The importing of khat, a leafy drug, to Somalia has soared highly ever since the drug was banned from being imported to the United Kingdom several weeks ago, as reported by khat chewers and dealers.
The khat leaves, which are illegal in many countries, are commonly consumed in Somalia , Djibouti and Yemen. The leaves are imported mainly from Kenya and Ethiopia into Somalia by planes to different parts of the country. “Before the ban imposed by the United Kingdom three to four planes used to land at Mogadishu’s airport carrying khat, they would come from Kenya. However, after the ban the number of planes delivering the drug have reached ten” a khat dealer in Mogadishu said.
The khat leaves reach the country far and wide, as around twenty-two to twenty-five planes arrive daily to deliver and distribute the drug to major cities such as Hargeisa, Kismayo, Bosaso and Baidoa, whereas border towns receive the drug by cars who deliver it from neighboring countries.
The increased influx of khat into the country combined with banning of the drug in Al-Shabaab controlled territories has left dealers at loss whereby they’re forced to significantly lower the price of the leaves which are for sale in government controlled areas. “Khat is banned in Al-Shabaab areas, anyone found carrying the leaves will have his vehicle and the leaves burned. This has led us to lose out on a lot of profit to be made as we are forced to sell the leaves at a lowered down price in the government held areas” said Sa’id Ga’amey, a local khat dealer.
The significant drop in the price of khat in Mogadishu has also had an adverse effect on society and brought with it an increase of health, social and financial problems. According to experts millions of dollars are spent monthly on khat by addicts in Somalia, with the hardest hit addicts being Somali soldiers who spend most of their money on khat. Families and households are also some of the most affected, with the breadwinners in the family often becoming addicted, spending extravagantly on the drug, leaving the family with little to survive on.
“The drop in the price of khat has only increased the problems for the populace, many families are suffering now as many providers of families are addicted and spend their money on khat, instead of their children’s food, upbringing and education” said a Mogadishu based female activist. “Our country has become the dump yard of other nations, expired medicine, food and banned drugs are all imported and sold openly. It’s destroying our society, and we urge the Somali government to take measures to prevent the import of such items” she added.
There has lately also been an increasing call by civil organizations, activists and Somali diaspora communities for khat to be banned in Somalia, however these calls have fallen on deaf ears, considering that a large number of khat consumers are Somali government soldiers and officials themselves, with khat dealers and traders being some of the most powerful individuals who profit from their trade.
Voice Of Somalia-Banaadir Post