Police say they have arrested one of the prominent and most wanted marijuana drug lord in Kampala.
Kyataka Mukiibi who also calls himself "General" was arrested by police officers around Market Street after a tip off by concerned citizens while he was supplying and collecting money from his clients.
“Mukiibi has since 2016 been on our wanted list. His name sufficed on our watch-list after the suspects arrested during an operation confessed and disclosed their supplier,” reads part of a police statement issued on Sunday.
Police say they searched his home in Bulenga and recovered huge amounts of marijuana which he was allegedly planning to supply in areas of Makindye, Kikoni and Kisenyi as reflected his records book .
“Among the notable individuals arrested by police for selling marijuana around the town centre is a one Mellisa and Alex Tebagalika who have also pinned Mukiibi as the person behind their business,” added the police statement.
Mukiibi is currently detained at CPS Kampala on SD Reference 79/24/04/2018 as investigations into the case continue.
In Uganda, a person convicted of dealing in illicit drugs is sentenced to three-month in imprison or a Shs1m fine or both. Reports indicate that illicit drug trade is on the increase in the country.
My guide leads the steep climb in the sweltering afternoon heat. Three earlier attempts have been futile and this time, I have been advised to try and blend in.
A man wearing a red baseball cap, a T-shirt that was once white and now brownish and a pair of torn pants, staggers about. He turns unto a verandah and falls. “That is the worst case of the guys you are looking for,” my guide mutters.
We are in Muzana Zone, Kisenyi 1 Parish, one of Uganda’s drug havens where underground selling and trafficking of jet/aviation fuel, glue, marijuana, heroin, cocaine and other such substances, thrives.
I discover that the staggering man is George William Kizito. The building whose verandah he is leaning on one of the remaining few condemned structures that will soon give way to developments that are quickly engulfing what was once a major slum. Kizito seems epileptic and speaks inaudibly. He shakes feverishly. Uncontrolled saliva pops out of his mouth.
On the opposite side of the road, on the stairs of an arcade, about 20 boys, the youngest about 10 years old or younger, lounge. Each has a sack and either a bottle or a rolled piece of cloth held to their mouth. All are sniffing on something, interrupted occasionally when one has to speak.
Kizito is a legend. No one can point to a time when he arrived in the area. He walks like a zombie, only that he doesn’t have much energy. The community awaits his death.
Last year, efforts were made to find his family and when that failed, he was brought back to the streets to live his last days. His wish, residents say, is to be buried in a public cemetery.
The communities tolerate, support or turn a blind eye on children sniffing fuel, glue and other substances in the open. The children, in fact, support a thriving business in scrap metal. For as low as Shs100, the boys—all are boys—(we were told some girls are involved too but we did not encounter any) clean, run errands, collect used plastic bottles and scrap metal.
A kilogramme of plastic bottles they collect costs Shs100. The aviation fuel, glue and other chemicals they use makes the boys lose a sense of dignity and they trudge through the filthiest of garbage in search of what to sell without fear or shame.
Many have deep cuts on their arms and legs sustained as a result of working without any protective gear. Money to buy food is not a big concern for many of the boys and men on the streets who sniff fuel and glue. Majority are mentally impaired and, therefore, have no problem eating leftovers from restaurants or to scavenge in dumpsites. Almost every penny they earn is used to buy more fuel and other substances for sniffing.
Fred Zziwa aka Wasswa aka Minister, arrived in Kisenyi in 2006. He says he was in Primary Five when a bitter fight with his nephew forced him away from the home of his brother, who was taking care of him. He is famous for his ability to clean and run errands.
Out of the Shs6,000 he earns per day, Zziwa says he buys ekikomando (chappati and beans), water for Shs200, and a cloth dipped in aviation fuel at Shs300 and marijuana (sada) for breakfast.
We ask why he needs the drugs as part of his breakfast.
“If I don’t take it, I feel abnormal and if I take it like I do and then stop for may be two days, when I resume, I feel sick until I consume enough to be high again,” he answers.
