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Cablegate: Drug Trafficking On the Rise in Kenya

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 NAIROBI 002671

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (TEXT PARA 10)

SIPDIS

AF/E FOR SUSAN DRIANO, INL FOR JAVIER CORDOVA AND ANDY
BURNETT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV KCRM KCOR KJUS SNAR UK UG KE
SUBJECT: DRUG TRAFFICKING ON THE RISE IN KENYA

REF: NAIROBI 2035

NAIROBI 00002671 001.4 OF 004


Classified By: Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger, reasons 1.4 (b,d).

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On November 21, the British High
Commission convened a mini-Dublin Group meeting in Nairobi to
discuss the state of the drug problem in Kenya. The meeting
was attended by representatives of one of Kenya's three
police services, the director of the Kenyan government's
anti-drug program, and a number of interested diplomatic
missions. Trafficking of narcotics through Kenya continues
to grow, as does the number of local addicts. Police often
lack the capacity and training to interdict illegal drugs.
Those officers who do make drug-related arrests are often
thwarted by corrupt members of their own departments. The
government appears to lack political will to address the
subject, especially on the supply side. End summary.

2. (C) At the mini-Dublin Group meeting convened at the
British High Commission on November 21, government of Kenya
(GOK) officials made presentations about the state of the
drug problem. Unfortunately, representatives from the Kenya
Police Service (KPS), which has the primary responsibility
for counter-narcotics efforts, did not attend the meeting.
Once the Kenyan representatives departed, the international
missions had a candid discussion about what assistance could
usefully be absorbed, the potential drawbacks and benefits in
providing such assistance, and the extent to which official
corruption contributes to drug trafficking in Kenya.

--------------------------------------
TRAFFICKING AND DRUG ABUSE ON THE RISE
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Staff Officer XXXXXXXXXXXX, presenting for the
Kenya Administration Police (AP), attributed the rise in drug
use by Kenyans in part to the economy, saying that users turn
to drugs as an escape from increasingly desperate personal
situations. (Note: Following the post-election violence and
resulting economic downturn, an estimated 55 percent of
Kenyans live on less than a dollar a day; the official
unemployment rate is 50 percent and is markedly higher among
youth. End note.) XXXXXXXXXXXX noted a marked increase in drug
trafficking by sea to a number of remote islands in the Lamu
archipelago off Kenya's north coast (including Faza and Pate
islands), as well as in smaller coastal towns like Shimoni
and Vanga on the south coast. He also cited the Kenya-Uganda
border as another significant entry point, especially for
locally-grown marijuana. XXXXXXXXXXXX expressed concern that, when
police made drug arrests, judges were often imposing only
fines (which traffickers can easily pay) or very minimal
sentences. He noted the need for all law enforcement
officers nationwide to be trained in identification of
illicit drugs, as well as the need for additional detection
equipment. At present, XXXXXXXXXXXX added, only the 100-person KPS
Anti-Narcotics Unit (which has to cover the entire country)
is regularly trained in drug identification.

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX of the GOK's National
Campaign Against Drug Abuse Authority (NACADAA), then made a
presentation focusing on the GOK's demand reduction and
treatment efforts. XXXXXXXXXXXX 's staff is currently working with
other government ministries and departments to develop
anti-drug units to conduct awareness programs in the
workplace, as well as specialized programs in the Ministries
of Education, Defense, Health, and Youth Affairs. To date,
they have trained officials in Western, Nairobi, and Central
provinces to run awareness programs; additional training is
scheduled in December in North Eastern and Coast provinces.
XXXXXXXXXXXX stressed the urgent need to involve policy makers and
politicians in national anti-drug efforts. XXXXXXXXXXXX described a
notable lack of political will and public silence from
leaders on the issue, which she attributed in part to

NAIROBI 00002671 002.3 OF 004


official complicity in and profit from drug trafficking.

5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed the assessment of AP colleagues
that the extent of drug abuse among Kenyans is growing
quickly. Narcotics in Kenya are highly pure (usually above
80 percent), readily available, and relatively inexpensive.
A quarter gram of heroin costs between 100 and 200 Ksh
($1.25-$2.50). Even at these low prices, however, most
addicts quickly have to turn to crime to support their
habits. XXXXXXXXXXXX cited the example of tiny Faza island, where
in recent months about 10 people per week have either died of
heroin overdoses or been killed because they were stealing to
get money for drugs. Since 2005, NACADAA has been monitoring
approximately 25,000 intravenous drug users (IVDUs) in Kenya.
In a recent survey, ten percent of them admitted to
injecting drugs in the last six months. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that the
GOK's political leaders had "completely refused to deal with
the drug issue." NACADAA was established in 2001; its
highest budget before this fiscal year (in which it received
210 million Ksh or $1.5 million) was 60 million Ksh
($760,000).

----------------------------
MIRAA: KENYA'S GATEWAY DRUG?
----------------------------

5. (SBU) The GOK representatives agreed that Kenyans involved
in the domestic miraa or khat industry do not generally trade
in illegal drugs. (Khat, or miraa as it is called in
Kiswahili, is legal in Kenya.) Most miraa grown in Kenya is
exported to Somalia or Djibouti, but some is consumed
domestically, including by long-distance truckers, bus
drivers, and members of the security forces. In the Mount
Kenya miraa growing region, the trade is accompanied by heavy
alcohol use (including the illegal brewing of changa or
homemade beer) and an associated increase in domestic
violence and family instability. XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed
that miraa users sometimes progress to other drug use.

