A very popular narcotic in the Middle East, khat maybe be funding the terrorist organization Al Shabaab in Somalia, CNN reports. Chewing the red stems of Catha edulis produces mild euphoria and an alertness akin to that produced by caffeine, and it is openly and widely use in the Horn of Africa. In Yemen, growing Khat uses more water than the country can afford and takes priority over more sustaining crops.
Now Dutch officials are banning khat in the Netherlands, where a large Somali community imports large quantities of the plant from farmers in Meru County, Kenya. Government spokespeople insist that this decision was taken to protect against grave economic, health, and social concerns, but analysts believe that funds generated by the trade are funneled to Al Shabaab and that the Dutch aim to curtail that.
Crippled Kenyan farmers
CNN reports that the pending ban will have a devastating impact on Kenyan farmers. “If the ban is accepted or if it is enforced, the whole Meru county, the economy of the Meru county will be crippled,” Kenyan farmer Edward Mutuura told CNN.
He exports most of his crops to the Nertherlands and worries that the entire population of Meru county will be “totally crippled” if the ban goes through. Emmanuel Kisiangani of the Institute of Security Studies explained to CNN that legitimate business owners export their crops, but people sympathetic to Al Shabaab’s cause send money to them.
Meanwhile, a UN report details how the violent group receives funds by taxing khat that is exported to Somalia. Dutch officials deny any security motivations behind their decision to ban khat, which is illegal in the rest of Europe and the United States. It is still legal in the United Kingdom.
People who abuse the narcotic are reported to become violent, suicidal, and may even experience manic episodes and hallucinations, and constant users tend to abandon their daily responsibilities, which leads to economic troubles in the home.
Jessica Lincoln and Frans Barnard told CNN that although intelligence agencies suspect links between the international trade of khat and terrorist organizations linked to Al Qaeda, it has proved very difficult to prove since it is hard to trace the money.
But an anti-khat activist based in the UK, Abukar Awale told the paper that Al Shabaab recruits young British addicts to facilitate parts of the multimillion trade and claims that if Britain does not ban imports and sales, they are effectively enabling terror in Somalia.
image via eesti, flickr