DP Gachagua launches campaign against drugs and alcohol in Mt Kenya

Rigathi Gachagua

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua with Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki during a forum in Nyeri town on strategies of ending alcohol and substance abuse in Mt Kenya region on April 14, 2023. 

Photo credit: DPCS

Authorities have launched a campaign against alcohol and drug abuse in Mt Kenya, with Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua saying the “force of the government” will be felt in the region from next week.

Adding that the operation would be a foundation for countrywide action, Mr Gachagua exerted pressure on heads of security organs, telling them to end old habits in the fight.

He said the days of security agents taking protection money from alcohol producers and dealers are over.

The DP held a meeting in Nyeri that brought together top politicians from the region yesterday.

It was attended by Council of Governors chairperson Anne Waiguru and Nyeri county boss Mutahi Kahiga.

Leaders from Nyandarua, Murang’a, Nyeri, Kirinyaga and Kiambu counties also attended the meeting.

Others were Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo, Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa.

Also represented were officials from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).

Mr Gachagua chaired the meeting held at the official residence of Central Regional Commissioner Fredrick Shisia.

“Those who produce illicit alcohol that destroys future generations are worse than murderers. The force of government will be felt in this region and the rest of the country from next week. It is either drug and alcohol abuse or you the security agents that will leave this region,” the Deputy President said.

He added that President William Ruto has directed government officials to support efforts being made to eradicate alcoholism and drug addiction in Kenya.

“The President has given me clear instructions. He said I must tell you that anyone who stands between the government and him when dealing with this menace must give way,” Mr Gachagua said.

President Ruto recently warned government officers, police and other leaders against working with groups that have been producing and promoting the consumption of illicit liquor and drugs around the country.

“One way of undermining the President is being in cahoots with the people selling drugs and alcohol that are killing our people. The other way is collecting commissions from the drug and alcohol sellers,” Mr Gachagua said during yesterday’s meeting.

“The President asked me to tell you that it will never happen and we must respect our oath of office. We cannot be part of the criminal syndicate that is selling illicit liquor and drugs to children.”

Mr Gachagua added that resolutions that would be made in Mt Kenya would set the pace for the rest of the country.

“This forum should be a defining moment,” he said, adding that the country risks losing a productive generation to drugs and alcohol.

The DP said the problem has become so severe that drugs and alcohol are easily accessed by young people in villages and small towns.

He appealed to stakeholders to be actively involved in fighting the menace in accordance with the law.

“Even as we wage the war on alcohol and drugs, let us bear in mind that we are parents. Our children can be potential candidates for illicit alcohol and drugs. Let’s give this initiative by the President the determination it deserves,” he said.

Prof Kindiki said alcohol and drugs need to be fought fiercely.

“Abuse of alcohol and drugs is one of the top three threats to national security, the others being

terrorism and livestock rustling,” the Interior Cabinet Secretary told the meeting.

“We will throw our weight behind the national effort to tackle this problem with the same vigour, commitment, focus and finality that we apply to the other threats.”

“However entrenched the problem is, however powerful and complicated the players are, nothing will defeat the collective resolve of a country determined to save its future. I believe we can get rid of this problem once and for all. It will be a costly affair but it must be done.”

Kebs Managing Director, Bernard Njiraini, called on tightening of legislation to stop government officials from interfering with inspection of alcohol imports and exports at seaports and airports.

“To win this war, public officers indulging or participating in alcohol business must be stopped. We get pressure when testing consignments yet the inspections are part of our mandate,” Mr Njiraini said.

“Because I am the gatekeeper at Mombasa port, I request that the government makes a policy that deters public officers from engaging in alcohol business.”

He added that the government has come up with a policy to regulate the production of methanol.

“We have to some extent controlled methanol contaminants. Methanol used to kill many people and cause blindness. We came up with standards that require imported methanol to be denatured. Denaturing means a chemical is added to make the product too bitter to be consumed,” the Kebs boss said.

KRA Acting Director-General, Risper Simiyu, said some companies have been producing illicit ethanol to maximise profits.

“Excise duty on a litre of ethanol in Tanzania is zero. It stands at Sh79 in Uganda while it is Sh356 in Kenya. Realising that the underlying ingredient is costly in Kenya, some people bring in ethanol illegally and adulterate it to create even more lethal liquor,” Ms Simiyu said.

“We are working with the National Treasury to address this. Ethanol is a problem.”

Ms Waiguru called for the establishment of laws that would help devolved governments to stop the mushrooming of bars and other drinking joints in counties.

“We need to have one legislation on what should be licensed. Manufacturers can move from one county to another if the law does not favour them in one region,” the Kirinyaga governor said.

She added that enforcement officers do a lot of work to close illicit dens and shops that sell counterfeit drinks.

However, Ms Waiguru said, cartels pay “small” fines in courts and get away with it.

Governor Waiguru asked the National Assembly, Senate and the Judiciary to assist the government in getting control of the situation by enacting laws to end drug and alcohol abuse.

She said there should be a law on the distance from one bar to another.

Governor Waiguru added that there should be strict control of bars in towns and that not every restaurant should be allowed to sell alcohol.