NAIROBI, Kenya – East Africa is now one of the world's major drug supply routes, with tons of cocaine and heroin suspected of being smuggled into Europe, a senior British official said Wednesday.
Traffickers from Columbia and South Asia are preying on corrupt officials and weak border controls in the region to ships drugs to lucrative European markets, Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said.
In the last year, Britain alone has made 12 substantial seizures of cocaine in shipments that had come through Kenya, a British official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the media.
And the problem is growing, said Howells, who was on a three-day visit to press Kenyan authorities to take action on the issue.
"The Kenyan government has to step up to the mark on this," Howells said at a news conference, after watching a training program for Kenyan police who will patrol the country's porous border with Somalia.
"We all have to realize that this is now one of the major routes for the lucrative drugs markets of Europe for drugs that are coming from the other side of the world." He says traffickers are using traditional old trading routes to smuggle drugs over land, sea and air.
Investigators say the drugs originated in Latin America.
In total 15 people were arrested, but only one person was convicted, prompting claims that corrupt or inept Kenyan police officers protected the smugglers from prosecution.
Howells also warned that porous borders allowed suspected terrorists in neighboring Somalia to slip in and out of the region without notice.
"It is very important for the international community to tackle terrorism and drugs," he said. "You live in a very tough neighborhood."