Tanzania on the spot over anti-narcotics war

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Barely a week after a Tanzanian legislator was accused of drug trafficking by prisoners in Hong Kong, attention has turned to just how prepared Dar es Salaam was to crack down on the vice.

President Jakaya Kikwete was handed a list of 100 suspected drug barons six years ago, but the illicit trade persists.

Only this week, there was a public outcry over the perceived failure of the government to deal with heavyweights in the trade.

The authorities were accused of being content with catching “small fish” after reports circulated in social media suggesting that a legislator was involved in the illicit trade.

The Hong Kong letter reportedly claims that the MP and other local businessmen were involved in drug dealing.

The MP presented himself at a police station Thursday and asked the officers to establish the truth of the matter.

The hype over the “letter” sparked off a public outcry over the rise of drug trafficking as more Tanzanians get caught in the act.

When he assumed power, President Kikwete vowed to name the drug barons in public.

He ordered security agencies to give him a list of the suspected kingpins in the business.

But while the President admitted to having received a list of 100 big-time drug traffickers, he has yet to tell the nation who they are.

At some point, the then minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office (Policy and Parliamentary Affairs), Mr Philip Marmo, said President Kikwete had formed a task force comprising officials from Tanzania Intelligence Services, Tanzania Revenue Authority, the police force and the Drug Control Commission to deal with the matter.

Big traffickers

Opposition politicians and analysts said Thursday that his failure to make public the drug barons demonstrated lack of political will to deal with the matter.

The head of the Directorate of Communications at State House, Mr Salva Rweyemamu, said the government was winning the battle over drugs, but it just was not making a song and dance about it in public.

At some point, though, he indicated that gathering evidence against the traffickers was a problem.

But analysts said the fact that it is difficult to get the evidence to nail big traffickers points to significant weaknesses in the law enforcement system.

University of Dar es Salaam Lecturer Bashiru Ali told The Citizen: “We are dealing with a corrupt system here. It will be difficult for a government that has failed to curb grand corruption, human trafficking, poaching and other serious offences to weed out drug barons.”

Former Chama Cha Mapinduzi Vice Chairman Pius Msekwa asked the authorities to work out how drug dealers could be brought to justice. Mr Msekwa, who is also the former speaker of the National Assembly, said it was high time youth--the group most affected by drugs--were rescued from the vice.

Opposition Chadema Secretary-General Wilbrod Slaa said the rise in drug trafficking could be put down to lack of political will to deal with the crisis.

He added: “For a long time, President Kikwete has failed to take serious steps to name and shame drug traffickers and has, instead, given them more time to surrender--something that cannot happen in any country in the world.”

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