Political pain of fight against chang’aa in Siaya County

Alcoholic drinks

It is believed that the best chang’aa comes from Ugenya in Siaya County.

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What you need to know:

  • In Ugenya, many households chang’aa to earn a iving.
  • Chang’aa was legalised in 2010 to improve public health and safety.

As the purge on illicit brews continues countrywide, elected leaders in Ugenya, Siaya County, have kept off the issue of chang’aa.

Condemning chang’aa in Ugenya for the elected leaders is like writing a political epitaph because many households brew and earn a living from it.

Siaya County Commander Kleti Kimaiyo said the ongoing crackdown has yielded fruits.

“We are making good progress. I can say we have arrested many suspects and charged them in court,” he said.

He, however, noted that arresting culprits has been a challenge during the day, forcing them to conduct raids at night.

On getting the support of local politicians, Mr Kimaiyo said that they“are silent about the crackdown on chang’aa. I assume their silence means they are supporting the ongoing operation.”

According to Mr Joseph Owino, a local, openly castigating chang'aa would lead to losing political support among voters.

“The majority of families are either directly brewing chang'aa or have relatives brewing it. Those are all voters whom any politician would not want to lose,” he said. A popular saying in the area goes that, in every five homesteads, at least one is brewing chang’aa.

It is also believed that the best chang’aa comes from the region.

Christened ‘Ugenyafiddich’, revellers are known to enquire whether the stock at their drinking den is from Ugenya.

“When our in-laws visit for the first time, we must serve them chang’aa because that is part of our culture,” said Mr Samuel Onyango from Karadolo village in West Ugenya Sub-county.

“Our daughters who are married outside Ugenya have taken it there, but the art of brewing originated in Ugenya,” Mr Onyango.

A spot check by Nation at the Ukwala Law Courts established that suspects arrested either selling or brewing chang’aa form the majority of those that appear before the magistrate.

It is important to note that the government legalised chang’aa in 2010 to improve public health and safety.

The Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, 2010, requires chang’aa to be manufactured, distributed, and sold in glass bottles that are larger than 250 millilitres, and retailers must display health warning signs.