Smuggling of contraband goods and bhang across the porous Kenya-Tanzania border has sucked in children sending security committees of counties along the common boundary into panic mode.
Migori County Security Committee is therefore prioritizing the war against contraband goods and general crime in its security agenda this year.
It says it is keen to slay cartels operating illicit businesses cross the Kenya-Tanzania border that it alleges has led to many counterfeit goods, illicit liquor and drugs dumped into the country.
But the most shocking revelation is that the faceless cartels are believed to be using children as young as 10 years to help them smuggle contraband goods, top on the list, Cannabis Sativa (bhang) for a small fees.
Chairman of the local security team Mr. Joseph Rotich who is also the area county commissioner warned on Friday that the government will deal ruthlessly with those perpetrating the vice.
“We are telling those doing this business to stop it immediately or face the full force of the law,” he warned soon after awarding 44 police officers with commendation letters for their exemplary work in fighting crime and contraband goods in the region.
In the past one week, police have helped recover bhang worth over Sh100 million and contained cattle rustling along the Kuria/Maasai and Kuria/Luo borders. The officers have also recovered one AK 47 rifle with hundreds of ammunition from criminals.
It is however worrying many in the region that drug trafficking is becoming a hard nut to crack for the security team even as supplies continue to come from Tanzania through the porous border entries.
Some unscrupulous police officers are believed to have been sucked into this illegal business and are offering protection to the illicit trade barons while on mission to smuggle cannabis sativa, contraband alcohol and cigarettes into the country.
Investigations conducted recently by the Kenya News Agency crew along the highly porous border revealed children are being enlisted in the trafficking of the illegal stuff across the border into the country.
A 12-year-boy confided to the crew that he is deeply involved in smuggling bhang into the country on behalf of some wealthy business people and, gave a detailed account of how he carries out the risky, but lucrative trade.
“The owners of the drug consignments always give us light luggage with rolls of bhang concealed at the bottoms of the disguised parcels to be ferried across the border,” he said. The luggage are always disguised as rise, maize or clothes legally bought in Tanzania to confuse the security officers or anybody else who may register their suspicion.
“Because nobody bothers much about what a child carries across the border, we always deliver our drugs safely to the agents of the drug barons at strategic points in Kenya before they load them into sleek cars and leave for destinations we do not know,” said the boy who only identified himself as John.
But when a problem, say arrest, arises before the consignment is delivered to the agent, the owner will always move first to seek for the release of the “porter” by “oiling” the hands of the arresting officers and disappear in thin air with their drugs.
“The barons cannot afford to leave the boys alone to face the law and moves very fast to part with huge monies at the police stations to forestall anything that can expose their identity,” said Mr. Peter Ochieng’, a local business person who claim to know all the deals involving the illegal business.
The porters, mainly male teenagers, are paid according to the quantity of bhang smuggled in one-go, which is between Ksh 1,000 and 3,000 per trip.
Children officials from the area described the business as the worst form of child labour. Mr. Rotich says parents should warn their children that drug trafficking is a risky business.
County police Commandant Mr. Joseph Nthenge said the bhang barons could be taking advantage of severe poverty dogging local families to enlist teenagers into this dangerous business.
Migori County has been put in the spotlight after several acres of bhang worth over Sh50 million were four years ago discovered in Nyatike Sub County. Police destroyed the plantations and arrested several people in connection with the growing of the illegal weed in the area.
But four years down the line, the business still goes on unabated even with the security agents’ efforts to end it.
Hardly, a day passes in the area without a haul of the stuff being nabbed by the police along the busy Migori-Kisii highway. What is worrying is that most of the suspects usually earn their freedom from police hands and courts under suspicious circumstances that the public do not understand well.
“We have always believed corruption at play among police and court officials,” says retired teacher Joseph Owino.
Migori county, which borders Tanzania has always been in dilemma fighting the drug since the neighbouring country, which has been identified as a major supply of the stuff, has been doing very little to ban the crop.
Like sugar cane, tea, coffee or maize in Kenya, bhang is grown in Tanzania’s Tarime district freely in big plantations, whose owners confess that they do not grow the crop for local consumption but for the huge market in Kenya.
It will therefore force authorities in Migori and Kenya’s leadership in general to direct all their energies towards convincing their neighbours to join them in the fight against the crop and other illicit goods coming from that country.