Kenyan Leader Ruto Overrides Local Prohibition on Potent Muguka Stimulant

Kenyan President William Ruto has overturned a recent ban on muguka, a potent and addictive variety of the stimulant khat or miraa plant. The consumption of muguka’s freshly plucked buds and soft leaves has been linked to rising mental health issues and social problems like crime. Last week, three county governors in the coastal region prohibited its sale and use, sparking anger in the areas where the crop is cultivated.

On Monday, Ruto stated that the muguka crop is legal, and its sale should not be prevented. Muguka is cheaper but more potent and addictive than regular khat, popular in the coastal counties of Mombasa, Kilifi, Taita Taveta, and Kwale. The Mombasa governor had cited muguka’s harmful effects, especially on youth, with over half of rehab patients being addicts. Similar bans were enacted in Kilifi and Taita Taveta, prompting protests from farmers and traders in the muguka-growing Embu county over business losses.

Meeting with Embu leaders, Ruto said national legislation recognizing muguka overrides contradictory local laws. He affirmed muguka as a legal crop under acts from 2013 and 2023, announcing $3.7 million to expand its cultivation this financial year. The ban had gained religious support but was challenged in court by activists. Over 10 traders were arrested after it took effect in Mombasa.

While not banned nationally, the anti-drug agency classifies muguka as harmful due to stimulants like cathinone found in higher concentrations than regular khat. A former agency chief advocated investing in other herbs over a substance causing “zombies.”