Somalia’s Bakool region has officially banned the use of khat, a a flowering plant popular in the Horn of Africa region and used as a stimulant.
Bakool becomes the first regional government to impose an outright ban on the product. The reason advanced for the ban is because of its negative effect on the fight against terrorism, a BBC journalist has said.
“Bakool has become the first regional authority in Somalia to ban khat. It says it’s affecting their military operations against Al-Shabaab,” he said in a tweet.
An import ban of khat in 2016 angered growers of the crop as well as traders and consumers. The ban of especially imports from Kenya was subsequently lifted. There were concerns that beyond consumer withdrawal issues, the Somali economy was likely to be hit by the ban.
The red-stemmed, green-leafed plant is a stimulant which works in a similar manner as a couple of cups of espresso. Khat is banned in the US, Canada and most of Europe – all places with large diaspora Somali communities. But no government or authority has ever succeeded in banning it in Somalia.
Chewing khat is an afternoon activity among Somali men but it is increasingly being abused with addicts commonly spending all their money on bunches of leaves and wasting hours in a stupor.
While it is enjoyed in Somalia, khat is grown in neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, both of which have large farming communities relying on its export for their livelihoods.