He dodges the question of the source of the fuel or the names of those who sell to him. The stories of a number of his colleagues we spoke to were similar.
There are about 400 children sniffing chemicals in Muzaana alone and the number in the area has gone down from more than 1,000 because of the developments that continue to push the boys away to neighbouring slums, says Muhamadi Magambo, a community mobiliser.
But how do these substances, including highly controlled aviation fuel, make it to the open market? At Entebbe airport, two companies, Vivo Energy Uganda’s Vitol Aviation and Total Uganda, supply aircrafts with fuel.
Supply trucks deposit the fuel at the main storage tanks located at the side of the cargo terminal. Underneath, there are pipelines that transfer the fuel to the tarmac, where the aircrafts are refuelled. A knowledgeable source says it is virtually impossible to siphon fuel from the storage tanks because they are heavily guarded.
The siphoning of the fuel, our source says, happens on the tarmac when the holes are being cleaned and through the trucks that transfer the fuel to the aircrafts.
“Also, the trucks that bring the aviation fuel to the tanks are not completely emptied and what remains is removed between Entebbe and Kampala or in major towns to Mombasa,” he adds.
We sought an explanation from both Total Uganda and Vivo Energy Uganda two weeks prior to the publication of this story.
Vivo Energy spokesperson Cerinah Tugume, in an email, said: “Jet [fuel] is not available as it is delivered directly to our aviation customers.”
On the other hand, Total Uganda’s Chris Mayende declined to comment on the issue and referred Sunday Monitor to a colleague, who we were unable to get by press time.
Away from the main airport, we were informed that the Entebbe Military Airbase is a major transit point for aviation fuel that makes it to the open market. Rogue army officers, we have established, in connivance with some criminal businessmen, steal the fuel and sell it to dealers.
We spoke to current and former workers at the airbase, who detailed how the operation works.
Some of the fuel meant for the army activities is, for example, openly sold by a businessman at Entebbe Taxi Park in Kitoro to taxi operators. The aviation fuel is usually transported to Kampala, where it is on high demand.
“It’s the officials themselves that sneak it out. First of all, some top officials are never checked at the check points. Those who take it in bulk are top guys. During servicing, the tanks have to be emptied. The process is not complicated, they just put in 20-litre jerrycans and take,” one said.
Others, we have established, connive with the guards.
A major purge was conducted, our source says, and many soldiers engaged in the practice were arrested. Those arrested in Entebbe were detained at the nearby airforce barracks in Katabi, while others were detained in places where their alleged crimes were committed.
Tackling the problem
In countries such as Australia and Russia where young people abuse aviation fuel, for example, there is an ongoing serious national conversation about the same. Not in Uganda.
In some areas in Australia, the issue has since been termed as an “unfolding public health emergency”.
A study by Australia’s Northern Territory Health Department last year targeting anyone thought to be sniffing aviation fuel found nine out of 10 young people tested with elevated levels of lead in their blood, with one young person clocking in at 17 times over the acceptable limit.
Commenting on the study in the ABC publication, NT Centre for Disease Control acting director Charles Douglas, observed that the effects of aviation fuel sniffing are long-term and some are irreversible. The fuel, he added, could lead to behavioural disorders, liver and kidney damage, and even death.
Dr David Basangwa, the executive director Butabika mental hospital, says users of aviation fuels and other such chemicals, find themselves unable to live or function without the said substances.
“Unfortunately, the organic solvents—these chemicals they sniff act for a short time— and they run out of the body. That is dangerous for the users because they have to repeatedly use them. It becomes very dangerous because sometimes they take in so much that they get organ damage,” Dr Basangwa says.
He says 30 per cent of the admissions at Butabika are due to abuse of substances such as Toluene and aviation fuel.
On average, Uganda spends Shs50,000 daily on an addiction patient in a public facility, says Dr Basangwa, and the cost is higher in private facilities. This caters for accommodation, meals and professional care.
