Unread eulogy for a neighbour who died from too much drink

Friends, Kenyans, countrymen, lend me your ears.

A pharmacist neighbour of ours has died. He was a good man, a good husband, a good father and a good drinking mate at our estate's local.

But we are not here to praise our friend but to bury him. And being his good friends, we refuse to let the cause of his death be buried with him.

For it is indeed true, that our good friend, the pharmacist, died of alcohol.

Of course it does not say so on his official obituary. It probably says there that he died of cancer, or of 'short illness, or 'prolonged illness, or "he just dead" and stuff like that.

But the truth is, our friend, the pharmacist, died of alcohol.

And no, our good friend the pharmacist did not die of any cheap, illicit stuff that they sell in tins and stained plastic cups and horns. Our friend had class - he would never touch anything that did not have a legitimate tag on it.

But then, alcohol is alcohol. The laws of Kenya state as much. They define alcohol as every liquid or solid, patented or not, containing alcohol, spirits, wine, or beer and is capable of being consumed by a human being.

In short, the laws of the land clearly state that alcohol is alcohol. That a glass of the most expensive wine is as much alcohol as a cow-horn of muratina. That a shot of that stuff that rich people imbibe in the privacy of 'members-only' is as much alcohol as a glass of chang'aa.

Drank by a poor man or drank by the rich man; illicit or legitimate, 'regulated' or 'unregulated,' alcohol is alcohol. And all people that drink alcohol are potential alcoholics. They all stand equal chances of ending up dead, like our friend now lying here.

May be it is time to put an end to the intoxicated narrative that alcoholism is a poor man's disease; that 'alcoholism' and 'illicit liquor' are synonyms.

May be it is time to stop lying that only excessive consumption of alcohol is bad for your health and delete 'excessive' from the warnings tucked away in small print that 'excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to your health."

Let it remain: Consumption of alcohol is harmful to your health.' The World Health Organisation has decreed as much - that no level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health. None, not even half-a glass of alcoholic milk.

And if we insist that cigarette manufacturers paste ghastly pictures bodies rotting away from cigarette smoking; let us insist that similar pictures of wasted bodies ravaged by at least seven types of cancers linked to alcohol consumption be pasted on all alcohol containers.

Nay-let us include pictures of flaccid penises and breasts of a people ravaged by alcoholism.

Above all, let us confront the fallacy that whereas alcoholism is regarded as a poor man's disease, only the rich have access to alcoholism treatment. As such, rich people drink 'rich alcohol' and end up in 'rich rehabs; poor people drink 'poor alcohol' and end up as statistics.

Let us confront the alcoholic contradiction that although alcoholism is a treatable disease; it is still not covered by 99.999 per cent of medical insurance schemes in the country.

Let us confront the fallacy that reducing alcohol supply will reduce demand. If this was true, how then does Kenya - where alcohol is sold from behind metal-grilled cages, drink more alcohol than Uganda where they sell alcohol in local kiosks alongside sugar and salt?

Let us make manufacturers of the so-called 'regularised alcohol' spend a percentage of the billions that they make in annual profits on alcoholism treatment.

And as we bury our dear departed drinking partner here, let us not lie that he died "after a short illness' or of cancer that could only be treated abroad' or 'unknown disease.'

Let us tell the world gathered here around his grave the truth: That our dear departed drinking partner, drunk himself to death. May he rest in peace.

Mr Karanja is a journalist. Email [email protected]