Senators Differ Over UK Ban on Miraa

Miraa exchanges hands in Laari town, Meru County in April. Photo/FILE

Miraa exchanges hands in Laari town, Meru County in April. Photo/FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

A Senator wants to know if President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration will help miraa farmers “the same way they helped Maumau veterans.”

Khat — called miraa in Kenya– is the leaves and shoots of the shrub Catha edulis, which are chewed to obtain a mild stimulant effect.

On July 3, Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May classified it as a drug, effectively closing Kenya’s last khat market in Europe, after the Netherlands banned it in January.

Mr Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) however termed the ban as “illegal, because, there was no scientific evidence showing that miraa was a harmful drug.”

He tabled a July 2011 report of the Home Office of the UK, which he said, cleared miraa of any harmful effects associated with narcotics.

“What is the government doing to protect the miraa farmers in Meru whose economy is on the verge of collapse and who are going to be driven into poverty?” posed Mr Murungi.

The senator added that the miraa farmers were planning to sue the British government over the ban. (READ: Meru leaders, traders seek to reverse miraa ban)

“Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act is the law governing drugs. Miraa is not among those drugs. That law has not been changed, it has not been amended and it has not been repealed,” he added.

Former Attorney General Amos Wako (Busia) said he drafted the law and moved it through Parliament in 1994.

“At that time, we had to get the latest list of prohibited drugs from World Health Organisation and similar organisations, and miraa was not one of them.

“An MP tried to move an amendment to include miraa in the list of drugs, but I opposed, and I said his reasons were not scientific enough for miraa to be a banned drug,” he said.

Mr Yusuf Haji (Garissa) said the government was aware of the threat that the ban poses to miraabusinesses. He said a taskforce would be formed to conduct an “in-depth study on the production, sale and consumption of miraa”.

The team is to meet farmers and others players in the miraa industry to discuss the trade and a deal that will benefit them. Mr Haji urged miraa farmers to give the taskforce time to give a full report on how to deal with international bans.

Mr Billow Kerrow (Mandera) however had a different view:

“I come from Mandera and we are consumers and not producers of miraa. I will really be surprised if anybody can come here and say that miraa is not a drug. Miraa is a drug and the worst possible form,” he said.

“The grounds on which the UK government, Netherlands and other governments including our own Nacada (National Authority for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse) had given for calling on the ban ofmiraa is that it is harmful socially… the reasons for banning miraa is not economics, it is because of the effects it has had on families and on individuals.”

Speaker Ekwee Ethuro cut him short and ordered that he “seek clarification and not make statements”.

– Daily Nation