By Elijah Kanyi.

They will kill you.

No one wants to talk about smuggling especially in Western Kenya. Because both Police and smugglers know each other, if you try to speak or snitch about the business, you, your family and your clan will be dealt with properly to be an example to others. This was the advice from the people helping me produce my story on smuggling at Kenya’s border with Uganda.

Busia, Kenya Uganda border - How to Smuggle, counterfeit and steal.
Busia, Kenya Uganda border

Before any undercover assignment, you have to study the place to have an idea of what and how to film. I was warned at first, not to carry any cameras with me. “If the smugglers find out what you are up to, there will be no two ways about it, you are dead”.

I am being told this while in the middle of No-man’s land between Kenya and Uganda; my heart is racing but I’m listening. All sorts of scary thoughts start to flood my mind. I will confirm later to the team if I want to tell the story or not.

A few minutes later we make it to the retail shop in Uganda. I am introduced to the lady at the shop where I am going to buy the product the following day.

Undercover Footage - Smuggled Cigarettes

Undercover Footage – Smuggled Cigarettes in the Kenya-Uganda Border town, Busia.

The lady at the shops tells me how risky it is to sell export cigarettes, that she has been arrested before and that she has to be careful not be arrested again because it’s expensive, but the risk is worth it. Smugglers make good money from that business. She explains most of everything I need to know about how cigarettes are smuggled, who to bribe and how much to part with 10,000 Kenya shillings; that’s a lot of money for a Ugandan business person, but it can all be made back in one deal.

Undercover Footage - How to Smuggle, steal and counterfeit
Undercover Footage – Money exchanging hands

My biggest fear is getting arrested or discovered by the smugglers at any point in my journey. Smuggling is killing our economy and the sad part is that the people who should be providing security and order at the border are the same ones doing the dirty business.

Undercover Footage - How to Smuggle, steal and counterfeit
Undercover Footage – Police Officers on the Busia Border.

Watch my ten minutes explainer “How to Smuggle, steal and counterfeit” to understand how smuggling works, and who it benefits. As for who it undermines, just look in the mirror. I am grateful to be part of a team that is passionate and dedicated to telling the truth.


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