NACADA: DID IT EVER HAVE DIRECTION
Can MPs, GSU and NYS Do The Job?
Nairobi is a city of short memory; however, don’t be surprised if two years later, we will still be LMAOing over the viral video of Kiambu Governor William Kabogo in visibly heavy gumboots sprinting his weighty stomach to safety after a mountain of illegal liquor he was setting ablaze exploded into hell’s fury.
He was working on presidential orders for a countrywide crackdown on all illegal manufactures and retailers of the deadly illicit alcohol that have over time added drink to a drinking nation.
Merchants Of Death
The fight against illicit brews is not a new phenomenon in the country; reports of death and images of healthy people turned blind by toxic drinks have been on the media many times before. However, the latest wave of drama was sparked by a series of demonstrations by women from different parts of Central Kenya who pleaded with the government to save them from the deadly jaws of illicit brews, whose effects they said include lack of men to impregnate them.
“Our men have now divorced us for the bottle”, said one protester.
It didn’t take long before the president convened a meeting with MPs from all over the country at which he ordered that a door to door crackdown be held all over the country starting with Central Kenya where kwang kwang (cheap liquor) have turned thousands of able citizens into zombies. He gave a deadline to the drinking menace referring to the traders of the liquor as “merchants of death”.
“No one has license to kill Kenyans”, he retorted at the State House convened meeting.
The members of parliament, especially those from within and around the city, as if they had just been sitting idle, immediately stepped out of their cocoons accompanied by local youth and the police to indiscriminately destroy any alcohol outlets they came across.
The random and careless operation that swept across Central Kenya especially Kiambu County and Nairobi’s Eastlands like a wild fire also saw the youth destroy and loot even licensed bars. This has catalysed a new row between the government and The Association of Spirits Manufacturers of Kenya which has taken the latter to court over “illegal destruction of property”.
Among those sued for “breaking into private property of legitimate investors” included the Interior Cabinet secretary, the Attorney-General, the Inspector-General of Police and Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu.
Initially, the president in the typical careless and signature political style of “resolving” matters pertaining to ordinary citizens, also suggested that those affected by the drinks be rehabilitated, appointing the General Service Unit boss Mr. Joel Kitili to ensure its fruition. What followed were sorry images of men writhing in pain, as they lay on beds of probably unlicensed local clinics due to withdrawal. It made good news, people laughed and life seems to have moved on for everyone else except for those victims.
Speaking to journalists on the progress of the crackdown, Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security Mr. Joseph Nkaiserry said that over 7,000 people have been killed in the last four years as a result of drinking the harmful brews which are often laced with other chemicals such as methanol to increase their potency. “Thousands more have been crippled, maimed, rendered blind or reduced to hopeless alcoholics,” he said.
Those whose livers still haven’t bowed out have been reduced to little children. They only work when they need money for a drink. Most of the time, the work takes a long time to turn into money so some turn to crime.
Mututho Laws, Legislation and Presidential Controversy
On the streets, NACADA seems to be nothing more than one man’s playground to decide when, where and how Kenyans should drink alcohol. But Kenya is a drinking nation, The Alcoholic Drinks Control Act which was signed into law by the president earlier into his tenure have been ridiculed and simply baptized as “Mututho Laws” by both drinkers and sellers of alcohol.
Virtually, NACADA seems to have a crucial role to play and its duties are well documented on their website as they are in the Kenya Gazette. But just like every other government department, nothing seems to be going on except for occasional threats.
But NACADA is not just about closing bars and issuing threats, its official mandate also include education, prevention and rehabilitation. All our efforts to talk to either the Chairman or a board member bore no fruit as they all diverted or ignored our phone calls. We also tried to call NACADA’s head office in Nairobi, Kisumu and Central Regional Offices but all either went unanswered or the lines were off.
What we know is that popular musician Jaguar who was earlier this year appointed to the board of the organization has been complaining about a thick web of corruption within the body. He even threatened to quit if the matter was not looked into. Most recently when the president “disbanded” the organization, he wrote a message on his social media thanking the president for his appointment and eventual dismissal of the organization that seems to have lost its salt in the public eye.
“I hope the new NACADA will be better” he said.
Who To Blame
The drinking menace is no stranger, Kenyans have always loved the bottle. However much one would like to argue and say that the low cost of starting a local bar is the reason such establishments are in literally every corner of every market, neighborhood and street, the truth is that the government and its operatives are to blame. Kenya Bureau of Standards followed up the clampdown by suspending licenses for 385 brands. The managing director Charles Ongwae said that the licenses would remain suspended until they are all inspected and cleared for human consumption. It would be great for KEBS and NACADA to explain where they were when the virus was spreading but the writings are on the wall. The president therefore knows where to start with his random hiring and firing if this fight is to be won.
Besides obvious fishy businesses going on in the government and its agencies, the ever hiking prices of safer alcoholic drinks like beer is another reason why more people are drinking harmful substances. The most affected by the deadly drinks are Kenya’s ordinary mwananchi who live on a hand to mouth basis. It therefore needs not more than a drop of brain juice to realize why illicit brew has become their savior. One bottle of beer costs averagely 150 bob for between 4% to 7% alcohol content per bottle. That means that one needs at least four bottles to feel the effect. On the other hand, the same amount of money or even less, gets one a quarter a litre of liquor with over 30% alcohol content.
Mwas, a bodaboda operator in Gachie, Kiambu County makes an average of 500 bob a day.
“sasa na pesa kama hiyo na nina familia, nikinunua beer 180, nitakunywa ngapi ndio nilewe? Na nitapeleka nini nyumbani?” (with such amount of income and I also have a family, how many beers can I buy at 180 bob before I get drunk? Then what will I take home?)
With that, he parks his bike at the gas station for the night as he goes round a dingy corner to get his Legend of the day.
If the information published by Xinhua News Agency is true, then 15 million of Kenya’s 40 million drink alcohol. A new study by NACADA also said that Kiambu County, one of the most affected areas by cheap alcoholism spends 14 million every day.