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Booze taps run dry inside Kenya's new State House

NEWS
 Kenya's First Lady Mama Rachel Ruto.

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta loved his tipple, and many photographs and video clips about of the Son of the Burning Spear seemingly high in the spirit world. Memorable is a video clip of the then President addressing St Mary’s School old boys where his manner of speech and glint in the eye suggested  he was in the cups. Then there was one, from South Africa, where a young man was asked by a journalist which president in Africa he liked the most, and the reason why. “I like Kenya’s president because he is always high. He is the bomb!” Oops. 

Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, reportedly loved washing down roast goat ribs with glasses of Muratina in the state house, where he rarely slept, fearing white ghosts and frogs. His successor, Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi, preferred uji, milk, and boiled maize and beef. He didn’t like alcohol or alcoholism, although he was said to fancy a glass of wine after dinner.

He could not withstand the State House Comptroller, Njoroge Gitau’s drinking habits, and he deployed him away from the State House to other government functions. He also outlawed busaa clubs early in his presidency, lamenting that they had outnumbered schools in the country. “Alcohol destroys, and you should avoid taking it. It does not hurt if you don’t drink,” Moi said during the burial of Reverend Joseph Kotut in Kabiyet, Eldama Ravine. Moi never hung out with alcoholics.

Kibaki loved White Cap, golf, nyama choma and irio

“Our grandfather [Moi] was not amused by any drunk family member. No family member would dare step into his house while drunk during the annual family gathering,” said Gerald Moi, who is the son of the former president’s second-born son, the late Jonathan Moi. He was paying tribute to Moi in February 2020, after his death at a Nairobi hospital.The late Mwai Kibaki loved White Cap, golf, nyama choma (roasted meat) and irio.

Those who drank with  Kibaki before he became president said that they always paid the bills, despite Kibaki having a lot of money.  “Among the senior dignitaries I served included President Kibaki, but he couldn’t give a tip. Mzee Kenyatta could give but just a little,” revealed Sebastian Ogutu, who worked for the defunct East African Airways. The airline was based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the 1970s. “Kibaki, when given change, including coins, he could carry all of them. He also never allowed anyone to sit next to him after landing at the airport. He liked his privacy when enjoying a drink.”

Kibaki later switched to Tusker, but the effects of the 2002 accident during the campaign slowed him down from drinking on medical grounds. In 2002, First Lady Lucy Kibaki is said to have shut down a bar inside State House where ministers and Kibaki’s old allies used to enjoy their favourite drinksKibaki’s successor, former President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, was said to prefer watching the sun set over whiskey shots at the State House bar, which was previously an aide de camp’s office.

The 60-year-old president is a happy-go-lucky man with a grassroots touch who enjoyed a hearty laugh and rubbing shoulders with the common man. He demystified the Presidency, with wananchi giving him many nicknames; Wanjohi, Wamashati, Kamwana and Jayden, among others. And yes, he enjoyed his tipple. Ex-Nairobi governor Mike Sonko, who famously confessed to smoking  Wajakoyas in a Parliament toilet, claimed to have fallen victim of free alcohol at State House where he was “coerced to sign an agreement he did not understand.”

“I was drunk when I signed the deed of transfer of functions, transferring some county functions to the national government at State House. I was served with alcohol ahead of the signing ceremony in the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, and Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka,” Sonko said on Citizen TV’s Jeff Koinange Live Show in mid-2020.” I was not sober. “Hawa watu wa State House waliconfuse na pombe kwanza (The people at State House confused me with alcohol first). By the time I was meeting the President for the signing I was just seeing zigzag.”

But while ‘hustlers’ have a reputation for forming strong coalitions with  the evil drink, hustler-in-chief prefers diluting his water with prayer.

His wife, Rachel Ruto, is also a staunch believer while Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s wife, Dorcas Gachagua, also doubles up as a pastor.Notably, pastors and bishops have been trooping to the House on the Hill, and chances of them bumping into a weaving worthy reeking of alcohol  will be as dim as John the Baptist setting up a distillery in the desert during his wandering days.

UDA is not zero tolerant alcohol

Not that UDA is zero tolerant alcohol. A number of politicians close to the President are known to suck the bottle like nectar. They will just have to keep their drinking away from State House, and remember to walk around with chewing gum. For those who used to drink and come back in the morning at state house, struggling to walk, now have a church.“Sometimes, tell people things that are not very pleasant…there are some I have called aside and told them to reduce their (alcohol) consumption or stop completely,” Ruto said recently. 

“Sometimes it looks unkind, but that is what a father is supposed to do. I am happy that whenever I do that, I see people getting back in line.” One man who will find the new atmosphere a breeze is designated Chief Cabinet Minister, Musalia Mudavadi. A little bird has whispered to the Nairobian that the son of Mudamba  has quit the evil drink! 

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