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Drug trafficking reduced during Covid-19 lockdown-Police

The Interpol Director Charles Birungi

Gulu, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  |  There was a reduction in the amount of drugs trafficked through Entebbe International Airport and porous border points during the covid-19 lockdown. This is according to Interpol and the anti-narcotics police department.

The narcotics department and Interpol recorded 1,714 cases in 2020 compared to 2,750 cases in 2019. 

Entebbe Airport which is known to be a transit route for drug traffickers in 2020 seized 41.9 kilograms valued at over 1.7 billion shillings and in 2019 132 kilograms worth 4.5 billion shillings were seized.

Police attribute the low numbers of smuggled drugs to travel restrictions following the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic. In March last year, President Museveni suspended all incoming and outgoing passenger flights to Uganda in a bid to combat the spread of COVID-19.   However, emergency and cargo flights were exempted. 

At the borders, security was also heightened purposely to prevent people from sneaking into the country. Even the few kilograms of heroin, opium and methamphetamine confiscated at the airport were trafficked before countries imposed travel bans in January, February and early March.

“The decrease was attributed to the total lockdown of the country from March to June 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19 meaning few people were travelling through the airport and reducing the opportunity for transiting drugs through Uganda,” CID director Grace Akullo said. 

The Interpol Director Charles Birungi says they have noticed that drug smugglers are very creative and keep coming up with new tricks. To keep security personnel at Airport and borders alert, Birungi says they have been conducting regular training.

Although drugs trafficked into the country reduced, several people especially the youth who were idle during lockdown tried trading in local drugs such as cannabis. Security responded by arresting 2,391 people of which 2,308 were male adults, 45 were female adults and 38 juveniles.

Police explain that due to enforcement of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Act, the traffickers have realized that Entebbe International Airport is a risky route to use. 

Drug traffickers are now using new routes for smuggling narcotics like the use of Lake Victoria mainly Port Bell, the South Sudan route and import containers.

Birungi explains that strategies to control trafficking Narcotics at Entebbe International Airport includes random checks on passengers, bags, documents and suspected vehicles picking and dropping passengers and installed X-ray machines used to scan passenger’s bags that are supporting in arresting drug traffickers. 



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