The shortest time a patient can be handled and released from hospital is 60 days. A patient is consequently put on an outpatient programme.
On April 9, 2015, President Museveni assented to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act (NDPSA), but the law is yet to be fully operationalised. It has also been criticised for having a penal focus and not prioritising the welfare of persons who use drugs.
The Act, among other things, criminalises acts associated with narcotic drugs, ‘recruiting’ or ‘promoting’ the smoking, inhaling, sniffing or other use of such substances and owning, occupying or being ‘concerned in the management’ of any premises used for the cultivation, sale or manufacture of such substances.
“Overall, the NDPSA conflates support for people who use and inject drugs (PWUIDs) with the criminal law and even the limited health services provided under such a framework are rendered meaningless and effectively inaccessible…the essence of the Act is to treat PWUIDs as criminals who need to be locked up instead of viewing them as human in need of assistance,” notes Edward Muhwezi, a counsellor at Uganda Harm Reduction Network.
At our spot in Kisenyi, Kizito is fast asleep by the time we leave. It is, however, a matter of years, months or even days before the younger boys addicted to the substance get to his level.
The market network
In Kisenyi, Kampala, a man only identified by our sources as Musiramu is the wholesaler, who distributes to a network of mainly women, who sell directly to the street children and other users.
With the exception of those who run their operations in their retail shops, the other dealers operate on the street and off verandas of buildings. They have bottles of less than 10 litres and when they run out, they go back for more.
Accounts from the people we spoke to suggest a symbiotic relationship between local authorities, the police and the dealers. Every weekend, the dealers in fuels, heroin and cocaine, pay a stipend to the area local police and other local leaders in a system called “reporting”.
“Even if there is serious operation ordered from the police headquarters or other top government officials, the dealers are tipped off beforehand,” our source said.
Local police and the other authorities, our sources add, are also used to intimidate and punish those who attempt to disrupt the trade.
“The LC1 chairperson and police get paid and even if some officers are transferred, the practice remains because an entire force is not moved. Those who remain inculcate the new officers, especially the OC [Officer in Charge] into the system,” an area resident, who requests not to be named for fear of repercussions, says.
Aviation fuel is the most sought after, but it is expensive and its supply is unreliable. Interactions with users and community workers revealed that some dealers have since introduced new chemicals or mix the aviation fuel with other chemicals for maximum profit and to satisfy the never ending demand.
We obtained samples of the most widely sniffed and sold chemical in the area and submitted it for testing and analysis.
Two scientists, Joram Patrick Mugisha and Thomas Okoth from Uganda Industrial Research Institute helped to analyse the sample we bought from Kisenyi.
Findings contained in their January 10 report submitted to Sunday Monitor indicate that the substance, now widely sniffed on the streets, is no longer aviation fuel but Toluene.
Toluene (methylbenzene, toluol, phenylmethane) is an aromatic hydrocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent for the manufacturing of paints, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and rubber.
It is found as an ingredient in gasoline, acrylic paints, varnishes, lacquers, paint thinners, adhesives, glues, rubber cement, airplane glue, and shoe polish. At room temperature, toluene is colourless, sweet smelling, and volatile liquid.
“The chemical is poisonous when its fumes are unintentionally or deliberately inhaled, ingested. It is also poisonous when applied through transdermal absorption [through the unbroken skin],” Mr Mugisha says.
Dealing in Toluene is lucrative given that its purchase is not as restricted as that of the most sought after aviation fuel.
We contacted Desbro Uganda Ltd, a chemical and allied products company and one which, according to our sources, is the leading importer of industrial-grade toluene, but they had run out of the product.
We were informed a new consignment would be in the country in two weeks’ time.
Available literature suggests that Toluene intoxication due to intentional inhalation can lead to death. Daily abuse for several years may cause significant problems in mobility, brain, lung, eye, and liver injuries can occur in users. Some physical damage may improve if exposure to toluene stops, although brain damage may be permanent.
