Drug Traffickers Should Get Life Imprisonment

By Josepha Jabo

When the illegal narcotics drugs consignment worth Ug Shs15 billion went up in flames at Nsambya Police Barracks in Kampala, after it was set ablaze by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Hilary Onek on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 it sent a clear message to drug traffickers who have infiltrated Uganda. Uganda is committed to cracking down on this trade; the Uganda Police will launch a narcotics unit to fight it.
The illegal consignment, torched by the minster, was seized at Entebbe International Airport from drug traffickers, between 2009-2011 comprised of: opium, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine (Glass). Most of these drug traffickers come from South America and South Eastern Asia, transport their drugs through Uganda as their transit point, and then proceed to Europe. In Uganda, Cannabis is derived from the Indian hemp plant which is locally grown.
Drug traffickers transport narcotics drugs into Uganda, in block-form or in bed-sheets. Thirdly, Drug mules nicknamed ‘swallowers’ swallow these narcotics drugs in the form of  pellets or capsules in order to avoid detection at international airports as they attempt to smuggle them through security-checks.
There have been instances when Interpol has tipped off the Uganda Police about suspected drug traffickers. For example, Interpol might inform the Uganda Police, “A suspected drug-trafficker is aboard such-and-such an airline headed for Entebbe Airport.” Once the suspect arrives at Entebbe Airport all the Uganda Police has to do is give the suspect something to eat and the ‘swallower’ will immediately begin to ‘pass’ the pellets or capsules out in his or her feces. However, this method is risky as some of these ‘swallowers’ have died after swallowing too many capsules which burst in the stomach! In 2006, a Tanzanian national called, John Mwanjabala, who was smuggling over 100 heroin pellets which he had swallowed, worth Ug Shs 27 million through Entebbe Airport died on December 8 at Entebbe Grade B hospital.
Shockingly, as Uganda has evolved from merely being a transit point into a market for this illicit trade, Ugandan university students in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja have begun consuming cocaine and heroin to the detriment of their futures! Drug abuse is one of the causes of mental illness consequently these drug addicts have been admitted in Butabika Hospital and other rehabilitation centres.
One reason people take drugs is the influence of the entertainment industry. There are many actors, actresses and entertainers who are known habitual drug users and since these impressionable youth idolize them, they too take drugs to emulate their ‘idols.’ Drug trafficking is also a theme in many movies like Bangkok Hilton starring Nicole Kidman.
Another motivation is to gain courage to commit crime. Some crimes committed in this country like murder, robbery, rape, defilement and rioting have been linked to drug consumption.
Two countries that have the death penalty for drug-trafficking are Egypt and China. As a matter a fact, there are currently, 20 Ugandans on death row in China, convicted for drug-trafficking, waiting for the gallows.
The reason Uganda became a transit point for drug trafficking is because Uganda has such weak narcotics laws. Presently, if caught by the Uganda Police, the worst a drug trafficker can expect, in Uganda, is a light sentence of between 3 months to 1 year imprisonment and or a maximum fine of Ug. Shs. 1 million. Most drug traffickers, who have been arrested by the Uganda Police, opt to plead guilty, pay the Ug Shs. 1 million fine and return home!
However, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Bill 2007 carries the penalty of life imprisonment for drug trafficking. In conclusion, I implore the 9th Parliament to debate this bill, because once it passes into law, drug traffickers will have to think twice before they make Uganda their transit country.
The Writer works for Uganda Media Centre