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Conflict as Nassir, traders differ over new rules on miraa

Monday, May 20th, 2024 03:13 | By
Mombasa County Governor Abdulswamad Sharif Nassir. PHOTO/Print
Mombasa County Governor Abdulswamad Sharif Nassir. PHOTO/Print

The conflict between the Mombasa County government, miraa (khat) and muguka traders has intensified as Governor Abdulswamad Sharif Nassir ignored pleas from his Embu and Meru counterparts and continued to implement stricter measures on the sale and use of the stimulant.

A significant regulation now bans Public Service Vehicle (PSV) operators from using miraa while on duty, aiming to enhance road safety and mitigate related social issues.

This move follows closely on the heels of another county regulation prohibiting the sale of miraa and muguka within 100 meters of schools and religious centers.

Additionally, the county has raised cess fees from Sh50,000 to Sh80,000 per vehicle, sparking strong reactions from leaders in the khat and muguka growing regions.

The county’s tough stance comes amidst mounting pressure from Meru and Embu leadership.

 Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire and Meru Senator Kathuri Murungi, accompanied by county assembly members, recently visited Mombasa to discuss the matter with Governor Nassir.

Willing collaborate

 In a tense four-hour meeting, Governor Nassir expressed a willingness to collaborate with the Assembly to pass local legislation regulating the trade of miraa and muguka, designating specific areas for sale. Mombasa MPs have also vowed to pass national legislation to ban khat, which is currently classified as a cash crop under national laws.

“We will also clamp down on PSV operators chewing miraa or muguka while driving,” Nassir stated in a joint press conference at his Elimu Na Mazingira office in Treasury Square.

The visit by the Meru leaders underscores the severity of the ongoing conflict. Miraa and muguka traders have reported losses exceeding Sh80 million due to the new regulations, highlighting the economic impact on regions reliant on the trade.

Mombasa County officials have linked various side effects of the stimulants, including mood changes, aggressiveness, anxiety, and depression, to an increase in juvenile gang activities.

A recent study by NACADA indicates that the stimulant increases energy and alertness (88.7 per cent), causes insomnia (80.9 per cent ), enhances mood (90.5 per cent ), and leads to dehydration (68.6 per cent ), among other side effects.

Additionally, 31.7 per cent  of respondents reported experiencing side effects when they have not chewed miraa, such as general fatigue, mood swings, boredom, restlessness, sleepiness, headaches, and lack of concentration.

“These side effects often lead to increased consumption of khat as a remedy,” noted the NACADA report. The study also highlighted concerns about pesticide use in miraa cultivation, with some farmers potentially selling khat contaminated with chemicals.

In light of these findings, the county government argues that the new measures are necessary to combat the growing problem of drug addiction and associated social issues. The recent increase in cess fees to a record Sh 80,000 per lorry per day is aimed at deterring the sale of the stimulants by making them more expensive.

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