Kenyan Farmers, Leaders Challenge Miraa Ban in London Court

Kenyan leaders and miraa (khat) farmers and traders have teamed up with a London businessman to challenge Britain’s decision to ban khat in the country.

A pick-up truck carrying miraa (khat) from Meru some 300 kilometres north of Nairobi. Photo/FILE

A pick-up truck carrying miraa (khat) from Meru some 300 kilometres north of Nairobi. Photo/FILE

Mr Mahamud Ahmed Mohammed, a prominent miraa importer in the UK has filed a petition at the British High Court claiming arguing that Secretary of State for Home Department Theresa May failed to take into account any scientific evidence before classifying miraa as a drug and banning its importation in the UK.

Mr Mohammed argues that the decision will have the effect of prohibiting his use of khat and prevent his expression of the social, and cultural customs associated with the use of khat within his ethnic group.

“In reaching the decision, the ministry failed to consult with foreign governments having a justifiable interest in the making of the decision to control khat and failed to consider the adverse effects the decision would cause on the economies of such foreign countries,” said Mohammed.

He argued that there is no evidence within the report of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to warrant classifying miraa as a dangerous substance and that the ministry’s statement on the ban was a significant misinterpretation.

The decision which was announced through a ministerial statement on July 3 was reached at after an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) undertook a thorough and comprehensive review on the medical and social harms of khat consumption.

According to the ACDM report, khat’s exportation, importation, supply and its possession had been banned and that failure to take decisive action and change the UK’s legislative position on khat would place the country at a serious risk of becoming a single regional hub for the illegal onward trafficking of khat to G8 countries.

Mr Mohammed however argued that the decision was incompatible with the convention of human rights especially on his community throughout the UK who had been using khat as a long standing social, cultural and ethnic tradition.

He said the decision denied him the right to participate and express his historical and cultural activity and against provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

On Thursday, Senator Kiraitu Murungi, one of the key witnesses in the case, confirmed that the Meru county government is part of the case and that area Governor Peter Munya had already contributed Sh2m to the case.

The Meru senator said Deputy President William Ruto had pledged to contribute Sh5 million on behalf of the central government to the case that is estimated to cost Sh20m.

Miraa farmers, traders and local leaders would foot the rest of the bill, Senator Murungi said, adding that a fund-raising is scheduled for Nov 9, 2013.

“We are now waiting for the court to give leave and we are preparing for the hearing,’’ he said. “We will be attending the hearing in London.’’

Nairobi lawyer Henry Kurauka representing the Kenyans with Queen’s Counsel Paul Garlic who is acting for Mr Mohamed.

Meru County Women Representative Florence Kajuju will also appear in the London court as a witness.

– Daily Nation