OP-ED

OPINION: Narcotics dangers should be emphasized to consumers countrywide

By Steven Masiga

There is a higher connection between the consumption of narcotics such as miraa and mairungi and crime rise across the globe, and efforts both political and legislative should be made to address this. A closer look at criminology reveals a causal relationship between the consumption of narcotics and the crime rise in our communities. The enforcers of the law should quickly study this further.

Many MPs were stunned by claims that miraa indeed causes impotence among men and infertility in women. This indeed is a worrying revelation that should be emphasized openly.

Recently, a heap of narcotics weighing some reasonable kilograms was found in the state house and fingers were quickly pointed at the president’s son, Junior Bidden, who if found culpable will be dealt with as per United States law on narcotics and other additives.

And in Kenyan security circles, it was a direct offence for those guarding President Uhuru Kenyatta to be seen imbibing or smoking khat or any sort of narcotics. This is because if soldiers were allowed to consume intoxicating drugs may end up committing crimes of unknown proportion including compromising the life of the principal since they will not be in a normal state.
It is a common view and accepted practice among drunkards that once one is drunk then it is the liquor in charge of the person and not the other way round.

What are narcotics

A useful definition of what narcotics are may be got elsewhere since the enabling law that is the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Act has been struck down by parliament and thus any definition therein legally cannot stand. That being the case, we shall turn else for guidance in the Black’s Law Dictionary (second edition) which describes narcotics as a group of drugs that reduce pain and produce sleep or stupor. While the World Health Organization (WHO) maintains the same meaning by referring to such drugs as substances that affect the mood and relieves pain including drowsiness.

A man holds a heap of Khat locally known as Miraa. Photo/Courtesy

It is believed that over 20,000,000 million people in countries like Uganda, Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia and Somalia consume fresh leaves from these trees and they are consumed as stimulants. If not controlled, Dr Rubanza the Elgon police surgeon warns that many of these consumers will develop serious mental problems.

Dr Rubanza goes ahead to observe that graduates are misusing drugs so much. “As a police surgeon, I see many cases of mental related disorders in Bugisu region and an increasing criminality in the region as users of these drugs can kill in order to get money, to keep buying these drugs” he warns.

Currently, Bugisu is flooded with useless graduates of Law, Public Administration, among others, and after failing to get jobs, many of them have resorted to the consumption of narcotic drugs. The practice according to experts may be worsened by the recent court ruling which threw out the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act 2014 which the court claimed was arrived at without the required quorum in parliament.

The nullification of the act followed a constitutional petition by Wakiso Miraa Growers and Dealers Association versus the Attorney General (the respondent). In their petition, the Growers of Miraa claimed that parliament didn’t consult them as stakeholders in spite of numerous pleas from their area member of parliament Hon Rosemary Seninde to have the voice of consumers and farmers heard. Failure to bring the petitioners on board at that critical point of legislation resoundingly undermined constitutional principles of equality, legality, necessity and proportionality which are well guaranteed under Uganda’s supreme law.

The Miraa growers also went ahead to raise very strong pleas in favor of consumption by pleading with the court that the present law intended to create a disruptive flow of income on the part of the farmers and eaters of khat. They further added that it would be inconsistent with their rights under the constitution which advocates for financial and economic rights by citizens saying miraa was both food and medicine and not an intoxicant and helps to boost moods.

It is devastatingly a painful experience for a parent to see his child resorting to the consumption of leaves like a goat and yet millions of shillings were spent in educating such a person. Therefore unscientific views on the legalization of miraa should not be supported whether they are coming from President Museveni or his cabinet ministers such as General Otafire. Such guidance should be treated as personal views and not official and perhaps calculated to please the gallery but anyone of substance reasoned one parent whose son has abandoned food for mairungi in Mbale town.

Recently in the suburbs of Musoto and Nkoma in Mbale City, residents were alarmed at seeing young men smoking opium and other prohibited drugs openly during the evenings, especially after reading on social media that everyone was free to consume khat in whichever quantity they wanted. They claimed that they must use this free space and consume as many kilograms as possible.

Usually, the consumption of these drugs begins in schools according to the Deputy Headteacher at Mbale High School in Mbale City. “Students here smoke narcotics and as school administration, we can do much because the students are unruly and we can be harmed if we blocked them from smoking,” he says.

A number of strikes in universities may be attributed to the use of narcotics. According to a vendor of narcotics in Mbale town of Arab origin, many of his clients are students of Islamic University mostly including Somalis and other groups. He observes rather sagely as an old vendor in the trade that these students claim that once they chew khat they can read trans night, especially during periods of examinations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other experts categorize khat into the following groups such as cannabis such as marijuana, they are also inhalants, other depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens and dissociatives among others. All the fore listed drugs increase crime rates in communities in the United States of America’s major gun killings are attributed to drug consumption.

The consumption of miraa also increases family conflicts in homes, they are associated with poor confidence among consumers of prohibited drugs and poor interactions. Medically they also cause peptic ulcers and lead to blurred vision including impairing one,s mental faculties a conclusion scientifically confirmed by WHO and other leading health entities like Doctors without Borders. Therefore the views of General Otafiire cannot take precedence over such scholarly submissions by health experts.

Ugandan lawmakers should quickly re-enact the said law again as requested by speaker Anita Among assembling her legislative troops and ensuring 100% turn up.

Allow me to singularly salute the current parliament who have ensured that quorum is a core issue while passing any law. Many of the previous laws were thrown out by courts on areas bordering on lack of quorum as opposed to lack of powers of parliament to enact the said laws. Recall that under Art 79(1)(2) parliament is clothed with powers to make laws for Uganda from Bukalasi in Bududa to the last point of Uganda in the Kabale Buranga sub-county.

Research findings indicate that at least 5% of teachers consume some of these prohibited substances in order to put them on some higher plane to teach well as a number of teachers and lecturers may be shy to teach without some level of intoxicant. We resoundingly reject this view of narcotic consumption including taking alcohol as inducer in order to teach well in class or debate well in parliament.

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Steven Masiga is researcher and administrator from Mbale; Tel: 0706655811



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