When one hears Mogadishu residents protesting against
the authority's decision to ban Khat imports, one
would feel a sense of normality returning in Mogadishu.
On November 16, a group of people took the streets
of Mogadishu to express their objection to the banning
khat leaves are glossy brown and contain a psychoactive
ingredient chemically similar to amphetamine. Whatever
concerns that the protestors may still have, it is
a sign that Mogadishu residents are choosing a new
way to get their frustration acknowledged.
Khat is said to be the scourge of Somalis like cocaine
is to the Americans and Europeans. It is estimated
that Somalis usually spend about $300,000 a day on
Kenyan khat, which is delivered to Somalia daily.
Unfortunately, khat depletes the hard currency available
insides Somalia and regularly creates the domino effect
of humanitarian and financial difficulties.
The report Experience in the control of khat-chewing
in Somalia states, "the economic problems associated
with khat-chewing include the spread of corruption,
the theft of public and private property to support
the habit, damage to people and to property caused
by accidents that occur under the euphoric state induced
by the use of the drug, and the loss of many working
hours among civil servants and private employees."
In addition, khat makes people indolent.
is supported by a prominent Somali anti-khat activist,
Eng Rukia Osman Mahmoud, who asserted that "Our
men have become lazy over the years because of the
widespread trade that forces them to just sit and
enjoy the product." So it seems that there is
a convincing case for banning khat and Mogadishu is
lucky now to debate a khat issue rather than a flimsy
ceasefire. Since June 2006, when the Mogadishu Islamists
repulsed the bloodthirsty warlords and started to
project their authority on Mogadishu and its surrounding
areas, Mogadishu has started to witness what many
people might call a 'miracle'.
Courts have pursued popular policies that brought
improved security, orderly streets and functioning
ports. The disappearance of gun-totting boys chewing
khat is a relief Mogadishu has been waiting for more
than a decade. However, like any administration, they
have engaged in not well-liked policies such as the
attempt to restrict the media or sports.It is undeniable
that the Courts need to develop policies quickly to
regulate the areas that they control. It is also irrefutable
that these policies have to satisfy competing needs.
challenge is how to pace, sequence and enforce these
policies effectively. When policies are introduced
unsystematically, the consequences could be disastrous.According
to the BBC Somali section, the Islamic Courts had
taken measures to ban khat effectively without publicising
their new policy.
a result, according to Reuters, one person lost his
life and another was wounded when Somali Islamist
armed forces opened fire on Thursday at a Mogadishu
crowd protesting against the burning of khat consignment.
And this has created confusion among traders, consumers
and security forces.
Friday, the Courts introduced a law making khat illegal
in all Islamist-held areas. Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the
chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, said, "The
Islamic courts have forbidden the import of khat into
areas of Somalia under our control." Since Islamic
Courts came to power, the future of several industries
including the entertainment and khat has been questioned.
Many Somalis are fervent supporters of banning khat,
nevertheless, they are questioning if this is the
right time to outlaw khat trading.
is at a critical time and Mogadishu is very vulnerable
to recoil its violent history if the citizens are
not handled carefully.Furthermore, it is important
to ask if banning khat was a quick fix solution for
Thursday's event or whether it was a well thought-out
solution. Would it be more helpful if there was a
major campaign to raise awareness of khat before a
ban was introduced? Which one is more beneficial to
levy taxation on khat that could be earmarked for
social and economical programs, or to illegalise and
lose potential income? Is a ban enforceable? Before
a policy is enacted, it is important to look at its
consequences as it will create losers and winners.
Amihai Glazer, University of California underlined
the importance of developing a policy: "In designing
a policy, consideration should be given not only to
the factors which affect political support for adopting
the policy, but also factors which affect political
support after the policy is adopted." The losers
are forces that cannot be ignored. Khat is very popular
among Somalis and a significant number of Somalis
are in the khat trade. The khat trade between Somalia
and Kenya creates jobs for more than 250,000 people
in Kenya. And the Kenya government, as expected, will
not welcome this ban.
khat will definitely test the Courts as there will
be economical and political pressures against them.
These pressures will come from Somalis, Kenyans and
others who benefit or use khat.
As mentioned above, khat has negative socio-economy
effects and Somalis should have been made more aware
of that in order to convince them to make social investments
and forgo any economic incentive that they may have.
Khat consumers should have been informed the health
risks that khat imposes. There should be alternative
jobs for those who work in the khat industry, so it
will be easy for them to switch from a debauched industry
to a finer business.
well-publicised future date should have been selected
for the adaptation of the policy. Good public relations
and well planned media programmes would have helped
a lot. If carefully planned policies are adopted in
this pace and sequence, they will eliminate unnecessary