Coast leaders threaten to sue State over crackdown on palm wine

Kilifi County Governor Amason Kingi flanked by members of his county assembly addresses the media at his gardens in Kilifi Town on Friday,010th July,2015. This is after a local Mnazi ( Cononut wine) seller Serah Kwamboka (left) reported to his office after she was roughed up and seriously injured by police in the ongoing country wide illicit killer brew crackdown in which they raided Mnazi dens , poured the drinks and locked the sellers in police cells. PHOTO/MAARUFU MOHAMED/STANDARD]

Leaders from Coast have criticised ongoing crackdown on illicit alcohol in the region, saying law enforcement officers had illegally detained palm wine tappers and consumers.

On Saturday, hundreds of traders and consumers of palm wine, locally known as mnazi, protested in Kilifi town against the crackdown that has seen many businesses closed.

They asked the governor and other local leaders to protect them from law enforcers, who, they said, are using war on illicit brews as a pretext to criminalise palm wine and to extort from them.

Governor Amason Kingi and Kaloleni MP Gunga Mwinga threatened to sue the national government for 'criminalising a legal brew'.

While addressing the demonstrators outside his office, Mr Kingi accused police officers and officials from the national government of harassing mnazi dealers under the pretext of fighting illicit brew in the county.

"I am issuing a three-day ultimatum to police to stop further crackdown on mnazi operators, failure to which my government will move to court to challenge the State campaign," said Mr Kingi.

"I am fully supporting the war on illicit brew but the police should know mnazi had been legalised, and it is not an illicit brew," he added.

Kingi asked the police to instead fight the drug menace at the Coast.

Deputy Speaker Teddy Mwambire asked residents to rally behind local leaders when a Bill on mnazi is presented before the assembly later this week.

Mr Mwinga said mnazi had not been listed among illegal alcoholic drinks and asked the Government to prepare for a legal battle.

In a statement, Mwinga said it was wrong for police to harass traders and consumers of mnazi, yet it is not categorised as an illicit alcohol.


"Police are harassing people wrongly. The presidential directive is not law, and thus, it is not applicable to mnazi. Let them arrest people involved in hard drugs trade," Mwinga said.

A Kaloleni politician Mr Paul Katana argued that mnazi is not brewed but a natural wine from coconut trees.

"Since the President directed leaders to rid the country of illicit alcohol, police and chiefs have been targeting mnazi. This is not called for, since mnazi is not listed among the killer brews," Katana argued.

He noted that the controversy surrounding mnazi was cleared by former President Mwai Kibaki when he allowed its sale and consumption.

Miji Kenda Council of Elders Association Secretary General Vincent Mwachiro said mnazi is revered for its commercial and cultural value among coastal communities.