Officials on the spot in fallout over Kirinyaga killer brew

torched bar

A bar set ablaze in Kangai village, Kirinyaga County, after six people died after drinking an illicit brew believed to have been laced with ethanol.

Photo credit: George Munene | Nation Media Group

Local leaders have called for the replacement of all security officers in the county following the deaths of at least 17 people after consuming contaminated alcohol last week.

Senator James Murango said the national government should get rid of the entire rank and file of the police and administrative officials as they were all complicit in the continued sale and consumption of illicit brew.

“If they remain here, they will continue supporting the business,” he said. His claim that government officials were abetting the illegal trade was echoed by residents of Kangai and Kandongu villages in Mwea.

They called for investigations into the conduct of officers at Kiamaciri Police Station after it emerged that the ethanol used to make the illicit brew had been impounded and was to be used as evidence in a criminal case.

Four police officers are alleged to have later sold the ethanol to the owner of California Bar in Kangai for Sh20,000.

Those who drank the alcohol suddenly developed complications such as loss of eyesight, even as six died on the spot.

“What the residents consumed was ethanol that had been impounded. But the police officers then sold it to the bar owner for Sh20,000,” Mr Murango said.

Kirinyaga Woman Rep Njeri Maina accused the County Liquor Licensing Board and local administrators of laxity. She urged Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki to crack the whip on rogue officials aiding the operations of illegal drinking dens.

On Friday, all senior officers in the county were recalled on the orders of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.  The DP pointed an accusing finger at County Commissioner Nayoima Tobiko, Police Commander Reuben Muli, and other senior officers, saying, they will be investigated and appropriate action taken.

Prof Kindiki has also ordered investigative agencies to initiate a probe into the incident. A court in Baricho had on Wednesday last week detained Mr John Muriithi Karaya, alias ‘California’, the owner of the bar where the brew was sold, for 20 days pending conclusion of investigations.

Central Regional Commissioner Fredrick Shisia said Mr Muriithi will be charged with murder.

Governor Anne Waiguru said the Health Department and other county agencies were working to eradicate illicit brews.