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KHAT CULTURE: Above, youth leader George Kimathi gives a bunch of khat or miraa leaves to elder Joseph Muturi of the East African Pentecostal Chruch. Below, Stephen Mutuiri picks miraa leaves at his mother’s farm in Antubetwe, Kenya. PHOTOS © Kiambati Mwangi

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Kenyan Christians defend native stimulant

A close look at the right corner of Ikenda’s mouth reveals a green coloration. Were it not for the fact that he had been introduced to me as a church elder and that we were now seated in the office of the East African Pentecostal Church, I would have seen him as an ordinary Kenyan user of khat.

Putting his right hand into the inner left pocket of his leather jacket, Ikenda fetched a small bunch of khat leaves, called miraa in Kenya, and carefully placed it on the table, as if welcoming all to join him in the feast. A bottle of canned soda stood on the table, an aid in chewing the stimulant. Picking one tip at a time, he plucked off the lower leaves and chewed the soft parts, continually adding khat to his already bulging mouth.

Khat is a plant native to East Africa which is said to cause a sense of excitement and euphoria. In 1980, the World Health Organization classified it as a mildly addictive drug.

 

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