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Published On: Mon, Jul 25th, 2016

Somaliland:More Poison from Kenya

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web-khat-4-allenKenya and Ethiopia are vying for lucrative Somaliland market: selling Miraa, narcotic green leaves a.k.a Khat, to Somaliland. But Somaliland hardly gains anything from this market; all the while Kenya and Ethiopia reap hundreds of millions of dollars, yearly. So, the question is: why is Somaliland government catering to the needs of foreign countries, while feeding its public with poison-annihilating generations?

And as if the devastating economic impact already inflicted on Somaliland by the Ethiopian Khat wasn’t taking a toll on Somaliland people, Kenya wants to join the battle to gain millions of dollars all the while sending Somaliland people into extreme poverty.

 

Meanwhile, Khat traders, consumers and more importantly Khat-junkies in the Somaliland government argue that banning the drug has twofold: for one thing, the government will lose tax revenues collected from Khat; for another, the local traders will have no viable economic alternatives to earn livings. While both of these arguments seem plausible, what the officials and traders don’t see is the obvious. And that is, Somaliland’s budget is about 250 million dollars, annually. Yet its people buy over 400, some reports estimate 524, million dollars worth of Khat from Ethiopia, yearly.

 

Well, if Somaliland stops buying Khat with 400-524 million dollars annually and alternatively invests the money into the economy, wouldn’t Somaliland collect more tax revenues and create thousands of jobs not only for Khat traders but also for thousands of unemployed youth? Wouldn’t banning the flow of Khat into Somaliland generate more income and in turn stop thousands of job-seeking Somaliland people venture into deadly high seas? Also, wouldn’t thousands of addicts rid of the habit and rebuild their dysfunctional families? No matter how you slice it-there is no logic to wasting 400-524 million dollars per year on a product that has devastating health effects on the public. The truth is: Khat isn’t only draining Somaliland economy, but is also destroying its society-wiping out generations or rendering them euphoric and hysterical.

 

According to the 2015 World Happiness report, Somaliland has one of the “happiest” populations in the world. This happiness comes with a great price, however. Sadly, Somaliland also has more mentally ill people per population density than any other nation; an article published by theguardian states, “…at least one person in every two households had some form of mental illness”. Ever wonder why? The bitter truth is more than half of the Somaliland population are constantly drugged with mind-altering (stimulating) Khat, so why wouldn’t they be some of the happiest campers in the world? And to keep up with the high demand of Khat, the Ethiopian farmers use powerful but banned Chinese fertilizers and large quantities of pesticides. Hence, Somalilanders consume far more pesticides than, perhaps, the targeted insects eat, leading to mental disorder, cancer and other illnesses. Over stimulating minds combined with using massive amounts of pesticides—in fact explains why more than half of Somalilanders remain mentally ill.

 

To illustrate the over consumption of pesticide, a Somalilander was once operated in Dubai for stomach-related illness, and after the operation his doctor asked the patient, “How on earth did you end up consuming so much pesticide?” The patient responded, “I have been chewing Khat for decades.”

 

Moreover, the Khat trade itself terrorizes Somaliland people and livestock alike. Every year, hundreds of people and livestock are either injured or killed by vehicles loaded with Khat recklessly speeding over 150 km/hour through pothole riddled and narrow roads of Somaliland cities as well as in the open grazing areas. In fact, every Somalilander knows no sooner Khat vehicles’ blasting horns are heard from distances than everyone scrambles to safety. Frantically, parents collect their kids from the streets. Even concrete walls won’t stop these speeding vehicles as they, time and time again, crash into buildings-killing or injuring the occupiers. And above all, many more buyers and traders are either killed or injured each year because of Khat-business violent disputes.

 

The lopsided economic relationship between Somaliland and Somalia on one side, and Ethiopia and Kenya on the other is too obvious. Simply put, as of 2014 Ethiopia spends 340 million dollars on its one-million armed forces annually. And Somaliland eagerly picks up the tab, as it spends 400-524 million dollars to purchase Khat from Ethiopia. (No wonder why the current Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, vows to protect Somaliland-Ethiopia’s cash cow. And the captive-audiences in Somaliland rejoice the PM’s remarks. Yet, we, the Somalilanders, shed more crocodile tears than thunderclouds could spill rains for the Jama-dubad village massacre).

 

Similarly, Somalia buys Khat that is worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Kenya and the Somali business community in Nairobi, Kenya contributes over one billion dollars to Kenya’s economy, yearly. Somaliland and Somalia, on the other hand, gain nothing from Khat.

 

To sum up, Somaliland and Somalia should seek a fair trade with Ethiopia and Kenya. And the aim is far from crippling the Ethiopian and Kenyan farmers who heavily depend on the export of Khat to Somaliland and Somalia, as it is finding a viable solution. That is, Somaliland and Somali officials should inform their counterparts in Ethiopia and Kenya that Khat is losing popularity among the Somalis—and the demise of the drug is inevitable as a death knell rings for Khat—so an economic alternative for the farmers should be devised within a year.

 

 

Dalmar Kaahin

dalmar_k@yahoo.com

Displaying 8 Comments
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  1. Halimo says:

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE!!!. i also was thinking the same thing.
    Our Hard Earned ‘500 MILLION DOLLAR’ is going to ethiopia every year, which then their authority buys weapons with that money to shoot and kill Somalians living in ethopia.
    We are stupid to let this happen.
    500 MILLION DOLLAR will solve more than half of our country problems but in the same time it is IMPORTANT to replace ‘this Drug’ with something ‘they like’ otherwise they will riot.
    if Kenya is willing to give ‘Recognition’ to Somaliland in exchange of Good Rates for their Khat then we can re-export khat to anyone who want it but must stop buying Khat from Ethiopia.

