Drugs Control and Enforcement Commissioner-General Rodgers Siyanga told the Guardian in a telephone interview yesterday that previously drug traffickers used to bring in their contraband into the country through the Balkans and Silk routes.
“We have now come to realise that there is this southern route, a route stretching from Afghanistan through Pakistan and Iran, across the Indian Ocean to the East African region and eventually to consumers and other international markets around the globe,” Siyanga said.
The commissioner said the shift to the new route has been mainly due to the ongoing violence in their previous routes, coupled with high security maintained by anti-drug trafficking teams in the areas.
He said security organs have been stationed all over the area to address the situation, making it very hard for traffickers to operate in the previous routes, thereby opting for the new route.
The anti-drug trafficking boss said the southern route crosses some parts of African countries including Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa onward to other foreign countries.
Despite the manpower challenge, he said his team, in collaboration with British border agents and the Royal Marines, has been struggling to prevent drugs from being trafficked into the country through the new route.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says the heroin drug is being transported from Afghanistan to Pakistan and Iran, adding that heroin shipments generally leave from the Makran coast, which stretches along the coastline of Iran and Pakistan, before entering the East Africa region.
While large ports such as those of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam are popular destinations, most dhows reportedly do not enter regional ports but remain out at sea.
However, the commissioner general explained that currently they were collaborating with National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom to fight drug trafficking and other crimes in Tanzania.
Siyanga added that through the collaboration, NCA has been providing various support to Tanzania including operation, equipment and training to fight the menace.
“The collaboration has made great achievements because we succeeded in reducing the number of drug cases in the country and at sea,” he said.
The commissioner added that his office was also facing the challenge of porous ports doting Indian Ocean waters through which the heroin drug found its way to Tanzania.
He however said they had stationed anti-drug trafficking crew in some earmarked porous ports to nab the perpetrators.
This week the UK Secretary for International Development Penny Mordaunt said the anti-smuggling scheme in Tanzania, funded from the UK’s aid budget, had played a vital role in fighting organized crime including drug trafficking in Tanzania.
She hoped the scheme could be promoted to demonstrate that the funding has not only tangible effects in developing nations but also knock-on effect on organised crime in the UK.
According to her, combating organised crime and improving security was good for developing nations and directly contributed towards the security and safety of the UK.
Mordaunt, who visited Msasani Bay off Dar es Salaam recently, said the drug trade was undermining stability and holding back development in the region.
The Department for International Development estimates that 40 per cent of the heroin being sent across the west Indian Ocean is destined for Tanzania and much of it is transported in wooden dhows from the Pakistani coast.