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Chang'aa now legal but must be bottled

Updated Thursday, September 2nd 2010 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Peter Opiyo and Beauttah Omanga

If you love your chang'aa or busaa you can now sip from your sparkling glass or rusty tin that once contained cooking or engine oil without having to look behind your back.

This is because President Kibaki rolled up his sleeve and signed into law the Bill passed by Parliament, bringing to closure the era of police and the chief discreetly patrolling urban and rural dwellings for the daredevils who either sold or imbibed what was until on Wednesday illicit liquor.

But before consumers start toasting to their new found freedom of drinking according to the depth of one’s pocket, Naivasha MP John Mututho, who came up with the Bill has a word of counsel.

"Even though traditional brews are now legal, I expect Kenyans to drink responsibly," he told The Standard from Ghana.

He also said a new law should be passed by Parliament to condemn to life sentence those found guilty of lacing brews with poisonous agents – so that Kenyans can only be served that which is pure and does not kill or blind.

Like Ugandans who marvel about their waragi and Tanzanians their konyagi, Kenyans can now boast of their own drink – distilled and packed to conventional standards and in the open – not riversides, behind sewer lines, and garbage dumps.

Kibaki appended his signature to the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2010, alongside the Prevention of Organised Crime Bill 2010, and Commission of Inquiry (Amendment) Bill 2009.

The Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill repeals the Chang’aa Prohibition Act, which made it illegal to produce or consume traditional liquors like chang’aa.

But there is a caveat – production and consumption of the drink must adhere to certain rules according to the new law.

Among the rules are that the drink shall only be manufactured, packed, sold, or distributed in glass bottles of a capacity of not less than 250 millilitres. The drink shall also not be sold to those under age 18.

On Wednesday, a section MPs lauded the President’s move, as bold but said there should be strict quality control rules.

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