Namibian detained for drug smuggling in Ethiopia faces long wait behind bars

The Namibian woman who was arrested in Ethiopia on 2 January over suspected drug smuggling has not appeared in court yet.

This was confirmed by Namibia’s ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union (AU), Emilia Mukusa.

“We are told she will appear in court within 15 days after the investigation. Punishment will be jail time if she is found guilty,” she said yesterday.

Mukusa said punishment for drug smuggling depends on the amount of drugs found.

Thus far those who have been arrested in Ethiopia in the past and convicted have been sentenced to eight years.

Mukusa said extradition and serving time in Namibia are not possible, since no bilateral agreement is in place for this.

The woman (27) was arrested at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa for allegedly being in possession of a bag containing approximately 4,70kg of a substance resembling cocaine.

She can only be named after she appears in court. The suspect was travelling on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Lusaka, Zambia.

Bole International Airport was mentioned in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s ‘Global Report on Cocaine 2023’ as a cocaine-smuggling transit route for Brazilian criminal groups from Africa to western and central Europe and other consumer markets.

The report states that out of around 156 drug seizures of outgoing drugs in Brazil, 64 were planned to arrive in or transit through Ethiopia.

Yesterday, a Hong Kong-based non-profit organisation that deals with international prisoners, Voice for Prisoners, urged the Ethiopian authorities to implement advanced security enhancements at Bole International Airport to curb rising drug smuggling.

John Wotherspoon, a representative of the organisation, says nearly a dozen recently detained passengers were bound for Hong Kong from Addis Ababa, but originated from places such as Namibia, South Africa, Denmark, Thailand and India.

“Bole is among the world’s most vulnerable airports for drug couriering, along with Sao Paulo, Johannesburg and others. We are appealing to not accusing the government, to urgently enhance security,” he says.

Wotherspoon proposes that the Ethiopian authorities introduce advanced scanners and stricter scrutiny measures at the airport.
He says the surging drug-smuggling problem shatters families and imprisons innocent people for years.

Namibian Police inspector general Joseph Shikongo has expressed concern over the trend of Namibians being arrested in foreign countries or intercepted at airports worldwide, often carrying various types of narcotics.

In recent months, the local police have intercepted a number of Namibians at Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) in possession of illegal substances.

In November, an Angolan national who was travelling from Ethiopia was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport with 67 bullets of cocaine hidden in his underwear and pants.

According to national police spokesperson deputy commissioner Kauna Shikwambi, the suspect’s final destination was Windhoek.

“As a society, we need to join hands and deal with these Namibians and foreign criminals smuggling illicit substances through various entry points into our county.

“As a force, we are indebted to those who continue to report such activities and any suspicions to the police,” Shikwambi said at the time.

The police have called for collective action to eliminate the drug market in the country.

To report drug-related incidents, contact the police on toll-free number 10111, the nearest police station, or any police officer, he said.

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!