On June 12, 2023, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua issued a 10-day ultimatum to county commanders, officers commanding stations to end the alcohol and drug abuse menace in their counties.
A few weeks before, President William Ruto had issued a strong warning to government officials, police, individuals and leaders working with groups or persons producing and promoting consumption of illicit liquor and drugs that are killing Kenyans. Interior Cabinet Secretary also committed to increase budget to aid his ministry in the war against trade and consumption of illicit brews.
The news was warmly welcomed in my home area especially by the many families affected, directly and indirectly, by the consumption of illicit alcohol. But, as I write this, 12 people have been confirmed dead from a small village of Kubweye, Mabera Sub County, Kuria West Constituency, Migori County, after consuming illicit liquor last week. More than 15 others are fighting for their lives in hospitals. Before they died, they complained of headache, dizziness, amnesia, decreased level of consciousness and blindness.
Families are in mourning. The deaths have rendered women widows and children orphans in a community where poverty rate is high. I think, if no clear economic empowerment interventions are put in place to support these families, 80 per cent of the orphans might drop out of school as they will hardly get food eat during these tough economic times.
The main puzzle now is how the illicit liquor is brewed or smuggled in and openly sold despite all these commitments from the government and the punitive Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, ordinarily known as the Mututho laws in 2010.
It now time to talk less and act more to end the menace of killer illicit brews. We need to see arrests and suspects charged as per section 38 of Alcoholic Drinks Control Act 2010.
Citizens should help the government to fight the sale and brewing of illicit alcohol.
For the president’s directive on the fight against illicit drugs to be succesful, the government must increase financial allocation for this cause not only in Mt Kenya region, but also across the country to the agencies that address this problem.
The police also need to ensure that the law is followed to the letter by arresting and taking suspects to court, and must refrain from receiving bribes monthly to protect and cover those dealing in illicit brews.
The court as well needs to issue punishments that will prevent the culprits from going back to their bad ways. We are tired of the empty promises and seeing illicit brewers arrested, only be released back to the community after a few days.
Political leaders should stop politicising the fight against illicit liquor and stop protecting the brewers and businesspeople who sell chemicals that are used to prepare the liquor.
Meanwhile, I call upon the national government and County Government of Migori to foot the medical and burial expenses of the victims of the illicit alcohol as the tragedy happened in a community where poverty is rampant.
Mr Magaiwa is a journalist