Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu, & Other Coastal Counties Launch 10-Day Campaign Against Muguka

Muguka plantation.
Muguka plantation.

A 10-day activism campaign against the transport and sale of muguka and miraa has been ignited across six coastal counties, with local leaders claiming that President William Ruto’s administration has disregarded their grievances.

The campaign, entitled ‘Say No to Muguka’, was initiated on Wednesday, June 12, aiming to compel the government to address the concerns of residents in the coastal region.

The campaign is set to cut across Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Taita Taveta, Tana River and Lamu counties, with residents being educated to raise their voices against the sale of muguka and miraa in the counties.

Mombasa County Deputy Governor Francis Thoya criticised the national government for its perceived indifference towards the adverse effects of muguka and miraa on coastal communities.

Thoya pointed out that President Ruto has held multiple meetings with leaders from Meru and Embu counties, the largest producers of miraa and muguka respectively, while neglecting the pleas from coastal counties.

“We have realised that the national government has decided to ignore us,” Thoya stated emphatically. “The president has already met with the people from Meru and Embu. And yesterday, he met with leaders from Meru where muguka comes from,” he lamented.

Embu Deputy Governor Justus Kinywa Mugo, holding a khat plant during demostrations against muguka ban, May 2024.
Governor Mbarire

The controversy escalated when President Ruto reversed a contentious ban on muguka imposed in Mombasa and Kilifi counties. The ban had been enacted due to rising concerns over the stimulant’s impact on mental health and its association with increased crime rates.

Despite these concerns, President Ruto defended the legality of the muguka crop, asserting that its sale should not be hindered. “With muguka having been recognised by national legislation, any other laws or orders that contradict national legislation are null and void,” Ruto declared.

However, the coastal leaders including key figures in President Ruto’s cabinet have vowed to continue the fight against the sale of the product in the region.

Although President Ruto is yet to meet with leaders and representatives from the coast, he had a conference call with ith Governors Abdulswamad Nassir (Mombasa), Gideon Mung’aro (Kilifi) and Andrew Mwadime (Taita-Taveta) immediately after the bans were announced last month.

Muguka, a cheaper and more potent variant of khat, has gained significant popularity in Mombasa, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, and Kwale. The stimulant's fresh buds and soft leaves are consumed widely, but its addictive nature has sparked alarm among local leaders.

Governor Nassir’s directive has already impacted the local economy, rendering more than 400 traders jobless in Mombasa.

Local farmers, however, argue that muguka farming is vital for their livelihoods, enabling them to educate their children and meet financial obligations. Muguka farmers can earn between Ksh300 and Ksh600 per kilogramme, making it a lucrative business despite its contentious nature.

Mombasa Governor Shariff Nassir and Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung'aro addressed residents in past events.
Mombasa Governor Shariff Nassir and Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung'aro addressed residents in past events.
Gideon Mung'aro, Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir
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