WikiLeaks Releases: Nairobi Cable No. 34: High Level Corruption Fuelling Drug Trafficking in Kenya
Viewing cable 08NAIROBI2671, 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)
AF/E FOR SUSAN DRIANO, INL FOR JAVIER CORDOVA AND ANDY
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 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 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.
¶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.
¶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.
¶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.