decree cuts off supplies of satanic leaves' to Somalia in
an effort to stem flow of weapons NAIROBI Dealers in the popular
mildly narcotic plant khat were left sitting high and dry
on worthless merchandise yesterday after a weekend ban on
trade between Kenya and Somalia.
Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi's edict was devised partly
to stem the gushing flow of weapons into Kenya from its war-ravaged
neighbour, such is the power of the Kenyan president's almost
casual commands that Saturday's order is being applied as
a blanket interdict.
Wilson International Airport, usually abuzz with khat traders,
the scene yesterday was slow, the mood irate. Trader Ahmed
Ibrahim said: "At least 13 small aircraft carrying khat used
to fly to Somalia every day. They take khat and come back
with dollars." Seats of 10-passenger planes are usually removed
to make space for dozens of sacks of khat, weighing 10kg-20kg.
and central Somalia, where it is too hot and arid for the
plant to grow, a bundle of good quality leaves, which must
be chewed for several hours for a mild high, fetches the equivalent
of $5. "The aircraft leasing companies that transport the
khat to Somalia and the transport firms that bring it from
(central) Meru district to Nairobi are without business,"
Ibrahim said. Firms charge $3000 for the Nairobi-Mogadishu
round trip. Another trader, Amina Hassan, said the ban hit
more khat before the ban only to realise on Sunday that I
am unable to send it to Somalia. I lost 90% of all my capital."
Taxi drivers at Wilson complained about loss of business.
In Mogadishu, the ban brought mixed reaction. While traders
were feeling the pinch, religious leaders were pleased. "It
is great news to hear the ban of satanic leaves' trade into
good news, it is like stopping the export of drugs from Colombia
to the US," declared Sheikh Ahmed Mohamud Ismail, a religious
personality. But Addi Abdullahi Yasin, a young user at a Mogadishu
market usually given over to selling the plant, said: "Khat
is a pastime (for) me to get more energy and strength after
not addicted to the use of it, but in fact khat is a good
means of socialising people. "I know khat is not haram (forbidden),"
Yasin said angrily. There have been no deliveries since the
ban. Traders and those employed in the local distribution
network could do nothing except hope that supplies from Ethiopia,
another major producer, would arrive soon.
chewers in the Nairobi district of Eastleigh the export ban
has led to a glut and a sharp fall in price. Somali traders
rejected Moi's charge that Somalia is largely to blame for
a profusion of weapons in the hands of Kenyan criminals. "Weapons
are scattered in southern Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and the
Great Lake (area)," said businessman Hassan Aden.
man at Wilson said he could not see the relationship between
khat and weapons. Moi made it clear guns were not his only
target, promising to enforce the edict "until a legitimate
government is installed in Somalia".