By Eddie Ssejjoba
The Police in Kampala has burnt drugs worth sh109b confiscated from International drug traffickers at Entebbe International Airport.
The drugs that included cocaine, heroin and other internationally trafficked drugs were last week set ablaze at Kibuli Police medical directorate after a court order was granted.
The Entebbe Chief magistrate, Joyce Kavuma, representatives of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, lawyers and other officers escorted the heavily guarded exhibits from the Chief Magistrates Court in Entebbe to Nsambya.
The magistrate stayed up to when the drugs, sealed in suitcases, were paraded before being burnt. She also physically unsealed and counted them and later declared that they were the very items she had witnessed and sealed at court before delivery.
The destruction of the drugs was witnessed by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Dr. Stephen Kagoda, the deputy inspector of Police Okoth Ochola and other officials from the National Drug Authority, doctors from Butabika hospital and members of the public.
According to the CIID director, Grace Akullo, they heavily guarded the drugs to ensure they did not get back into circulation by unscrupulous individuals within the force.
Akullo said 52 cases had been successfully investigated and culprits convicted between 2012 and 2014 and all paid fines totalling to sh35m save for two who served prison sentences.
She said Uganda had been turned into an international transit route and destination centre, mentioning the major routes that include South America through Uganda to Europe where cocaine was being trafficked.
The other major route for heroin, according to Akullo was Afghanistan through Entebbe and finally to Europe. The main culprits were Nigerians who were leading in the crime, followed by Ugandans, Britons, Germans and Bolivians.
The director revealed that the United Kingdom Metropolitan Police had seized 1.3tones of cannabis at their airports originating from Entebbe.
She said the UK police in collaboration with the Ugandan Police were investigating a number of officials and prominent business people in Uganda dealing in fruit and yam export who stuff the drugs in packages destined for export.
According to Akullo, several recipients in the UK had been arrested and were helping the Police to net several others especially the sources in Uganda.
The CIID were also looking for funds to send personnel to China to interview the 71 people who claim to be Ugandans who had been convicted of drug trafficking and were facing the death penalty. She said they needed to interview them to establish whether they were true Ugandans since many from other countries claim to be Ugandans.
She mentioned Mityana, Wakiso, Malaba, Busia and Luwero as the leading sources of marijuana, but decried the weak laws in Uganda.
She said many of them had paid a fine of sh1m, which she said was the maximum for a convict or imprisonment of one year, saying this was contrary to other countries like China where one would face death.
She said in some East African countries one is fined three times the value of the drugs found in his or her possession unlike in Uganda.
Akullo asked government to facilitate the anti-narcotics department saying they had limited staff and funds.
She said the department had only two sniffer dogs at the Entebbe International Airport, but one had already become insensitive and the other gets tired due to too many luggage that it had to handle.
The directorate also needed an organic scanner, saying many drugs go undetected when mixed in food stuffs. It had become a big business since those involved got abnormal and untaxed profits and yet knew that the punishment once caught was not so harsh to affect the business.
She appealed to Parliament to pass the anti-narcotics Bill that would give stronger punishments to offenders as one of the strategies to discourage the trade, saying drug trafficking and abuse was one of the most serious crimes that had adverse effects on society.
The acting commissioner, antinarcotics Zarugaba Ttinka said 105 gardens of marijuana and 185kgs of seeds had been destroyed and 15.9kg of cocaine and heroin intercepted at Entebbe.
He said many offenders were using the Arua and other routes on Lake Victoria to sneak drugs into Uganda.
Ttinka said the Police had embarked on massive sensitization in schools and local communities about the dangers of the drugs. But said there was need to step up deployment and train more personnel.
Dr. Kagoda asked the public and other stakeholders to join the Police in fighting the vice, saying drug trafficking was linked to human trafficking and arms transfers that must be fought.
He warned that drugs can be used to destabilise a country and have social, economic and security effects.