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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 25 – British High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner says the proposal to ban miraa in the UK was not targeted at Kenya, but was a consideration that has been ongoing for a long period.
He says Kenya was among several other countries that will be affected by the ban.
The envoy who issued a statement after meeting lawmakers and traders from Meru, said he understood the concerns and potential economic impact of the decision.
“He also reiterated that this decision was in no way targeted at Kenya, as some media commentators have tried to claim. He said that the UK Government has had a long-standing intention to review the legal status of khat,” the statement said.
Speaking after petitioning the envoy over the proposed miraa ban, Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi said Turner informed them that the decision to ban miraa was in conformity with other decisions taken by other European countries.
He said Turner assured them that the proposed ban had nothing to do with election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“We asked the British High Commissioner whether we are being punished for supporting President Kenyatta and he has assured us that the British government has no problem with President Kenyatta or the Jubilee government and that it recognizes the sovereignty of Kenya and it is not a punishment to the Meru community,” Murungi said.
He pointed out that banning the use of miraa in UK will have a heavy impact on the big population in Meru that depends on the income earned from miraa as he pledged that the Meru county leadership will do everything possible to ensure the ban is not implemented.
“It is a matter of life and death for the Meru community… miraa is the backbone of our economy. The decision will have a grave impact on the lives of the common people of Meru. We are ready to take a delegation to the UK when they take the Bill to Parliament; we cannot allow thousands of the Meru community to be thrown into poverty through a decision that was not researched,” Kiraitu asserted.
According to Meru County Governor Peter Munya, the British envoy informed the Meru delegation that the Bill to outlaw miraa will be presented to the UK Parliament in January for a vote.
He explained that until the decision is made, miraa exports to the UK will continue.
“The implementation of the decision will take time because it has to go through a parliamentary process. The Home Office has made the decision but there has to be a Bill that has to be prepared to be taken to the British Parliament that will take time. The sale and use of miraa will continue until that decision is made,” Munya explained.
The two leaders said they will also use other interventions to ensure their input is incorporated in the law that will be proposing to ban miraa.
According to Munya, banning use of miraa may push its users in the UK to react negatively since most of them do not use it to engage in illegal activities. “It will be counter-productive it will radicalise the young people in UK who chew miraa who not belong to the radical movement. That is a strong point that should be considered.”
Munya further explained that the ban will worsen and increase poverty levels in Meru County since miraa is the most profitable crop in the area with about half a million people depending on it directly.
Apart from farmers benefiting from sale of miraa, there are people employed to work in the farms, to transport the crop from Meru to Nairobi, and others are employed at the airport to handle exports to the UK and other countries. This according to Munya will leave all those workers jobless.
The petition to the British government argued that the World Health Organisation has not included miraa to its list of drugs and also pledged to come up with legislation to govern management of miraa.
“The county is in the prose of putting in place the requisite law to address this. The county needs to be given adequate time to legislate and enact the requisite regulation on miraa business,” Munya indicated in the petition that was urging UK to ditch the proposed ban.
Meanwhile the case against the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Authority which had listed miraa among the top three narcotics that are abused by Kenyans will be heard before Justice Isaac Lenaola on Monday.
Global Miraa Industry Dealers Network President Japhet Muroko told Capital FM News that the case was filed last Friday to challenge NACADA for classifying miraa as a drug.
Leaders, miraa farmers and other people opposed to the proposed ban on miraa gathered in Meru on Monday to protest against the move.