After getting results of toluene, we submitted fuel samples obtained from Vivo Uganda to the Uganda Research Institute Lab for comparison.
Findings indicate that Kerosene and Jet A1 are of the same chemical composition. AV GAS contains toluene (the suspected sniffing agent). Literature findings show that AV GAS comprises of (5-25 %) of toluene as an octane rating enhancer.
“The abuse of AV gas could be attributed to the presence of toluene and similar derivatives which impart the sweet aroma. The abuse of Toluene on its own may potentially present a more lethal effect to the users,” Mr Mugisha noted in the second report.
A brain of a 12-year old, for example, can resemble that of an 85-year-old if the former has been sniffing Toluene for at least 3 years.
The reporting was supported by the African Centre for Media Excellence
Kampala. Juma Matovu was a week ago lynched after he reportedly stabbed three people with a knife at Biina in Mutungo, Kampala. The 17-year-old had reportedly developed a sudden mental illness due to drugs.
Nakawa Division mayor Ronald Balimwezo, says Matovu had been reported for having started using drugs a few days before his death. He says they were in the process of taking him to a rehabilitation centre.
“He (Juma Matovu) had just lost his mental stability because of drugs. He had been brought to our attention but unfortunately, he was lynched because they did not know his status. People close to him had informed us how he had become mentally ill,” Mr Balimwezo explains.
Matovu is part of the statistics of teenagers, who have fallen victim to drug abuse in Kampala.
Mr Frank Mwesigwa, the Kampala Metropolitan police commander, says many teenagers they arrest over crime are mainly driven by drugs.
“Our biggest challenge is Kisenyi since it is a slummy area and it has all sorts of people. Its set-up makes children and youth access drugs cheaply and they hide in corridors and abuse drugs. They afterwards engage in various crimes such as theft and pickpocketing,” Mr Mwesigwa explains.
In the last one month, police in Kampala have recorded more than 1,000 cases of drug-related offences, particularly involving teenagers and youth aged between 13 and 24 years.
Kampala Central, Katwe Division, Kalerwe and Kawempe police stations and Nansana Municipality Division Police recorded the highest number of cases related to drug abuse last month.
Kalerwe Police Post, Nansana Division Police, and Kampala CPS arrest more than 10 suspects every time they conduct operations against drug abusers and dealers.
Early this year, Kalerwe police arrested more than 100 teenagers and youth over drug abuse and involvement in crime such as theft.
Mr Balimwezo says the situation is not different in Nakawa as they arrest more than 30 teenagers every time they conduct a crackdown on drug abusers in areas of Kitintale, Luzira, Biina, Kasokoso and Mutungo. The drug suspects, he says, are usually picked in cinema halls and bars late in the night or in the morning hours smoking drugs, sleeping on verandas and roadside.
“There are many juveniles, who have started abusing drugs because of curiosity or bad peers. Once they get intoxicated, they don’t fear anyone,” Mr Balimwezo says.
Last week, Kampala CPS police arrested 45 suspected drug smokers and dealers in a bid to fight crimes related to drugs. Most of the victims who were picked from corridors and rooftops were aged between 16 and 25 years. During the operation, several exhibits ranging from marijuana, khati, cocaine and shisha were recovered.
A week earlier, police in Nakulabye conducted an operation in which more than 200 suspected criminals, mostly teenagers were arrested for terrorising residents of Nakulabye and surrounding areas. The crackdown came after several residents had complained of teenagers smoking drugs in their areas, in addition to breaking into their homes and shops.
Nansana Division police commander Bernard Katwalo says cases of children engaging in drug abuse are on the rise in Nansana Municipality, especially in areas of Kibulooka and Nansana East II Zone. The culprits are aged between 13 and 14 years and have often been arrested for burglary and theft.
“Drugs are very cheap in this area. They are sold at Shs500 and Shs1,000. Every time we conduct a crackdown on drug abusers, we get very many teenagers. We usually counsel them but also engage their parents,” Mr Katwalo says.