--------------------------------------------
POLICE UNDERSTAFFED, UNDERTRAINED, UNDERPAID
--------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) The KPS, which has primary jurisdiction over
counter-narcotics efforts, has only 100 officers in its
national Anti-Narcotics Unit. The AP does not have an
official mandate for counter-narcotics, but often is the
first police agency to uncover problems due to its extensive
deployment at the local level as well as its coverage of
Kenya's borders, airports, and ports. The GOK has recently
doubled the intake of new trainees into the police services
(the KPS, AP, and Kenya Wildlife Service) to try and close
the gap between the current and desired police to citizen
ratio, but much work remains to ensure these new recruits
(and current officers) have adequate training and equipment
to intercept illegal drugs.

----------------------------
INCREASED SEIZURES IN EUROPE
----------------------------

7. (C) The UK representative reported interdiction of
significant amounts of heroin and cocaine in Europe via
Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). The
purity of the heroin and cocaine trafficked through Kenya
typically exceeds 80 percent. At a local wholesale price of
just $12,000-16,000 per kilo versus $50,000 in the UK (before
the drugs are cut with fillers for retail sale), trafficking
in Kenya's low risk, high profit environment is an attractive
proposition for drug smugglers. In 2006 and 2007, law
enforcement authorities in a number of European countries,
Canada, the United States and Australia seized 250 kilos of
heroin and cocaine imported by drug couriers. To date in

NAIROBI 00002671 003.3 OF 004


2008, European authorities have intercepted 12 mules (two of
whom were Americans) who traveled via JKIA. The mules were
carrying an average of three to ten kilos of narcotics
(mostly cocaine) per person. Drug traffickers in Kenya are
mainly recruiting white expatriate residents of Kenya and
Uganda as mules because they are believed to attract less
attention from western law enforcement authorities. (Note:
However, traffickers have also recruited non-white Kenyans
who possess valid U.S. visas. For example, in April a
middle-aged Kenyan employee of the Peace Corps, was arrested
at John F. Kennedy International Airport carrying 2 kilograms
of heroin and convicted of trafficking. End Note.) The
mules generally travel business class and take indirect
routes to their destinations (i.e.
Nairobi-Zurich-Berlin-London instead of Nairobi-London).
They are paid about $6,000 per trip. Most couriers who have
been intercepted have admitted to making five or more trips
in the last year.

----------------------------------------
COCAINE, METHAMPHETAMINE ON THE INCREASE
----------------------------------------

8. (C) Although Kenya has traditionally been a transit
country for heroin, cocaine seizures have increased steadily
since 2004. Cocaine arrives in west Africa via sea and air,
and is then distributed onwards to Kenya and elsewhere with
easier access to the west. According to the UK, Guinea in
particular is becoming an "international narcostate" with an
economy increasingly based on drug smuggling. The UNODC
estimates that 300 tons of cocaine a year enter sub-Saharan
Africa, and an additional 70 tons were seized by European law
enforcement agencies in international waters in 2007.
Smuggling of pseudoephedrine (a precursor drug for the
manufacture of methamphetamine) from India and China is also
on the rise, as is the proliferation of local labs producing
methamphetamine for export in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and
the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In 2007, officials
seized 40 tons of pseudoephedrine from a lab in DRC.

----------
CORRUPTION
----------

8. (C) Western law enforcement officials believe that
corruption is definitely a factor in drug trafficking in
Kenya. One mule was interdictd in the UK with nothing in
his carry-on bag except 9 kilos of cocaine. He had either
bribed airport officials at JKIA to bypass security checks,
or had passed through two security checks without attracting
attention. Representatives of the UN Office on Drugs and
Crime (UNODC) noted that most traffickers pay local officials
for protection. Officers in places like Lamu who arrest
traffickers may be threatened or killed. Traffickers can
easily afford to bribe law enforcement officials, and the
highly lucrative legal miraa trade benefits local politicians
financially, removing any incentive to combat the problem.

----------
NEXT STEPS
----------

9. (C) When asked about the most critical next steps in
tackling drugs in Kenya, XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed that, in
order of importance, the GOK needs to: (1) demonstrate
high-level political commitment to dealing with the
seriousness of the problem and its negative impact on Kenyan
society; (2) focus on supply issues by strengthening the
criminal justice system and toughening legislation; and,
(3)provide more resources for treatment and rehabilitation
for addicts.

-------

NAIROBI 00002671 004.3 OF 004


COMMENT
-------

10. (C) While Kenyan law enforcement bodies clearly need to
build capacity, there is a very real concern that the extent
of corruption is so pervasive that increased law enforcement
training may have the perverse effect of assisting traffickers
to refine their methods to better avoid detection and
prosecution. The dismal human rights records of both the AP
and KPS during the post-election violence and in other
operations against local militias in the Nairobi, Mount Elgon
and Mandera regions also raise questions about the international
community's ability to support Kenyan law enforcement
organizations. The Ambassador and Mission team will continue
to raise the issue of drug trafficking at the highest levels of
the GOK (including urging high-level participation at the next
International Day against Drug Abuse. In addition to INL's
forthcoming training for drug treatment counselors in Kenya,
we continue to support coastal and port security initiatives
and training for police and prosecutors. We also continue to
lobby for the passage of the anti-money laundering bill
currently under consideration in Parliament.
End comment.

RANNEBERGER

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