Gachagua to bar owners: Come and fight us, we are ready for you

Rigathi Gachagua

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • About 300 liquor outlets have been shut down and their licenses cancelled.
  • Seven bars in the town that had survived the crackdown were closed on Friday.

Karatina town in Nyeri has been turned into an "alcohol-free" zone as the government tightens its grip on the sale and consumption of liquor in the Mt Kenya region.

About 300 liquor outlets have been shut down and their licenses cancelled in a week-long crackdown with the authorities saying they are too close to learning institutions and churches.

Seven bars that had survived the crackdown were closed on Friday as operators claimed that the new liquor control regulations were being applied selectively.

This is even as the authorities disregarded a High Court order issued last week allowing bar owners to resume operations.

The bar owners had successfully petitioned the High Court after the government withdrew their licenses.

But Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has maintained that the government will not relent in the fight against illicit liquor trade.

The DP further warned bar owners who are opposed to the government directive to brace themselves for a battle.

He said President William Ruto’s administration would not allow young people to be killed by alcohol and drug abuse, adding that he was ready to sacrifice his popularity in Mt Kenya region in the fight.

“We cannot allow our children to consume poison. Some people want us to go slow on this but we will continue because what we care about are the people of Kenya. I would be a fool to allow my people to be killed by alcohol and drugs,” Mr Gachagua said at a fundraiser in Abothuguchi Secondary School in Imenti Central, Meru County on Saturday.

The Deputy President has on several occasions said he was ready to face the consequences of his fight against the illicit liquor trade.

"Charity begins at home and we will start by stamping alcohol and drugs out of this region. Some people want to fight the President, Interior CS Kithure Kindiki and myself. It is okay but we’re telling them to brace themselves for a fight because we will shut down all those distilleries and bars,” he said.

The DP directed the new Meru County Commissioner Mr Jacob Ouma and Police Country Commander Cunningham Suiyanka to step up the fight against illicit brews in the area.

The DP spoke even as police in Imenti South on Friday arrested three suspects who had been packaging illegal brew in a residential house.

Sub-County Deputy County Commissioner Ms Mary Mwangi said at least 500 litres of illicit spirits were confiscated, as well as a vehicle that had gone to pick up the consignment.

Ms Mwangi said dealers in second-generation alcohol had devised new ways of packaging alcohol, including lacing it with used engine oil making the drinks more lethal for consumers.

In Karatina, Mr Gachagua's backyard, drama unfolded on Friday when one bar owner was arrested after she defied that the closure orders, insisting that she had not broken the law. 

Police officers were forced to cock their guns as members of the public became rowdy.

Some of the bar owners accused the government of targeting them unfairly.

“Most of us sell genuine alcohol and adhere to the laid down guidelines. We now risk losing millions of shillings in stock. This is unfair and against the principle of natural justice,” said Mr Festus Gachuri.

While appealing to the government to rescind the decision, chairman of Mathira Bar Owners Association Mr Wachira Kabirio said the traders are losing Sh300 million daily.

However, Mathira East Deputy County Commissioner, Rupare Rinyai, said officers from the national government are on the ground to enforce the directive to close bars found flouting the newly issued regulations.