By Musa Kamara

A new drug that appears about 5 years ago is wreaking havoc among young people in Sierra Leone.

Kush, a mixture of chemicals that mimics cannabis has become a national emergency due to its serious effect on those taking it, especially young people.

In Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, you only need five Leones to treat yourself to an hour-long trance unconsciously.

Kush strains are usually indica or hybrid strains, which means they can make you feel incredibly relaxed and drowsy. Medicinal marijuana users often choose Kush strains for its pain-relieving properties. Some Kush strains can also make you feel slightly euphoric and focused.

Streets in Freetown are now laced with standing sleeping youths, walking like zombies. Social media platforms are overwhelmed with disturbing images and video clips capturing the unfortunate aftershock of Kush consumption. Young men are mostly caught in these compromising situations including security personnels: the Police and Military have fallen prey to this dreaded drug.

This has sparked national conversation leading to many citizens calling on government to take proactive measures to stop the production, trafficking, distribution and intake of Kush in Sierra Leone.

Already, communities in the East end of Freetown have started taking actions to stop the intake of Kush by young people in their community. This move was applauded by many, and at the same time condemned by others stating that, government led initiatives and authorities must be adopted in communities to address the issue.

During the opening debate of President Bio’s speech on the State Opening of Parliament, Hon. Wuyata Songa from Kailahun stated that, the issue of Kush should be a national concern that requires the interest and attention of all.

She said, aside from the reason of lack of employment advanced by young people engaged in this drug, there is also the lack of care, attention and family affection to young people in their homes.

She said that also contributes to isolation, loneliness, depression and ultimately drug taking to sooth their moments.

She therefore called on every well-meaning Sierra Leonean to join the fight against the Kush menace and put a stop to it.

This call has been advanced from various individuals, government authorities, CSOs and other organizations. And it seems, community individuals have actually embraced the call and ready to act upon it. But are they fighting the fight the correct way or doing the contrary?

Over the past few days, videos have surfaced on social media showing young men and women in their communities holding rattan in their numbers going after fellow youths engaged in Kush taking. This is same also for other communities that are seen beating and dragging a woman alleged of selling Kush to youths in the Allen Town Community, in the East end of Freetown.

These actions have received mix reactions from the public. Some have praised the acts from these community residents, calling it community ownership fight, whiles others see it as taking the laws into their own hands. Whatever description is given to these acts, what is clear is the fact that, this is a fight that should be embraced by community residents, but it must be led by authorities and must be done within the confines of the law and respect for human rights.

In as much as there is growing call for community actors to join the fight against Kush, this should also come with responsibility and concern over naming and shaming of individuals considered as drug addict. Community members must be careful not to engage in a fight of eradicating Kush in their communities and subsequently leading to isolation of Kush takers through shaming them.

Also, the acts of beating perceived drug addicts and Kush sellers by community members is totally wrong and infringe on the human rights of the victims.

These community members have a responsibility to identify Kush traffickers, expose them and hand them over to the police for appropriate actions, instead of beating and dragging them along the streets. Also, instead of running after drug addicts in a bid to name, shame and beat them, they should be taken to mental homes for reforms.

In as much as we crave for community involvement in the fight against Kush, the police and other authorities need to step in and initiate an authority led community fight against Kush in various communities instead of leaving community members to fight it on their own with their own ‘laws.’        

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