Gachagua urged to emulate Uhuru in fight against killer brews
A cross-section of leaders in the Central region want Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua to emulate retired President Uhuru Kenyatta's commitment to fighting alcoholism.
Now that Mr Gachagua has inherited the mantle of Mt Kenya kingpin from Mr Kenyatta, they argued, he should commit himself to ridding the region of killer brews and impunity in the trade and insist on the sale of only safe and clean brands.
Former Nacada boss Joseph Kaguthi said "if there was a commitment that Mr Kenyatta held dear was eradication of the alcoholism culture, especially among area youth".
In 2015, he said, the President ordered a crackdown on alcohol excesses and "risked his political support when many whose stocks were destroyed ganged up to campaign against him".
Mr Kaguthi, the chairman of the Nyandarua County Alcoholic Drinks Committee, said Mr Gachagua should partner with stakeholders to reduce consumption of alcoholic drinks.
Central Region Alcoholic Beverages Distributors and Retailers Association chairman Wilfred Mukuna said "the sector is made risky by a cartel that engages in corruption to ignore safety standards".
He said Mr Kenyatta engaged all licensed actors in the sector in 2015 "and we were able to minimise stocking of unregulated brands".
But, he added, "we have now reverted to the enterprise of recycling bottles and repackaging illicit brews in them, security officers looking the other way after getting enticed with bribes and the killer nature of this sector creeping back into the society".
This came as parents, religious leaders and conservationists in Murang’a County – said to be the worst hit by dumping of risky brews – on Sunday commended the area’s security committee for standing firm against round-the clock bar operations.
In a joint statement, Murang’a Indigenous Faiths chairman Bishop Edward Nyútú, Parents Liaison Forum and Murang'a for Green Energies secretary Mary Muriuki, decried impunity in the alcohol sector.
Because of the profits in the alcoholic drinks industry, they argued, some politicians, security officers, power brokers and criminals have ganged up in a cartel that compromises licensing, enforcement and prosecution of suspects.
"We are happy that for once, we have a county commissioner who is insisting on the rule of law to govern this sector,” they said.
He added: “We should form a combined front to support the commissioner.”
They said County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo “has brought sanity in this sector. He has eliminated overnight loud music from bars after we complained on behalf of our school-going children [and] the sick and the elderly who really suffer in [the] uncontrolled noise".
In 2015, Mr Kenyatta said the region had a drinking problem and addiction to illicit alcohol had taken too many young lives.
“We cannot allow this to continue,” said Mr Kenyatta when he met politicians from the region at State House in Nairobi and proceeded to announce a crackdown on what he described as “the business of death”.
Mr Kenyatta said that nobody had a licence to kill other Kenyans "and that is why all these businesses selling moonshine must be closed”.
Mr Mukuna told Nation.Africa that Mr Gachagua "must match the pace of his predecessor.
Mr Kaguthi said elected leaders and administrators know where killer brews are made and who is behind them.
County governments have been blamed for corrupting the licensing of alcoholic drinks businesses and hence inducing indiscipline and confusion.
Mr Mukuna urged county governments in the region to stop creating illegal types of licences that allow bars selling low-grade alcoholic concoctions to become nightclubs.
"As long as a trader was willing to pay more for a normal licence, operation hours are manipulated upwards," he said.
The trend, he claimed, resulted in criminals getting overnight hideouts and levels of crime rising.
"Once the security officers raided those bars, the owners and county licensing department would gang up in court to justify the crimes,” he said.
Murang'a Deputy Governor Stephen Mburu acknowledged the problem and promised to follow the rule of law in licensing and enforcement.
"It is true that we have a big problem. The impunity we are witnessing is unwelcome. We will pursue job creation policies that will eradicate idleness and limit thoughts of self-destruction," he said.
He said the quality and standards of alcoholic drinks sold in Murang'a County will be monitored.
Mr Ngumo rejected the notion that there is confusion in enforcing the law.
“Bars playing loud music, operating outside regulated hours, stocking illegal brands and corrupting licenses are not issues that need constitutional interpretations,” he said.
“Failing to address them at the source is dereliction of duty and I will not condone it."
He added: "We have reached a point where all savings are being drained in bars. People are selling family property so as to move into bars. Children are dropping out of school because parents have drained school fees in bars."