11 July 2015

Kenya: Parliamentarians Mess Up Campaign Against Illicit Alcoholic Brews

What began as a noble, well-intentioned campaign against illicit alcoholic brews in Central Province has been corrupted into a convoluted, haphazard, chaotic and destructive exercise! Lives have been lost, businesses looted, whilst one brewery was razed to the ground in a suspected case of arson.

The genesis of the problem began following a baseline survey by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse on alcoholism in Central Province. This was quickly followed by demonstrations by women in the region decrying the effects of alcoholism in local males leading to their failure to perform conjugal duties. Sadly, one man was dismembered in Nyeri county.

Historically, women in Central Province have been known to catalyse and propel social change. The Harry Thuku riots at the turn of the last century (near the Norfolk Hotel), which heralded the clamour for Independence was ignited by the womenfolk. In more recent times, they led a major protest against the then government of Daniel Arap Moi when they stripped at Freedom Corner, Uhuru Park, Nairobi on February 28, 1992, led by our late Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Mathaai. This single demonstration which amounted to a serious curse in African culture marked the "beginning of the end" of the Moi regime.

Stung by the reaction of the womenfolk, Central Province MPs assembled at State House to craft a way forward. It was then agreed that the MPs in conjunction with the regional administration would lead a four-day campaign against illicit alcoholic brews within the province.

In retrospect, it now appears that no clear-cut policy or framework was formulated and agreed upon. They were to return to their constituencies and lead a campaign in the destruction of illicit and second generation brews. The latter were not defined leading to confusion and severe ambiguity in acts of commission and omission. It still remains unclear why the government embarked on an undefined, unplanned and unsystematic exercise. One cannot help wondering what.

The Attorney-General's input... - was he consulted?

The campaign was led by a group of over-enthusiastic angry and highly emotional MPs smarting from the fact that their inaction had pressured the Presidency to read them the Riot Act. Experience and history, however, have shown that any action inspired by anger and, or, emotion does not turn out well as a wrong or faulty premise almost always begets a similar conclusion.

MPs launched a vicious, vindictive attack on almost all alcoholic beverage manufacturers and distributors including those licensed by Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Bureau of Standards. Products of Kenya Breweries Ltd and UDV Ltd, some of the biggest contributors to the Exchequer, were destroyed in the anarchy as MPs gallivanted all over Central Province supported by property looting vigilante mobs. In effect, they abused their mandate. As a consequence there is already a multiplicity of suits filed by genuinely aggrieved manufacturers and distributors against the government.

Many Kenyans support a ban on illicit harmful alcoholic brews. However, any campaign to rid the nation of the same must of necessity be better planned and exercised. It is now clear to all and sundry that MPs were neither equipped nor qualified to conduct this campaign. Their propensity for vindictiveness and hatred towards their political enemies and, or, competitors led to malicious and discriminatory action(s). Their modus operandi left a lot to be desired as they settled old scores.

The government needs to go back to the drawing board and hopefully instruct national institutions created to fight alcoholism and drugs like the Nacada to design a proper framework and policy to fight this menace. This has to be a scientific approach that includes treatment and rehabilitation of alcoholics and drug abusers, and not the helter-skelter approach of our Parliamentarians. After the recent campaign, there are citizens out there whose lives are in danger after their alcohol supply was suddenly cut off without treatment and, or, rehabilitation.

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