Catherine Banda, a Zambia national imprisoned in Lang’ata for drug trafficking, has appealed with the Kenyan government to deport her to her native country.
Ms Banda was arrested in 2011 at the JKIA and charged in court with drug trafficking in 2013, where she was found guilty and slapped with a life sentence.
“My destination was not Kenya. I was coming from Pakistan, through Nairobi to Zambia. I was arrested at the JKIA in 2011. In 2013, I was arraigned in court, where I was convicted of drug trafficking,” she told Citizen Television’s Janet Mbugua-Ndichu in an interview aired Monday, adding: “I am very bitter! Ever since I came to prison I have never been happy.
“If you look into the quantity (of drugs) that I was charged with, it is very unfair on my side. I was arrested for being in possession of 700.991 grams of cocaine and they gave me a life sentence.”
Ms Banda says she has been separated from her family for five years now.
“From 2011, I have never seen my family; not even my kids. I only saw my sister in 2013 when I was sick and charged in court. My family cannot afford to travel to Kenya to see me because the cost of transport is high. If you travel by bus from Lusaka to Nairobi it would take you five days,” she says.
Being a foreigner, how did she acclimatize with the Kenyan prison setting?
“My first experience in Lang’ata Prison was quite a difficult one; you can imagine being imprisoned in a foreign land where you have never been before. You do not know their language; you do not know their culture and traditional foods. Most of the people here (Lang’ata Prison) speak Swahili. So for me to understand when we are communicating, it has not been an easy journey,” recounts Ms Banda.
Due to culture, language and other social barriers, Ms Banda has appealed to the Kenyan authorities to deport her to Zambia.
“In our case as foreigners, I would like to appeal to the Kenyan government to deport us to our home countries, where we can serve our sentences. It would be easier for us to communicate with our people and our families can come and visit us.
“For us foreigners it is hard to make international calls in prison because it is illegal. We can only communicate to our people once in a while when our respective embassy agents come to see us,” she says.
And just another reason why she wants to be deported, Ms Banda says the cost of treating cervical cancer, which she was diagnosed with, is weighing her down.
“I am currently very sick. I have cervical cancer; so I have to go for cervical surgery often, but where will I get the money from? The prison savings cannot pay for my treatment. Mark you I have to go for chemotherapy and buy medicine on a monthly basis.
“This explains why I am appealing to the Kenyan government to deport me, or push my appeal ahead so that I can think about my next move. Since I have appealed and I am waiting for the appeal date to be set, I cannot apply for the power of mercy.”
Ms Banda, a mother of grown-up children, reveals she owned a boutique and bar businesses before “selfishness” drove her to engage in drug trafficking.
“I owned boutique and bar businesses. Most of the times, I used to travel to Turkey, China and other parts of the world to buy items to sell. I have stayed extensively in South Africa and that is where I began to engage in drug trafficking. It was purely out of selfishness,” she says.
Armed with lessons learned, what would Ms Banda advise young men and women contemplating to cast their nets wide in the illegal trade of drug trafficking?
“I would urge them to shun the allure of quick money that comes with drug trafficking. You might find yourself in a situation like mine – in a foreign land. For example, China’s penalty for drug trafficking is death. You’d be killed where your family won’t see you again, or pay last respect to you. The little you have, just maintain it and God will bless you.”
Watch the full interview below: