Khat: Kenya Should Embrace Diversification

Published on 10th April 2016

As the lead UK Anti-Khat campaigner, I feel I have to respond to some astonishing statements made by some Kenyan MPs in an attempt to blackmail Her Majesty’s Government. The MPs in question said that they would lobby the National Assembly to shoot down the ratification of an agreement for continued training of British Army soldiers locally, basically as revenge for the Miraa Ban, which came into force in the UK on 24 July 2014.

First of all, what the Kenyan MPs failed to understand is that issues of National Security and Cooperation between long-standing bilateral partners is beyond local initiatives and economic pressures of a particular region in Kenya. In fact the Kenyan Government and its MPs should use the ban as an opportunity rather than view it as a curse. This will give the MPs and farmers an opportunity to review its agricultural policy, giving farmers a chance to farm foods rather drugs for exports. Food security is a fundamental responsibility of Government and its responsible MPs should address these food shortages in Kenya wherever possible. The MPs should inquire as to how the UK Government can help in advising and assisting the transformation of Embu State into agricultural farming land rather resorting to backward discussions and debates that are legally binding in the United Kingdom.

This is even more crucial as a recent study in Embu State conducted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has seen rising evidence of primary school children dropping out from local schools to farm Miraa drugs by picking, selling, planting, weeding and transporting Miraa to markets. This is national urgency for the Kenya and it goes to show how their MPs are far removed from the realities of their own constituency.

As far as the UK government is concerned, it would be laughable to think that it would succumb to money motivated khat /drug defenders/farmers whose interests have nothing to do with any semblance of good governance or community leadership.

Finally I would like to encourage my fellow east African Miraa farmers to abandon Miraa farming and start growing food crops. This is what Africa needs. This is not beyond the realms of their capabilities; even though we all know the real reason for their reluctance to change tack is the simple fact that khat as a drug is simply more lucrative. Nevertheless, drugs are the last thing we need, and I would like to make it known that the last significant remaining Miraa market in East Africa, Somalia, will close in the near future, as Somalia is set to regulate khat use prior to a full ban within a certain time frame. The anti khat campaign is making huge progress in Somalia. We look forward to the khat ban being debated in the Somali parliament in due course.

By Sheikh Abukar Awale (Qaad-diid)

The lead anti-khat campaigner

@Abukar Awale

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