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Britain Concerned About Drug Trafficking, Terrorism in Kenya


Britain's foreign office minister says corruption in Kenya has made the country more vulnerable to terrorism and to becoming a transit route for drug traffickers. The foreign minister made his remarks Thursday.

Minister Kim Howells told reporters that, in Kenya, "people can be bought, right from the person who works at the docks in Mombasa up to the government."

Because of this corruption, he said, terrorists and drug traffickers can take advantage of what they perceive to be a weak system to conduct their illegal activities.

Howells made his comments late Thursday as he concluded a visit to Kenya.

Earlier this week, the minister bemoaned what he said was growing drug trafficking activity in the East African nation.

"We know that from South Asia, a lot of Afghan, Pakistan heroin is moving through here," he said. "They're using the links that are very old - links with the United Kingdom particularly, but also with the rest of Europe. I think we have to step up to the mark on this. The Kenyan government has to step up to the mark. We all have to realize that this is now one of the major routes to the very lucrative drug markets of Europe."

Howells also expressed his concerns about instability in Somalia, and, the "very porous border across from Somalia."

"There have been a great many difficulties in Somalia for a very long time now, this is nothing new," he added. "And we have to, as an international community, try to help in whatever way we can to see Somalia return as a viable nation to the community of nations. I'm sure that the Somalian people would much rather be part of a viable economy and a viable society rather than be known as a haven for terrorists."

In recent months, the Islamic Courts Union has been taking control over an increasing number of areas in Somalia. Analysts fear that, with the recent breakdown of talks between the transitional government and the Islamic Courts Union, war may break out.

Though Howells' remarks were quite blunt, over the years other members of the international community have frequently criticized Kenya for corruption.

Transparency International ranked Kenya near the bottom, 142nd in the world, in its corruption index for 2006.