Presenting author: Christopher Abuor
Presenting author biography:
Christopher Abuor is a human rights activist and an avid drug policy advocate with over 20 years of experience in community organizing and drug policy advocacy. He is the founder, and Executive Director of VOCAL, a policy and advocacy organization working on social justice and Human rights in East Africa.
Decolonizing Drug War: Establishing legal and policy framework to enhance Access to Harm Reduction Services in Kenya - Case of Kenya
Issue: Drug use in Kenya is regulated by the Narcotics, Drugs, and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Act, 2022. The act criminalizes and places heavy sanctions against the possession and use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including drugs for overdose treatment and pain management. The Act criminalizes possession of tools used in the manufacture and consumption of narcotics, obligates outreach workers to share information of sellers and users, and gives police authority to tap the phones of suspects. These prohibitions are a hindrance to the provision of key harm reduction services like peer outreach work, OST, and NSP. While the Constitution of Kenya in Article 43 (1) (a) guarantees the right to access the highest attainable standard of health care, there exists no constitutional framework to anchor harm reduction.
Setting: VOCAL KENYA has filed a constitutional appeal contesting the unconstitutionality of sections of the Narcotics, Drugs, and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Act, 2022. VOCAL was instrumental in the development, lobbying, and passage of the Nairobi City County Harm Reduction law 2022. The Kenya Police have been sensitized on harm reduction to improve law enforcement and public health collaboration and use discretion to facilitate police station-level law enforcement-assisted diversion.
Key Arguments: There is a need to curb the harms that arise from problematic drug use, the precondition is an enabling legal and socio-political environment for comprehensive harm reduction interventions. For Kenya, this can best be achieved through lobbying lawmakers for legal reforms, using a strong evidence base; engaging key stakeholders on policy development; sensitizing police, local leaders’ and communities.
Milestones: Police sensitization has yielded positive policing partnerships with CSOs providing harm reduction services to PWUDs. The passing of the Nairobi City County Harm Reduction law 2022 is our stepping stone to the national model harm reduction policy framework currently on course.