Dar es Salaam. Former head of Anti-drugs Unit (ADU) Godfrey Nzowa has offered advice in the wake of the renewed effort to fight drug trafficking, cautioning against back-peddling due to the strategy being used by the authorities.
Mr Nzowa warned against the danger of targeting addicts and users in the renewed war on drugs, saying the approach may undermine successes on crackdown against narcotics.
Praising the political will demonstrated by President John Magufuli in the drug war, Mr Nzowa said any effort to put drug dealers on their toes must be sincere, fought by the right people and target the barons.
“To start targeting small users and addicts alone is backpedaling. We netted notorious drug dealers and seized huge quantity of heroin and cocaine to the extent that anti-narcotics officers from many countries were coming to learn from us. We need to sustain that achievement by targeting the kingpins, those who transport huge quantities,” he said.
Mr Nzowa who was in July last year honoured by the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) for waging a fierce and successful war against drug trafficking in the region, said for the war against drugs to be won, “state organs in the drug war must be manned by clean people of unquestionable integrity.”
His comments come in the wake of arrests of several famous artistes and police officers over their alleged involvement in narcotics.
The renewed drug war started last week after the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda called a press conference and named several people and police officers he accused of engaging in the illicit business.
And on Monday President Magufuli expressed his full support to the drive and ordered security organs to arrest and prosecute “anybody implicated in the illicit business.”
At a swearing in ceremony of the newly appointed Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), President Magufuli directed the police to uncover the illicit drug chain by arresting users and pressure them to name their suppliers who would ultimately be compelled to name the kingpins.
Mr Nzowa told The Citizen that the war against the financially powerful and politically influential drug dealers was not an easy task as many people, including those in the government, tend to believe.
“It is good that our leaders are tasting the bitter pill. This is a transnational organised crime. These people are so sophisticated and well organised...we should not underrate them.
“We need to have a holistic approach in fighting a successful war on drugs. We need first to target manufacturers, traffickers and final users; then get the right people to do the job effectively and efficiently,” said Mr Nzowa. Globally, there is a significant shift of approach in fighting drug trafficking with countries agreeing to target manufacturers and big traffickers as the best way to reduce supply of illicit substances.
The United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has emphasized on the need for countries to target big suppliers and consider users and addicts as people who need to be rehabilitated. Arresting users and addicts is internationally is now considered “double victimisation” of people already suffering from drug use and has little success in the drug war.
According to Mr Nzowa employing people with high integrity to lead the fight was tantamount to a successful war on drugs. “You need people of required qualification and high integrity to be on the frontline,” he said. Tanzania’s success in arresting drug kingpins and seizure huge quantity started in 2010 when police arrested six people with 95kgs of heroin at Kabuku in Dar es Salaam Tanga highway.
Again they went on to seize 179kg and 81kg of heroin in February and March 2011 respectively.
In September the same year, police intercepted a saloon car at Kunduchi in the outskirt of Dar es Salaam and arrested three Pakistanis and seizing 97kg of heroin that had just been offloaded from a ship.
Again in 2012, Mr Nzowa led an operation that enabled the seizure of 212kg of heroin in Lindi and in 2014 they intercepted a dhow in the Indian Ocean and seized 205kg of heroin before confiscating 35kg of heroin later in October.
Several other drug kingpins who were being hunted by the United States and several other European countries like Ali Khatib Haji alias Shkuba and Kenyan woman Naima Nyakiniwa alias Mama Leila were arrested in Tanzania.
Question are being asked as to why such arrests and seizure seized since 2015 when Mr Nzowa offially retired. Analysts say the situation points to a serious weakness in the organs and people entrusted to lead the drug war.
One may, for instance, recall significant seizure of illicit drugs at Tanzania’s major airports of Kilimanjaro International Airport and the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA). About Sh6 billion worth of heroin and cocaine were seized at these two airports in a space of two-and-half years since 2012.
“This should not be a war in words, it must be sincere. We need to know where we came from, where we are, and where we want to go and realign our efforts for a common achievement,” he said.
Mr Nzowa says the fact that the Dar RC is taking the centre stage in the fight against drug use was a big challenge to law enforce. “People who volunteer information tend to first calculate pleasure and pain before sharing it with anyone. When ordinary people start to feel safer to give it to the RC than professionals like the police then we know they don’t trust them. This is a challenge we need to address,” he said.