97 arrested as Western steps up crackdown on illicit brew


 An illicit brewing den in Nairobi's Mathare slum. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

At least 97 people been arrested in the Western counties as police stepped up crackdown on illicit brew dens.

The crackdown by the multi-agency security team has seen over 282,852 litres of the illicit brew destroyed.

Western Regional Commissioner Irungu Macharia said the arrests have been made in last five months.

Macharia said in the same period, some 25,705 litres of Chang’aa, 39,327 litres of Busaa, 212,530 litres of Kangara, 3,920 ltres of Nalingilo and 2,000 litres of Ethanol were impounded and destroyed.

He said 44 people were arrested in possession of 399 rolls of bhang, another 23 people were  arrested with 13.95 kilograms of bhang, and another 29 persons were arrested with 1,507 brooms of bhang.

The commissioner said the crackdown targeted illicit brew dens, traffickers of narcotics and traders of 2nd generation alcohol.

This is a week after the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) released a report indicating the Western region had overtaken Coast in the use of drugs and substance abuse in the country.

The 2022 National Survey showed that out of the 767,789 users, 11.4 percent consumed Chang’aa, while 13 percent consumed traditional liquor.

In the report, Western was leading with for a second time with 22 per cent of consumption of illicit brew, followed by the Coast region and Central region with 14 and 13 per cent respectively.

Macharia said the crackdown will continue in collaboration with police officers, chiefs, and county government officials to ensure they reduce the high number of drug abuse in the region.

“We have a multi-agency security team that is working closely and we have arrested many people, taken them to court and some have been prosecuted and we are still going on with the crackdown until we contain the mess because most youths are largely affected,” said Macharia.

He said some of the people in the region are hiding behind cultural practices to promote the manufacturing of illicit brew, especially during the circumcision period.

“We are no longer listening to such narratives, we have arrested people and also interdicted and arrested some police officers colluding with the perpetrators of this illicit brew,” said Macharia.

The Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance (KETCA) Chairman Joel Gitali however said the government and police are to be blame the rising cases of drug abuse across the country.

Gitali said relevant government agencies have failed in their mandate especially implementation of enforcement laws that are in place.

“In Kenya, we have good and enough laws on paper but our enforcement officers are not implementing the existing laws we have, we talk so much and fail to act maximally that is why we are experiencing the return of drug abuse, “said Gitali.

Gitali further blamed NACADA for working in isolation without involving all actors.

“We have many groups on the ground and in rural areas which are non-governmental with good expertise but NACADA is not working closely with them and making good use of their experience and professionalism, the government needs to act and it should not spare some of the high ranking government officials running some of the drugs outlets, “said Gitali.