largest number is the consuming population. But there are those who consume and also act as couriers.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime head Chris van der Burgh told the meeting that large consignments of opium consumed in Eastern Africa come from Afghanistan, the largest distributors of the drug in the world.
“The situation in Afghanistan is complex and there are no quick-fix solutions,” he said at the beginning of the two-day meeting at the UN headquarters in Nairobi.
Since last year, he said, the number of opium poppy free provinces had increased by almost 50 per cent, from 13 to 18.
“Indeed, 98 per cent of all Afghanistan’s opium is grown in just seven provinces in the south-west, where there are permanent Taliban settlements, and where organized crime groups profit from instability,” he said.
Opium is a brownish gummy extract from the unripe seed pods of the opium poppy that contains several highly addictive narcotic alkaloid substances such as morphine and codeine.
When consumed, it causes a stupefying or numbing effect and induces sleep.
Mr Burgh urged African countries to collaborate efforts to combat the ever increasing rate of opium and other drug abuse in the region by enacting proper legislation that would deter traffickers.
Participants were told that Kenya – being a key transit point – should step up national initiatives and develop regional partnerships against global control threats presented by Afghan opiates trafficking.
The second Ministerial Conference on the Afghan Drugs Routes held in Moscow in June 2006 reiterated the need for a synergistic approach and called for stronger action for the prevention and treatment or heroine abuse, as well as law enforcement.
In 2003, more than 50 countries and international organizations sealed a pact in Paris at the Ministerial Conference on Drug Routes from Central Asia to Europe, agreeing to combine their will and efforts to step up national capabilities and develop regional partnerships against the global threat presented by Afghan opiates trafficking.
“This Paris Pact is a response to the severe threat that opiates trafficking from Afghanistan poses – not only to that country – but also to its neighbours and all countries along the trafficking routes,” Burgh said.
Representatives at the meeting are either from the drug source countries, transit or destination points while others represent the consumption market countries.
Kenya’s Assistant Minister for Provincial Administration and Internal Security Simeon Lesirma emphasised the need to enhance training for law enforcement agencies in detection, identification, handling and disposal of drugs and the pre-cursor chemicals substances.
“All stakeholders and members of the public should be educated. Where education has been achieved there will be reduced rates of trafficking and consumption,” he said.