Nairobi – Tanzanian authorities have stepped up an escalating war on cannabis by destroying 14 hectares (35 acres) of the crop in the northern province of Arusha in recent days.
Saturday alone saw eight hectares laid waste at the Meru forest reserve following another six acres earlier in the week in operation overseen by Interior Minister Mwigulu Nchemba.
Tanzania is one of the world’s largest cannabis producers.
“We have decided to put a stop to the cannabis culture,” Arumeru administrative secretary Timotheo Mzava said during Saturday’s operation.
“Some local officials are themselves complicit (in the trade) and we cannot accept that,” Mzava said, noting that three such officials were on the run.
“The government will carry out this operation in all corners of the country. We are going to arrest all persons implicated and nationalise all vehicles found to be carrying even the smallest quantity of cannabis,” the minister vowed this week.
Tanzania sits on a clutch of major east African drugs routes with Arusha a key cannabis-producing area.
Much of its crop is well hidden in the country’s vast swathes of natural forest.
Although the drug is illegal, a combination of corruption and limited resources mean the authorities have struggled to stamp out the trade.
In contrast, neighbouring states including Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda have seen eradication campaigns enjoy some success.
In 2010, total seizures of the plant totalled 279.5 tons, behind only Mexico and the United States.