  2. Jama ahmed says:

    That’s right Halimo, Somalis don’t know what’s good for them – if I had a choice I would ban khat. It might seem drastic but Somalis will be far more productive

    • M. Yassin says:

      Jama, easier said than done. So many African governments have tried it but failed desperately. The reason is simple: willing buyer, willing seller. You can’t police Somalis on what to do with their leisure time or luxury. Again, the cartels that profit from it will fight back very strongly. When Britain recently banned the “herb” from its borders, it still has a pending case in court. The complainants are none other than Somali businessmen (they challenge that it is a deprivation of our cultural rights), farmers from Meru County, the County government of Meru (yes, the same Munya who paid us a courtesy call recently). The Kenyan government also gave their contribution and support (remember it is an election year there and this is politics too as well as economics).

      As much as we detest it, it is very difficult to ban it. We live in a free world where adults have the right to decide how they wish to go about their life. In fact, Somalis in the UK made a useful analogy to the Brits there: “how would it feel like if you missed your mid-morning cup of coffee?”.

  3. Omar says:

    Dear M Yassin

    I think you are a pro Khat Supporter lets make it clear. The statement of you qouote of Khat cases in UK is a none existence issue as far as the UK Government is concerned. The UK Government have banned Khat full stop and no outside power can force to reverse the decision reached. Somaliland spends over $500 million of hard currency to buy Khat a number one killer for liver and lung associated death among chewers. Khat is a drug full stop and now there should a movement within Somaliland to ban this killer leaf. The mothers, sisters, Muslim scholars,doctors and the civil society must now take a stand. They should force political parties to address the issue directly and people should vote for a leadership who will ban Khat in the coming election.

    • M. Yassin says:

      Bro Omar. Nice accusation! I love how you are quick to make premature conclusions about others just because of their viewpoints.

      In paper, I too support a total ban of miraa. The reality is different however. FYI, I gave the UK example here to explain how our very own Somalis will react to news of a ban, leave alone others like the Merus and Ethiopians who are merely pushing the “remote” controls from afar and watching from a safe distance on how events unfold.

      Of course, the Kenyan government has sued the UK over this issue. I will send you the link shortly. The UK is a old democracy and can be sued. Many cases are blocked but a few are successful like the Mau Mau veterans in Kenya did. Interestingly, they’ve engaged a leading British law firm to help them. These “historical” injustices are increasingly becoming common and the Brits are concerned it will open a “pandoras” box.

      During the late 80s Siad Barre tried to stop it with little success. Why? The simple reason is that there are so many people who will be up in arms. Think of it? Consumers of Khat are in our government, academic institutions, mosques etc. The same religious leaders who are saying should help have acknowledged that as long as there are willing buyers, then there is very little they can do. I know of “sufiis” who chew this drug then read the quran from end to end. When you tell them it is a “mind-altering” drug that is harmful, they’ll challenge you to quote a verse/hadith!

      I wish it was as simple as “forcing” or voting in leaders who will bring in the change we desire. Regretably, this is wishful thinking. The US has banned it yet other varieties of miraa are still consumed in places like Minneapolis. Do not underestimate the creative genius of Somalis and the cartels behind the trade.

    • M. Yassin says:

      Omar, I promised to show you a few articles to support my arguments. Please refer to these two below:

      1. “Somaliland Authorities Arrest UK Based Anti Khat Campaigner Mr Abukar Awale Qaad Diid” (Somalilandpress, Feb 11th, 2005).

      2. “Kenya Funds lawsuit against Theresa Mays ban on herbal stimulant” (The Independent UK, Oct 18, 2013).

      These two articles should be able to give you a “sneak” peek of why the war against a total ban on miraa is being frustrated.

      I find the treatment of Mr Qaad-Diid by our very own government very surprising! By contrast check out how the Kenyans recently literally went on the “rampage” against cheap imported spirits in their own country, especially after their Presidents directive. Even the women groups were up in arms!!!

  4. Omar Samater says:

    Qat is a drug and is worse than alcohol
    whic is illicit in Islamic law.Qat harms
    the healthy, economy and social life
    of somali people in the Horn of Africa.
    It is illigs to chew qat in Tigray region
    of Ethiopia for the well beign of Tigry nation. Ethiopia economy depends on the qat it exports to former somalia.
    The authorities that rules in Hargeisa,
    Garawe and mogadishu have neither
    the gut nor the power to ban qat from Ethiopia because it is the Wayne thet
    by de facto rules the somali regions.

    • M. Yassin says:

      I agree. The Khat biz is like any other drug biz. Its a cartel with very powerful forces in control. The real “capos” have connections even higher up in the hierarchy. There is a network of suppliers and pushers too.

      It is a lucrative yet destructive activity. The Kenyans have realized that they need new market niches. They tried Tanzania, where Mr Lowassa of Chadema party had even vowed to legalize it if elected. This was a campaign gimmick. He lost in his bid for presidency. Still, a lot of miraa goes secretly to Arusha and Dar everyday.

      As I write, the price of Khat here in Hargeisa has suddenly gone up. I’m not sure if it is the Ethiopians who are doing this deliberately perhaps to send a message to Somaliland! Or is it the start of Khat price wars with the “expected” arrival of Meru herbs. You knows, we might probably start to see the en masse immigration of Merus to Hargeisa as is common in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate as well as major Somali inhabited towns like Garissa, Mombasa, Isiolo etc. A sign of things to come?

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