Priest leading war on illicit brews vows to soldier on

Fr Lawrence Nyaanga.

Photo credit: Ruth Mbula | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • He has won accolades from residents who do not support consumption of illicit liquor.
  • His fight against the illicit brews has also earned him a bad name among police officers, chiefs and their assistants.
  • Fr Nyaanga has helped in transforming the lives of young people who abuse drugs.

The mention of Fr Lawrence Nyaanga’s name sends shivers down the spines of illicit brew makers and their clients in Kisii town and its environs.  

The Catholic priest is feared by chang’aa, kangara and busaa traders for his persistence in pursuing and using the police to crack down on illicit drinks.

However, he has won accolades from residents who do not support consumption of illicit liquor.

As result of his fight against the illicit brews, a group of criminals was once deployed to his residence in Nyabururu Catholic Parish to eliminate him.

Fr Nyaanga, who is also a chaplain at Kisii University, says his fight against the illicit brews has also earned him a bad name among police officers, chiefs and their assistants, some of whom receive bribes from the brewers.

Appointed to the university in 2012, he has helped in transforming the lives of young people who abuse drugs.

Protecting young people

“I was ordained in 1989 and I have spent most of my years in priesthood protecting the lives of young people,” said the ecumenical specialist, a concept and principle by Christians of different church traditions and denominations to develop closer relationships and better unity between other traditions and denominations.

His efforts have seen him join the Alcohol Drug Abuse (Ada) Board, which closely works with the National Authority for Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada).

“Ada has a performance contract with Nacada. We keep reporting what we are doing to curb consumption of illicit brews and drug abuse in our community,” said Fr Nyaanga.

Two years ago, he paid a heavy price for his sustained campaign against the illicit brews.

Out of the blue, a man threw a cup full of kangara on his face as he went about his business at Kiamabundu area in Nyaribari Chache constituency.

He survived without injuries, with the assault only doubling his resolve to take on the brewers.

Community policing

Alcohol and drugs have been blamed for many ills in society, including health complications such as blindness, breakdown of families and decline in economic productivity of addicted individuals.

The nature of his campaign has forced him to work closely with community policing members, some of whom are members of the outlawed Sungusungu group.

“My aim is to partner with those we share similar values and strategies in the fight against illicit brews and drugs abuse,” Fr Nyaanga said.

Cartels in the illicit brewing industry, he observes, conspire with those in authority to buy their freedom once arrested and return to the villages and resume their illegal business with utmost impunity.

“We have cartels comprising the police, chiefs and their assistants, community policing members and court clerks,” he said.

Brewers well-connected

Some assistant county commissioners and deputy county commissioners in various parts of the country receive bribes from chiefs to offer protection to the brewers.

“The brewers are well-connected. Nothing scares them,” Fr Nyaanga said.

The corruption extends to courts where some probation officers give false reports to the courts about offenders after being bribed in order to receive non-custodial punishments.

“We have some police officers owning kiosks in town where illicit brew confiscated from offenders is packed well and sold. They now call the alcoholic drinks sanitiser," he said.

The priest said the blame game between different authorities has made the war on illicit liquor very difficult.

“But residents appear to be slowly getting tired of notorious brewers,” said Fr Nyaanga.

“I am happy that I have made positive impact on many lives.”


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