One day in March 2013, the county officials and the Kenyan police were told to raid a site where drug users regularly met, in the name of cleaning up the town. This was a place where my friend Njeri used to call her home, and where she would find comfort.
Terrified by the appearance of police officers, who threw tear gas in an attempt to secure the building, Njeri jumped from the second storey, fracturing her spine and two limbs. She lost her ability to walk, and as a result of her injuries, she experienced excruciating, prolonged pain.
Her efforts to get treatment for her pain were unsuccessful – the stigma surrounding her drug use meant she wasn’t given the healthcare she needed. Njeri died in February 2015, leaving behind a helpless daughter – Tina – aged just seven years old.
Tina knew her Njeri had problems, but she also knew that she was a caring, supportive and loving mother. The two of them had a great relationship – but that was ended by the war on drugs.
We all know that drug use can cause great damage to individuals, their families and communities, but bad drug policies and policing causes even greater damage. It leaves them isolated from society and judged negatively by their community.
Tina is just one among many children who have been orphaned by the war on drugs; their parents are locked up, mistreated, abused, beaten and, as in this case, even killed.
Tina’s mother was a friend and sister to me. My connection with her, and the memories I have of her, makes it difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that she is gone. She should be here, still enjoying the gift of life.
Are we paying too high a price in the name of protecting individuals, families and communities from drugs? We all come from different walks of life, and I believe we are all here for some unique purpose, some noble objective that will allow us to manifest our higher human potential while we at the same time, adding value to the lives around us.
This is why I believe in drug policy reform. We must treat people who use drugs as human beings, respecting their rights and protecting their health, if we are to really protect our families.