Tanzania has strongly defended its war against the international narcotics trade, citing its many efforts and successes.
The Drug Control and Enforcement Authority (DCEA) said it has made significant in-roads in its fight against illicit drugs despite the country being named in a new US government report as being among “significant transit countries,” for illicit drugs in the world.
Acting commissioner general of DCEA, James Kaji, has said that the country’s efforts were also acknowledged at the recently-held 63rd session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotics Drugs, where Tanzania was described as a ‘role model’ for many other African countries.
“We had a special chance to show how Tanzania is combating illegal drugs at all levels—access, use and effects of abuse,” Mr Kaji said.
He added that the country has cut the volume of heroin being smuggled into the country from Afghanistan by a whopping 90 per cent, and also upped its monitoring mechanisms for national production and distribution of marijuana.
The State Department named both Tanzania and Kenya “significant transit countries’ for illicit drugs where domestic consumption was on the rise.
“Tanzania’s location, porous borders, and persistent corruption present challenges to drug interdiction. Traffickers exploit Tanzania’s 854-mile coastline and inadequate port security,” the report says.
It noted that while the Tanzanian government did not encourage the production or trafficking of illicit drugs, corruption and lack of training remained barriers to effective enforcement of anti-narcotics laws in the country.
“Tanzania has taken some steps to implement legislative reforms to stiffen penalties and expand the powers of law enforcement to address drug trafficking,” the report says.
It cites DCEA initiatives in 2019 to combat increasing domestic drug use through the use of popular local musicians in public campaigns against drug abuse, as well as to expand awareness of its methadone treatment programme.
But the report adds: “Drug traffickers influence politicians and law enforcement officers, and many investigators and prosecutors are not sufficiently trained to develop complex cases targeting higher level defendants.”
Kenya is cited as a confirmed conduit for narcotics, including heroin and cocaine. The report cautions Kenyan authorities to “remain vigilant, aggressively pursue drug traffickers, and continue efforts at the grassroots level to reduce drug demand.”
It noted legislative proposals to enhance Kenyan law to give greater investigative tools to law enforcement to investigate “upper level violators,’ but said the country’s justice sector required further improvements to effectively prosecute drug trafficking cases.
“By targeting drug trafficking organisations instead of individual traffickers, Kenya can more effectively prevent large shipments of drugs from entering or transiting Kenya,» the report says.
Efforts by Kenyan authorities to keep the public aware of the threat of drugs includes the widely publicised public destruction of 90 kilogrammes of cocaine in November 2019.
Money laundering countries
Both Tanzania and Kenya, along with Mozambique and a host of other African countries, are also named in the US Department of State report among 83 major money laundering countries worldwide that includes the US itself, Canada and Britain.
These were defined as countries “whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.”
Tanzanian police spokesman David Misime told The EastAfrican that open borders and growing interactions with other states sharing territorial borders made it difficult for countries to achieve total control of narcotics flows.
Mr Misime said Tanzania is working closely with Interpol and regional groupings like the East African Community and Southern African Development Community to deal with the problem.
By Beatrice Materu, Bob Karashani and Apolinari Tairo in Dar es Salaam
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