Natembeya admits State agents' failure in war on illicit brews

George Natembeya

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya speaks on August 12, 2021 during a crackdown on illicit brews in Hodi Hodi, Bahati in Nakuru County.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya on Thursday openly admitted that the government has not done enough in the fight against illicit liquor, which has claimed ten lives in Bahati, Nakuru County.

The administrator made the remarks when he led a team of regional security chiefs in a tour of Bahati, where he also ordered a major crackdown to weed out illicit brew dens in the area.

Mr Natembeya apologised to the residents, but promised to dismantle all the illicit brew dens in the area.

He also ordered the closure of all wines and spirits outlets in Bahati Sub-County.

“We acknowledge that we have failed as a government in safeguarding people’s lives, but I am confident we will succeed in this fight. As government, we accept the blame, but we will not relent in the fight against these poisonous brews. Chiefs, their assistants and police officers should work together. If for instance a chief informs police that there is something happening, they should act fast," said Mr Natembeya.

Chiefs, police on the spot

Local administrators and security agencies in the area have been on the spotlight following the deaths of the 10 people suspected to have consumed poisonous liquor.

With the problem of alcoholism reaching alarming levels in the region, locals feel little has been done to tame the vice, which has also seen many youths drown in the cheap and readily available brews, turning into zombies.

Residents interviewed by the Nation heaped blame on the police and the national government administration officers for doing little to combat the menace that has taken toll on the youth in the area.

Many feel police and local administrators are abetting the production and sale of illicit liquor, leading to mushrooming of brew dens.

In response to the residents’ concerns, Mr Natembeya promised to lead a sustained crackdown to curb the menace.

The administrator said closure of wines and spirits shots in the area will counter the illicit brew menace.

Repackaging liquor

“We have noted that people are repackaging liquor in the licensed bottles and selling it to unsuspecting members of the public. The games have to come to an end. We have launched a crackdown today and we will sustain it until we get rid of all illicit brew dens,” said Mr Natembeya.

By Thursday, ten people had died after consuming the poisonous brew in Bahati. Nine others are recuperating at the Nakuru Level Five and Bahati Sub-County hospitals.

Two among those hospitalised are in critical condition.

Mr Natembeya revealed that he has formed a multi-agency team to fight the trade in illicit brews and issued a warning against those abetting the sale, including chiefs.

He directed chiefs and their assistants to launch a joint and sustained fight against the trade.

“We will intensify crackdowns against the trade and will arrest those involved to end the trade in the region. We won’t relent in the fight against illicit brew,” added the regional administrator.

In the meantime, residents continued to heap blame on local administrators and the police over the increased sale and consumption of illicit brew.

Moses Siali, a resident of Hodi Hodi, said that the Nyumba Kumi officials and area chiefs have to work harder and report brewers in the areas they are representing instead of shielding them.

Rehabilitate addicts

He said they fear that a whole generation might be wiped out if action is not taken, urging the government to rehabilitate those are already affected.

“In 2012 I lost my son to illicit brew. I am in pain to see that the government hasn't done anything about it. We fear that the whole generation will be wiped out. I have two sons and neither is married nor has children. I am worried as a parent,” said Mr Siali.

Eunice Njambi said it is saddening to lose young people to illicit brews, leaving parents, who are mostly old, with the responsibility of taking care of children.

“We have now been left with the responsibility of taking care of children who have been left by their parents due to the illicit brews. We are old, we won’t be here forever. Who will take care of them?” wondered Ms Njambi.

Joseph Kimondo, a survivor of the Bahati lethal brew incident, recounted how he partook the drink together with his friends. But he did not suspect the drink was poisonous.

He was later concerned after he started losing sight, but he could not identify the specific drink he and his friends took. 

“For now I can see you, but I can't clearly identify you. I wonder what made me drink that drink,” Kimondo said.

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