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Formal and legal alcohol industry has borne brunt of Mututho laws

By - | November 4th 2012

By Franklin Omino

In his opinion piece, Kapondi’s amendments to ‘Mututho Laws’ Bogus, (The Standard, September 26), lawyer Kiratu Kamunya arduously tried painting Mt Elgon MP Fred Kapondi as a person seeking to protect the interest of beer manufacturers, distributors and vendors and not the general welfare of Kenyans in his proposed amendments to Mututho’s laws.

Whereas there is nothing criminal in a Member of Parliament agitating for legal protection of economic interests of traders, blanket condemnation of the formal alcoholic industry and blatant, appraisal of positive effects of Alcoholic Drinks Control Act (ADCA) 2010, commonly known as the ‘Mututho laws’ begs some sober reflection and factual performance appraisal. It is almost three years since this piece of legislation came into force. However, the recent deaths and loss of eyesight by a number of people in Banana, Kiambu County after consumption of illicit liquor  laced with killer chemicals exposes the structural and operational weaknesses of Alcoholic Drinks Control Act 2010.

A legislation which was touted as a precise silver bullet, a panacea to Kenya’s irresponsible drinking culture of illicit liquor has sadly failed to nab and curtail illegal brews and their brewers.

Sadly, the Mututho laws have drastically affected consumers of safe beverages sold by duly licensed brewers by not only regulating what time the person can use his own money to buy alcohol, but also criminalising the business of alcohol selling itself, not mentioning thousands of bar tenders and waitresses who lost their jobs plus dozens of bars which closed.

Looked at it keenly using the longer-objective lens, Mututho laws actually penalises responsible formal drinkers and those who run licensed beer outlets leaving thousands of illicit brewing dens to run amok and this is where irresponsible drinkers patrol in abandon at any hour of the day and in wee hours of the night.

Which begs a question: Does those who abuse alcohol stop it just because drinking hours have been reduced? Nay! In supermarkets and other alcohol selling shops, long queues of thirsty people stockpiling their favorable brands before Mututho laws strike are common. In villages and slums where the laws are toothless, illegal liquor dens engage in unending business a clear indication that the law has not been effective in combating harmful use/abuse of alcohol including the proliferation of illicit brews.

Like bar owners and wines and sprits shops will attest, it is the formal and legal alcohol industry that has borne the brunt of the Mututho laws, which means there is urgent need to relook at the rationale of using a discriminating piece of legislation to deal with a social problem which can best be addressed in more effective ways.

Families have also seen increase in health bill caused by litany of ailments courtesy of cheap illicit liquor consumption because revellers are unable to access legalised bottled alcohol.

For Mututho laws to have landmark impact, they must seek to decimate illicit alcohol brewing factories, fight fake, bottled spirits, and encourage responsible drinking and consumption of certified liquors instead of escalating the problem by making it practically impossible for legal brewers, sellers and consumers to enjoy the liquor at their own convenience.

And as if the bites and jaws of the law have not been deeply felt, Mututho is at it again! This time, firing on all cylinders and targeting anything and everything that smells of alcohol! Through Mututho’s 2012 Amendment Bill, he proposes additional changes that are something akin to alcoholic industry’s economical sabotage.

To ban selling of alcoholic drinks three days to the date of the General Election! How insensitive! Between incitement or hate speech and banning of alcohol, what actually precipitates chaos and apathy during General Election? And who will compensate thousands of businessmen and women and brewers for huge losses?

In its present and proposed amended form, Mututho law does not come close to confronting ills associated with illicit liquor consumption. This therefore only goes to reinforce the fact and reality that perhaps Mututho’s laws has largely failed to address the biggest concern for which it was originally enacted into law.

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