What you need to know:
- Thirsty drinkers sneak into bushes, along river banks, and in tea and maize plantations.
- The officers from Shiongo Police Post reportedly go around villages collecting ‘protection fees’ from illicit brewers.
- In Kisii County, concerned wananchi have accused the authorities of shielding culprits.
The shut-down of bars and nightclubs in the country in the wake of a government directive in response to the Covid-19 outbreak has led to an increase in demand for traditional brews in Nyanza, Western and South Rift regions.
Revellers are thronging drinking dens selling traditional brew for merrymaking in defiance of the rules put in place to enforce social distancing to curb the spread of the disease.
From dawn to dusk, thirsty drinkers sneak into bushes, along river banks, and in tea and maize plantations with police being accused of turning a blind eye to the illegal trade in exchange for ‘protection fees’.
In Kakamega County, Ingotse-Ematiha Ward Representative Absolom Lumbasi mobilised local youths and arrested two police officers in Ematiha who have been harassing members of the public and collecting bribes from chang’aa distillers in Navakholo Sub-county.
The officers from Shiongo Police Post reportedly go around villages collecting ‘protection fees’ from illicit brewers. Local youths impounded a motorbike the policemen were using to move from village to village and handed over the officers to the officer in charge of Navakholo Police Station.
“The officers in civilian clothes were spotted moving around homes known to sell illicit brew. We caught them with Sh3,000 which they had collected as bribes,” Mr Lumbasi said.
In Kisii County, concerned wananchi have accused the authorities of shielding culprits.
Kiogoro Assistant County Commissioner Grace Koech led a team of chiefs from the division in destroying more than 3,000 litres of chang’aa in Bosigisa village of Nyaribari Chache.
The chiefs invaded two homes after residents raised concern about their operations, even during curfew time. This was just two days after a similar raid in Keumbu where hundreds of litres of chang’aa was destroyed at Nyamware village.
On Saturday, police in Kiogoro intercepted another 250 litres that was being ferried from Suneka to Amariba village in a Toyota Probox. The driver was arrested and is detained at Kisii Central Police Station.
In Nyamira County, angry villagers in Gekonge set ablaze a brewer’s house on Sunday after a 57-old-man was found dead after consuming her brew. She escaped and is still at large. Police have launched investigations.
In a separate incident, a 47-year-old man in Kisii stabbed his father to death at a local drinking den on Wednesday evening around 7pm, after the old man pursued him following a family quarrel over firewood the man had stolen from home to exchange for alcohol.
In Bomet, County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding said more than 10,000 litres of illegal liquor, including chang’aa and busaa, has been confiscated in a crackdown in the last week.
“We’ve realised that those who used to patronise bars in urban areas have retreated to villages and are drinking illicit brews,” Mr Omoding said.
Speaking in the company of the County Police Commander Naomi Ichami, Mr Omoding said several suspects have been arrested: “We have directed officers to deal with the menace once and for all.”
In Migori County, a local administrator is on the spot after brewers in Lwanda Magwar, Nyatike Sub-county accused him of colluding with police to extort money from them even though they claim they had quit the trade in January.
They accused him of engaging in a witch-hunt and closing their businesses to pave way for his close relatives, who have since taken over. They further accused a senior police officer at Lwanda Police Post of threatening them if they refused to pay bribes.
In Kisumu County, a middle-aged man stabbed his colleague to death with a knife at a chang’aa den at Kanyumba North village on Friday evening over a Sh50 debt. Nyando divisional police boss Leonard Matete said the two fought before the stabbing.
Peter Ochieng was found in pool of blood with stab wounds in the stomach. The suspect is in police custody.
In Kakamega County, residents of Navakholo accused the police of harassing them needlessly.
“Four days ago, shops were broken into at Ematiha. On Tuesday, a watchman was killed and the police have not arrested the assailants,” Mr Daniel Okoti, the area MCA, lamented.
Reporting by Shaban Makokha, Wycliffee Nyaberi, Elizabeth Ojina, Vitalis Kimutai, and Ian Byron