Debates around whether or not to make cannabis legal often fail to recognise that this herb has been used for centuries in many parts of the world.
A PERVERSE TRAJECTORY AMID GLOBAL POLICY FLUX In the mid-1980s, historian Lee Cassanelli wrote a seminal chapter on khat in northeast Africa for a book on the cultural dimensions of commodities. This chapter analysed the regional economy of the substance and the politics surrounding its production, trade and consumption at a time when Somalia had […]
Meru, Kenya – OILING THE WHEELS OF COMMERCE IN THE 19TH CENTURY The American explorer William Chanler set up base in the Nyambene Range in 1893. He found a thriving local economy that attracted traders from across the region; a unique feature of this market was the use of the narcotic reddish-green twigs of a tree […]
The Elephant in conversation with John Githongo.
Nairobi, Kenya – THEY NEVER LEAVE YOU ALONE EVEN AFTER YOU’VE BEEN TRANSFERRED The call came at precisely 3.00pm. My interlocutor could have easily ignored the vibrating mobile phone that was swivelling on the table, but on second thoughts, he chose to pick up the Nokia feature phone. On seeing the caller’s address, my friend’s body […]
Nairobi, Kenya – A WATER GLASS SHARED BY 200 ADDICTS In downtown Mombasa, a nondescript office sandwiched between multistoreyed buildings is busy as usual. Every five minutes or so, gaunt youths, eyes bloodshot, walk into the tiny reception and straight away dash to the water dispenser at the far corner. They refill the only plastic glass […]
Nairobi, Kenya – AGENDA NUMBER ONE IS POMBE In July 2015, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta summoned Members of Parliament from the country’s central region to State House in Nairobi. ‘We must agree we have a problem that needs immediate action,’ he told them, declaring ‘agenda number one is pombe (alcohol), number two is pombe and three […]
The war on drugs has failed. It has failed to stop, or even slow, the production, trafficking and consumption of drugs.
The really bold drug barons will set up their own banks to avoid all the hassle of bribing the numerous people from the police to banking officials; dodging the tedious procedures and the obvious scrutiny from government bureaucrats.
Nairobi, Kenya – YOUR SHIP HAS SAILED INTO PORT In September 2015, a ship called the Hoegh Transporter called at the port of Mombasa. Kenyan police promptly detained the Norwegian-flagged ship and arrested its Filipino crew. Investigators then started a systematic search for drugs in the vessel. A few weeks earlier, the 1999-built vehicle-carrier had left […]
Meru, Kenya – LATE MATURING PROBLEM CHILD Once the real archipelago of peace in the vaunted ‘island of stability,’ the Coast has become Kenya’s problem child. Formerly the most docile and well-mannered member of the family, although prone to indolence and performing poorly in school, the locals now appear truculent, drugged, and uppity. It is hardly […]
Kampala, Uganda – CUE THE STATISTICS. There is a rising concern in both government and welfare circles that the region could be on the brink of a ‘drugs epidemic.’ This could be misleading, and partly a result of our official culture of imitative behaviour. The seizure and impounding of larger and larger amounts of contraband […]