This week Gerald Kitabu interviewed the Kijitonyama local government chairman Philip Komanya on the fight against drug abuse in his area in Kinondoni district, Dar es Salaam: Excerpts:
QUESTION: I understand that some people are involved in drug abuse in many parts of the country. What's the situation here?
ANSWER: As it is in other areas in the city of Dar es Salaam the situation is not good in Kijitonyama because there are some people directly involved in drug abuse although you cannot compare with areas like market places, night clubs and bars. There are many hideouts of youth who use the drugs during night from 10.00pm until dawn.
Q: Where do they exactly get the drugs?
A: From barons in various areas in the city. In Kijitonyama, for example, there are at least three supplying areas and one is very big and most of the time it is fenced all the day to protect youths who flock there to get drugs. Other drug dealers simply sell the items in their houses without the knowledge of their neighbours.
Q: Are the law enforcers aware of these drug supplying areas?
A: Absolutely! But in a shocking situation, the same policemen have made these areas as places of getting money.
A: These drug dealers may be arrested today by policemen but after a short time they are released as free men. They even mention the amount of money they had given the police as bribe. So in this situation what message are they sending to the informers and the general public? Are they not losing trust and confidence of good people who volunteer information?
Q: Why do they act like that?
A: It is because the law is not adhered to. If the drug dealer is arrested with evidence, he must be taken to court but they are not taken there. I understand that it is only a clean person who can boast before the law but a drug dealer who is arrested with evidence has no chance. He cannot boast if the laws are working effectively. They only boast because they know that if they are arrested today, they will use their money to free themselves from police hands. Likewise, if the law is effective policemen cannot play with it.
Q: If policemen have failed to arrest them down what measures have you taken at local government level?
A: As local government leader, after realising that our efforts don't bear fruit, we decided to take further steps to contact district authorities. We want to see the Inspector General of Police for support.
Q: Why can’t you see him now?
A: We don’t want to by-pass other levels. We want to involve all levels, that’s why we are going slowly from one level to another. At district level, for example, we have already talked to Regional Police Commander Charles Kenyella who has promised to cooperate with us.
Q: What kind of cooperation did he promise?
A: He promised to give us clean and hardworking policemen who would work with us to arrest drug dealers in our area. He has assigned the Kinondoni Regional Criminal Officer to help us.
Q: Do you think if you control drug dealers you will protect the youths from drug abuse?
A: It's true, because the rate and speed of smoking among many young men depends on the availability of drugs. If you control dealers, you automatically stop this nonsense of drug abuse. Research shows that if there are no drugs, the youths who used to smoke bhang would stop doing so. In Kijitonyama our informers are drug addicts.
Q: Why do they fall prey so easily?
A: As I said earlier, it is very difficult for them to stop smoking bhang or using any other drugs. Thousands of youths are being spoiled on a daily basis while little efforts are done to fight the problem.
Q: What should be done?
A: I have confidence on the Kinondoni Regional Police Charles Kenyella. I believe his team will continue working on the information he receives from the local government leadership and other good Samaritans.
Q: What advice do you give government?
A: Our president Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete is strong and he has already shown the way. A good example is the way he has started dealing with few unfaithful businessmen and religious leaders who use their positions to engage in the drug trade. He has been saying he will leave no stone unturned. The anti-drugs squad is doing commendable job.