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Somali Children Waiting in vain

Abukar Awale
Wednesday, August 07, 2013

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On behalf of the many individuals that have supported our hard fought campaign to ban khat from the United Kingdom, I would like to extend my gratitude to the distinguished Islamic scholars in north eastern Kenya that recently expressed their full support for it purely on religious grounds. Their unequivocal support for the ban was made simple by the fact that Islam prohibits the consumption of all intoxicants without exception, further elaborating by eloquently explaining that the aims of Shariah are to protect the following: Religion, Life, Property, Intellect and Honour.

Without doubt khat is harmful to all five of the aforementioned and they unanimously agreed that this drug has been nothing short of a scourge on our society. I hereby call on all Islamic scholars in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Yemen (where khat is mainly used) to follow suit, seeking to protect the well being of their respective peoples and to encourage khat farmers to find alternative cash crops that will not only benefit themselves financially but the wider region at large. We all agree that the world needs food, not drugs. It is my conviction that if this can be achieved, the Horn of Africa will be much better placed to deal with potential droughts in the future, benefiting not only regional populations, but in also protecting resources of livestock, on which our traditional nomadic lifestyle is so dependent. This is surely a more ethically acceptable solution to all.

I reiterate my previous calls to all Somali leaders to support the recent UK khat ban, in line with much of civil and religious Somali society. For some strange reason, their seems to be a total lack of an official response to this momentous development for the UK Somali community and this in my view leaves them isolated in the eyes of the people that the claim to represent. We now seem to have a president and a government or regional administration for Somalia, Somaliland, Puntland, Ogaden, Djibouti, and most recently Jubbaland. Now that's quite a lot of political representation for a relatively small Somali population but it seems that all of them are vying for political supremacy, each trying to outdo the other in one way or another.

While they squander precious time and effort in jockeying for position and obtaining access to aid funding rather than ensuring that resources are allocated fairly and trickle down to the most needy, young innocent children are caught in the firing line.  In the total absence of any khat regulation or control in Somalia, a young child as young as eight is able to walk into a marfish and freely buy khat. This in itself is astounding. The fact that in buying khat, that child may be running and errand for someone else is besides the point. Why are these poor innocent children not protected from the harmful effects of this evil drug? Are our children waiting in vain for their leaders to do something about this problem? Or should they expect foreign politicians like Theresa May to do a better job of protecting vulnerable Somalis than Somali leaders closer to home?  

In line with the recent statement by Somali religious scholars in north eastern Kenya, we accept and wholeheartedly agree as Muslims that the consumption and sale of khat are prohibited and that there is no benefit whatsoever that can be derived from either. Given that the tax revenues of the Somali government and regional administrations are largely based on khat imports, I believe that the same rubric applies and this perhaps explains their reluctance to elicit an official response to the recent decision by the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May.

I once again call on all Somali leaders to take firm steps to protect our vulnerable people from the harmful effects of this evil drug. Within the space of a year, both the Dutch and British governments have banned khat in order to protect us from it as immigrant communities. I sincerely hope that similar steps are taken to do the same by our leaders at home.

Abukar Awale
The lead anti- khat campaigner


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