The Nansana East II A and Nansana East 11 B LC1 chairman, Mr Richard Luggya, says some children have resorted to taking drugs inside houses to avoid arrest.
“These children are known to our faces and they are always on alert. They take off once they see us. But we have tried to talk to parents for the children we know. We also have very many children who have come to this area and their origin is not known,” Mr Luggya says.
Mr Mwesigwa adds that Kakiri in Wakiso District has been identified as one of the closest sources of drugs sold to teenagers and youth in Kampala.
A recent report by Harm Reduction Uganda (HRU) indicates that Mpigi, Butambala and Buikwe districts are sources of drugs such as khati (marijuana) and Cannabis ([Njaga) used by most teenagers and youths in Kampala. In the report, most vulnerable areas include Kampala’s suburbs of Kabalagala, Kisenyi, Bwaise, Katwe, Kasokoso, Namuwongo, Bakuli, Ndeeba and Kawempe.
Mr Mwesigwa adds that it is challenging to fight drug abuse since it is usually concealed in transportation. He says they only rely on operations in suspected areas and vigilance of local residents on people dealing in drugs.
Mr Gracious Atwine, the HRU coordinator, says during their study, a total of 425 respondents were interviewed in Kampala City.
“Of these, 17 per cent were in Kampala injecting drugs whereas 50 per cent used non-injecting drugs,” HRU report reads in part.
Mr Atwine adds that the survey was conducted to show that drug use is a public health issue and not a criminal justice matter. To him, the statistics could be used to address drugs abuse in urban areas.
“Drug abuse is cumulative because victims are handled as criminals instead of directing them to recover. Police usually arrest, detain and indict them instead of helping them to recuperate from the problem,” Mr Atwine adds.
According to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act (NDPSA) 2016, drug traffickers can be imprisoned for up to 20 years while those found in possession of drugs can be handed a sentence of up to 10 years or payment of a fine of not less than Shs10 million.
The same law provides for a fine of Shs480,000 to drug abusers and a one to five year jail term which Mr Mwesigwa is optimistic shall help to reduced drugs.
“Imagine a teenager who has been fined Shs480,000 and most of them cannot raise that amount. This law will help us in fighting drug abuse,” he adds.
Statistics at Police Narcotics department indicate that by the end of 2016, police had arrested 2,163 drug users and traffickers. The traffickers included 10 Nigerians, four South Africans, three Kenyans, and eight Ugandans. The age range for those arrested was between 14 and35 years and 95 per cent of them were arrested in Kampala.
Mr Balimwezo and MR Mwesigwa attribute the rising cases of teenagers abusing drugs to parental negligence and unemployment. They say parents have become reluctant on their roles and have left children to do anything they want.
“You can imagine a child returns home at midnight and the parent does not question where he or she had been. The children are being trained by thugs to abuse drugs but also to steal or do criminal activities for them. We have now made it a routine to talk about parenting in our community meetings,” Mr Mwesigwa says.
Mr Mwesigwa adds that for cases of children arrested over abusing drugs or criminality they engage parents but those without parents are often taken to rehabilitation centres.
According to African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), there are more than 10,000 children living on Kampala streets.
Records. Statistics at Police Narcotics department indicate that by the end of 2016, police had arrested 2,163 drug users and traffickers. The traffickers included 10 Nigerians, four South Africans, three Kenyans, and eight Ugandans. The age range for those arrested was between 14 and35 years and 95 per cent of them were arrested in Kampala.
Causes. This is attributed to parental negligence and unemployment. It is reported that parents have become reluctant on their roles and have left children to do anything they want.
Rehabilitate. Police also say that for cases of children arrested over abusing drugs or criminality, they engage parents but those without parents are often taken to rehabilitation centres.
Street children. According to African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect, there are more than 10,000 children living on Kampala streets.
Police in Luweero District have uprooted and destroyed eight acres of marijuana gardens at Namalimba village in Kikyusa Sub-county. The operation follows a tip-off from residents, who claimed the marijuana is smuggled at night by dealers.
