Khat; a silent narcotic that is destroying lives

Two suspected drug traffickers arrested with Kart in Gatsibo district yesterday. Courtesy.

Two people were recently arrested separately in Gatsibo and Nyagatare districts with varied quantities of mirungi, or khat. In both cases, suspects were traveling by public means and were identified by passengers.

Also known as miraa, mirungi is a leafy substance that contains a stimulant drug, according to health experts.

For years now, Rwanda National Police (RNP) has been fighting trafficking and consumption of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.

According to statistics, about 15 people have been arrested in different parts of the country trafficking mirungi, majority of them from Eastern Province.

Mirungi remains one of the less talked about psychotropic substances that affect users like maize-eating caterpillar.

“Although cases related to trafficking and use of khat remains too low compared to other drugs like cannabis, kanyanga, chief waragi, blue sky and other substances, the law is clear and we don’t treat it any different during police operations,” says Chief Inspector of Police Theobald Kanamugire, the Police spokesperson for the Eastern region.

“Majority of mirungi traffickers are arrested in Nyagatare and Kirehe districts being trafficked either from Uganda or Tanzania, respectively,” he adds.

Side effects

Khat is a drug composed of leaves of a wild plant and considered harmful to users. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified khat in 1980 as a narcotic drug that can produce psychological dependence.

Medical experts say the use of khat cause many side effects including mood changes, excessive talkativeness, hyperactivity, aggressiveness, anxiety, elevated blood pressure, manic behaviour, paranoia, and psychoses. Insomnia or trouble sleeping, loss of energy (malaise), and lack of concentration usually follow.

It contains two mild stimulants; cathinone and cathine, and is associated with increased risk for a variety of medical complications, including dental disease and mouth cancers, heart problems, liver disease, sleep problems and reduced appetite.

Legal implication

“In Rwanda, khat is classified as a narcotic drug and is listed among the psychotropic substances and banned under the ministerial order nº20/35 of 09/6/2015 determining unauthorised drinks and other controlled substances classified as narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors,” said Modeste Mbabazi, the spokesperson for Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB).

The law governing narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors in Rwanda defines narcotic drugs as “chemical substance that affects the processes of the mind or body and whose consumption whether swallowed, sniffed or by way of any other mode exerts impact on human health.”

“We are working with various security and governance institutions to educate the people on dangers of abusing drugs including mayirungi, but also to ensure that dealers are arrested and prosecuted,” said Mbabazi.

“Crimes related to trafficking, sale and use of mirungi are still very low and we continue to work with institutions like Rwanda National Police and local authorities to contain it.”

Under article 263 of the new penal code, anyone convicted of producing, transforming, transporting, storing, giving to another or selling narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances faces a penalty of between seven years and life in prison and a fine of up to Rwf30 million.

If acts cited in the same article are performed to a child or at the international level, the offender faces life imprisonment and a fine of between Rwf30 million and Rwf50 million.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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