NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 – The United Kingdom has ruled out possibility of reviewing the miraa ban after the British Parliament approved a decision to reclassify miraa (khat) as a Class C drug.
A statement from the British High Commission in Nairobi indicated that the ban not only affects Kenya but also several other African and Arab countries.
According to the new Head of Communications Stephen Burns, the decision is not intended to target Kenya directly since the UK Government has had a long-standing intention to review the legal status of miraa.
“As the Home Secretary set out in July 2013, this decision was not taken lightly and the UK recognised the economic implications for a number of countries, predominantly in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula,” he said.
Burns pointed out that the UK is a close and committed partner to Kenya and both countries benefit from a broad and deep relationship covering a wide range of issues.
“The UK Government understands the concerns and potential economic impact in Kenya of the UK decision to ban miraa. The UK Government recognises the concerns of Kenya as a producer country and will continue to work with the Kenyan Government through aid and development programmes to support economic growth,” he stated.
He explained that the decision to reclassify miraa as a Class C drug was taken so that the UK could align itself to its key international partners who have done the same.
“That UK legislation is out of step with many of our key international partners. The UK is one of the last countries to reclassify miraa, with the majority of other EU member states already having done so, as well as most of the G8 countries including Canada and the USA,” Burns said.
He further stated that the UK is at serious risk of becoming a regional hub with evidence already suggesting that the country is being used as a transit hub for onward illegal miraa trafficking to the Netherlands where miraa was banned in January.
Burns pointed out that there are real community concerns on the health and social harms of miraa use.
The UK Home Secretary announced the decision to control miraa as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and introduce an escalation policy for its illegal possession for personal use in England and Wales on 3 July 2013.
CORD leader Raila Odinga last week petitioned UK Prime Minister David Cameron to consider reviewing the ban.
Odinga said he wrote to Cameron last Friday asking for an extension of the effective date by at least a year.
Meru MPs are in the meantime set to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta about the ban and other issues affecting the community on Friday.