Police, led by the District Commander, Mr Godfrey Ninsiima, on Monday arrested one of the suspects, who had allegedly attempted to swim through the waters of River Ssezibwa but was intercepted before crossing to Kayunga District.
“Some suspects are still in hiding but we already have one of the prime suspects. He led us to his four acre garden of marijuana which we destroyed,” Mr Ninsiima said.
Namalimba LCI Chairperson Petre Luswata said the marijuana is sold to dealers in Kampala, Luweero Town and Kayunga District by people who travel in tinted cars at night.
“We did not know that the gardens are as large as we witnessed. Some of the marijuana is smuggled across River Ssezibwa to Kayunga District. We had no idea about the marijuana gardens because they are surrounded by papyrus swamps,” Mr Luswata said.
Police will have charges of possessing opium preferred against the suspects while the dry opium recovered from the homes of the suspects will be destroyed, according to Mr Ninsiima.
They sit by the roadside and inhale the toxic smoke in a group of about 10. They do not care who is passing-by as they exhale the sophisticated ganja smoke to the shock of many who care to turn and look at the bare-chested young men speaking broken “Jamaican English”.
This is a group of citizens who have decided that smoking the illicit drug is a casual activity since not even the local authorities can do anything to stop it. This action takes place in one of the compounds of a permanent house in Nkere Zone, Makindye Division, about a three-minute ride from Katwe Police Station. These youths gather often times during the day and pass time puffing the drug believed to be the cause of petty theft in the surrounding areas.
Mulongo, a 25-year-old salon operator in Kampala city centre and resident of Nkele, has no kind words for the men, she says they beat her up, took all her belongings and even when she reported to the police and some of the suspects were reprimanded, the practice has not stopped. “Police need to get serious and arrest all these men smoking ganja from this place,” Mulongo said.
A broad daylight affair
And this is not the only area where drugs are sold and abused in broad day light as police slumber. Near the Military Barracks in Makindye is another centre of drug abuse. Sticks of marijuana are displayed on a polythene bag in the evenings for everyone to buy. Each stick goes for Shs500 while the “conc” (read high class) goes for Shs1,000 per stick.
The dealer, a man in his 30s, intimates to this reporter that most of his customers are boda boda riders and prostitutes who operate from within Makindye. The sex workers, he adds, always tell him that without such enhancement, they would not manage more customers in such a business where the more men you “service”, the more money you take home.
“Man, we have to survive. Some of our customers are people in the security,” the man who some of the clients address as Young, says while pointing towards the barracks. This paper could not verify Young’s claims.
Last month, opposition Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye claimed some security operatives in Kampala are always high on drugs. “I have absolutely no doubt on my mind that they are full-time high on marijuana,” Dr Besigye said then, before adding, “I am saying this both as an experienced observer and a medical worker.” But Police Spokesman Asuman Mugenyi refuted the claims, saying the FDC leader is “entitled to his opinion which is a concoction.” He said: “I do not think he would have kind words for the police. Any sane person would see that the allegations he is making are lies.”
Two years ago, we broke a story where boda boda operators confessed to smoking narcotics allegedly “to keep awake” while on night duty.
A stroll deeper into Nsambya, Kirombe zone reveals the same picture. Men in their early 20s sit in groups, playing cards (locally known as matatu) and puffing away marijuana. However, they are reluctant to show this reporter where they purchase the drug although one of them offers to sell two sticks at Shs800 each. “We keep our own smoke that we buy from the village. City dwellers are very clever, they mix the real weed with fake grasses,” revealed one of the partakers without giving details of his name.
Along the Makindye-Konge-Ggaba Road, business seems to have been taken to another level. Our investigations revealed that there is a cover-up bar and Internet café but inside the building illegal trade is taking place.
Manned by West African nationals, the two businesses do not close untill the wee hours of the morning. This same group has also rented an expensive flat within the same area and cruise in expensive cars.
