The crackdown on illicit liquor in Central kicked off on a wrong footing after an MP mistakenly led the destruction of a consignment of genuine drinks.
Othaya MP Mary Wambui witnessed as the consignment distributed by UDV a subsidiary of East African Breweries Limited (EABL), worth over Sh3.4 million, was set ablaze.
This added to the confusion witnessed earlier across the region as MPs and police were unsure of which brands to target in the crackdown ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Although the National Agency for Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) had promised to publish the list of the second-generation drinks, this was not out leading to the mix up.
The operation was in disarray in most part of the region as there was no clear cut way of confiscating the drinks. In Othaya, it was song and dance at the local stadium as the drinks went up in flames.
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In a press statement published elsewhere in this newspaper, National Alcohol Beverages of Kenya condemned what it termed as ‘wonton destruction of property’
The association now wants establishment of a proper accountability and tracking of all raw materials used by suppliers and manufacturers of alcoholic beverages and proper tracking of all all alcoholic beverages sold in the country among others.
EABL Corporate Affairs Director Eric Kiniti described the incident as unfortunate saying the company’s products “are of high quality with all the required licences.”
“It is unfortunate that legitimate business can be attacked on the premise of fighting illicit liquor. All our drinks have the requisite clearance from Kenya Bureau of Standards, genuine Kenya Revenue Authority stamps and clearance from Nacada,” Mr Kiniti said.
He said there was need for clarity from the authorities on the second generation drinks since there was danger of genuine businesses being destroyed. And as women celebrated, a desolate Emmanuel Kigen, the truck driver ferrying the drinks, watched in disbelief as he kept receiving calls, presumably from his bosses.
Some of the male youths part of the crowd expressed dismay over the action. “Hii ni aibu. Kwanini wanachoma pombe badala ya wafunge ile kampuni inaitengeneza. Hii ni hasara tu (This is embarrassing. Why are they burning alcohol instead of closing down the company that makes it. They are only causing losses to the distributor)” said John Mwangi.
Ms Wambui said that it contained a consignment of about Sh3.4 million, that was being offloaded at the distribution point. She noted that Othaya constituency has 219 licensed bars and demanded that they be reduced to 50.
Nyeri South Deputy County Commander Evans Ogwanko said the truck contained more than 1,000 cartons of six brands of alcohol.
Some of them included Liberty and Jebel brands.
But Mr Kigen, an employee of Metro Logistics said the consignment was not illegal.
“I am not even allowed to open the container. It has seals which are only removed by the owner,” he said. He expressed fears for his life, saying the action might lead youths to barricade roads and attack drivers ferrying alcohol.
Mr Mburu Njoroge, the Managing Director of Metro Logistics told The Standard on Saturday on the telephone that the company is contracted by EABL to ferry its products to various destinations.
“There was nothing illegal in that consignment. We only ferry licensed products from EABL and the government is aware of what EABL is doing,” said Njoroge.
Meanwhile, the operation on illicit brews by police in Nyeri town, netted over a hundred men and women in Ihururu, Majengo, Ngangarithi,Kamakwa and Kiawara. The suspects were arraigned before Nyeri Principal Magistrate Susan Ngungi and fined Sh400 or serve eight days in jail.