A mayor in Somaliland is trying to cut down on
the problems caused by Khat a mild stimulant, by moving dealers
to the outskirts of the city
Hussein Mohamud Jiir, mayor of the capital
Hargeisa, has set aside tracts of land where he hopes to install
the Khat merchants. Dealers, however, say there is no point
trying to restrict their activities.
Khat is a natural amphetamine derived from the leaves of the
Catha edulis plant.
The problem of addiction in Somaliland - which has broken away
from Somalia - is huge.
Addicts - mostly men - will spend all their money on the drug,
while their children have nothing to eat.
And khat is also blamed for the small plastic bags which litter
Pink, blue and red bags, used to hold khat, block drains, hang
on trees and fences, stick to telegraph and electricity poles,
or are even eaten by goats.
The mayor's plan would give each of the city's five districts
its own khat "areas".
Bursts into life
He was confident that the plan would work.
"The same thing that happens here today, used to happen in
Mogadishu. Sinai market was a similar initiative. People will go
to wherever there is Khat," he said.
The drug is grown in Ethiopia's highlands. Every day, dozens of
trucks loaded with tones of it arrive in Hargeisa, flooding the
streets by mid-morning.
The city bursts into life with their arrival. People run after
the trucks, some pushing carts and wheelbarrows.
There are the Khat sellers, bystanders, the jobless, pilferers
and pickpockets, all wanting to make something out of the
Khat dealer Ali Omar says there is no point trying to control
"It is a silly question asking why I sell khat. Can you just
walk over to the opposite store and ask why he sells foodstuffs?
What a laughing matter," he said before resuming his shouts to
Single mother-of-three Amina Derie has been selling khat for
three years and is unrepentant.
She says the trade allows her to buy food for her children.
"I even pay their school fees through it. Thanks to God, I am
comfortable," she said with a knowing smile.
The drug has a huge impact on the economy of Somaliland - whose
independence from the rest of Somalia has not been
Hargeisa's former mayor Mohamed Hashi was once quoted as saying
that $60m was spent annually importing the drug from Ethiopia.
Somaliland is one of the poorest places on earth. The thousands
of small polythene bags scattered all over the city's streets
are a clear sign of the scale of the problem.
It appears that this huge mess is one reason why
local leaders have taken action.
Hargeisa Regional Public Health Officer Abdiwahab Nakruma says
khat has led to a fall in hygiene and sanitation standards.
"It has become so cumbersome to declare every Thursday as a
general clean- up exercise."
Rangeland Development Director in Pastoral and Environmental
Ministry Abdikarim Adan Omar says khat is also contributing to
the degradation of the natural environment.
He says that unemployed young people in rural areas have
resorted to burning charcoal in order to buy khat.
"The common saying in the rural areas amongst the charcoal
burners is: 'Cut a tree to chew a twig'," he said.
Hargeisa residents are hoping that some of these problems can be
solved by moving the khat markets out of the city centre.
Source: BBC Somali