They meet their clients in Kansanga and Kabalagala where, according to our source, they are paid both in shillings and dollars. Their meeting places are located along the stretch between Kampala International University and Barclays Bank, Kansanga.
Actually at another bar, located about 100 meters from that of the West Africans, smoking marijuana is “no crime at all.” On one evening, three men walk into the grass-thatched structure and whisper to the proprietor who immediately gives them a match box and they light their substance.
How drugs get into the city
Our investigations also revealed that most of this locally-grown substance enters the city under bags of charcoal and in posh unsuspecting private cars. At one exchange point in Makindye, about 50 metres from the division KCCA headquarters, a group of around 10 dealers meet to taste and exchange the drug. In this group, there is one young woman who keeps on changing the cars she drives.
The drug, estimated at about five kgs, is then put into different bags, transferred to other vehicles and driven off in different destinations. At another offloading point – along a road that connects Kansanga to Lukuli through Kiwempe Zone, the dealers camouflage as charcoal transporters.
The trucks first sell all the sacks of charcoal before removing the “real cargo” and shared among a number of dealers who then call up their boda boda transporters and ride to the homes.
One of the boda boda operators who normally rides the dealers claims in one night he is paid not less than Shs100,000 to deliver the ganja to Nakulabye and parts of Natete. “Sometimes you hear them talking about making Shs5m from one sack,” the operator, who did not want to be mentioned said.
“But it seems they do not sell outside the country because they say they roll it into so many sticks and sell to other retailers,” he added. In Nakulabye, the illicit drug is commonly sold in Kicolombia Zone. A stick goes for Shs1,000.
Drug for sniffing
This paper has also found out that there is a group of West Africans that smuggles into the city a concoction of narcotics that is sold very expensively compared to the local drug. One drug sniffer confessed that every time he wants the sniff, which has no clear name, he has to part with Shs20,000.
“The drug is so strong that you can feel it in your head for almost a week,” a drug abuser who did not want to be named, said. “These men are making a lot of money. One of them told me they no longer use airports because security is tight there.” He said the drug dealers have meeting points in all major suburbs of Kampala. “In some places they operate bars, internet cafes, hotels with West African dishes or boutiques selling stylish Nigerian designer outfits,” the source added.
In November 2010, security operatives and Posta Uganda intercepted a parcel containing five kgs of marijuana worth Shs50m destined for United Kingdom. Two people were arrested, including a Ugandan employee of Rock of Ages Pentecostal Church, whom police alleged then had mailed the parcel. The second suspect was a wife of a Nigerian national who was never arrested.
In Uganda, a person convicted of dealing in illicit drugs is sentenced to three-month in imprison or a Shs1m fine or both. Reports indicate that illicit drug trade is on the increase in the country. According to the Annual Crime Report of 2010, 872 cases of narcotics were investigated. About 729 of these were taken to court. At least 1,100 men and 63 women were arrested and charged in court in the same period.
According to police, 26 kgs of marijuana were seized and 55 acres of the same contraband destroyed countrywide. A United Nations report of illicit drugs in Africa indicated that trafficking of drugs is widespread among the society to an extent that security personnel and religious leaders are involved in the illicit trade.
Facing an upsurge in drug use, Parliament is debating the enactment of a tough new narcotics-control bill into law. According to the legislation, drug trafficking would be punished with life imprisonment, while possession would result in a minimum fine of $4,000, or two years in jail.
The Police has carried out a number of operations in places where the marijuana business is booming and arrested several sellers and smokers, many of whom are incidentally linked to crimes like robbery and murder.
Police sources say on average, they arrest 50 to 60 people in connection with marijuana smoking and selling as well as other crimes in Kampala every month.
Marijuana hotspots include Makerere Kivulu, Nakasero I Village, Nakivubo mews, The Old Taxi Park, Parts of Kisekka Market, Kisenyi, Arua Park, Nsambya Railway Quarters and Kalerwe.
Others are Kawempe playground, Makerere Kikoni, Bwaise and Katanga, among others.