, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 20 – It is mind-boggling to imagine Kenyans could be consuming contaminated products.
Other than exposing citizens to health hazards, this has left an ailing economy as a few scrupulous individuals cash in millions.
There is a glimmer of hope with the ongoing crackdown of contrabands and counterfeit products, but a section of Kenyans among them security experts have raised questions about the whole process.
While some say it is diversionary and tantamount to a public relations exercise, others have wondered why days after the operation were launched, no ‘big fish’ has been nailed except for a few retailers.
It is believed that a powerful syndicate with networks from basically all crucial government agencies and with wings internationally are involved in the multi-billion shilling counterfeit trade.
Kenya’s Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi recently said he was willing to pay the ultimate price if that will amount to a clean economy.
“I am not under any illusion that we are engaged in a very serious war. A war that could mean anything; it could mean even the lives of these officers and some of us,” Matiangi told reporters on June 14 when Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss George Kinoti displayed tonnes of sugar imported illegally from Brazil .
That begs the question, is this war on contrabands that vicious? Who are the powerful faces behind? Why now? Will this operation be sustained?
How and when will the glaring loopholes in Kenya’s points of entry be sealed?
Capital FM has sought expert views on the ongoing crackdown seeking to know how best it can be carried out.
The Association of Corporates and Industrial Security Management Professionals spokesperson, Byron Adera – an ex-Kenyan Special Forces officer – says the operation was long overdue.
“The war on contrabands is late because a lot of bad things filled in the gap,” he said during an interview with Capital FM News.
“If you are a Kenyan, then you must be awake to the fact that there are just so many things which have gone wrong with regards to flooding of the market with contraband.”
But he says kneejerk measures will only serve as a short-time reprieve.
– How do they dismantle the cartel? –
He says it has to be strategic and intelligence driven, away from the random raids Kenyans have witnessed recently.
“Strategy has several components to it; there is the who, what and the how,” he said.
Detectives involved in the crackdown, he said, “must have answers for who is does what. We have the custom and a multi-agency team manning the entry points – KEBS.”
“Then how it is done is very important. Is there great coordination among the multi-agency team involved?” he asked.
“Is there proper intelligence sharing within the multi-agency?
If the government is going to win the war on contrabands, he said they must have a water tight case against the culprits.
“They must have a minimum threshold for any case to actually pass,” he said.
He says detectives should also reveal the companies to the public.
So far, only three suspects linked to contraband sugar have been arrested and arraigned in court.
“The general populace should be made aware of the dangers they face at a personal level,” Adera stated.
He says there is also need for adoption of technological measures at the points of entry while those manning them should undergo refresher courses, due to the ever evolving crime in the world.
“They (smugglers) change tactics every now and then…” he cautioned.
– What we know so far –
Tonnes of sugar and other contrabands have been seized from various warehouses across the country.
Some of the consumable products seized are contaminated according to the government.
Industrialization Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed has since assured Kenyans that there was no sugar laced with mercury as earlier stated by his interior counterpart Matiangi.
The police insist that the sugar was contaminated with mercury, lead and copper.
A section of legislators have claimed witch-hunt but the Government has vowed to sustain the operation.
Tens of officials among them security officers have been put on radar over the menace.