Granted, the recent crackdown on illicit brews and the so-called second-generation alcoholic drinks left in its wake some destroyed businesses and chaotic scenes.
However, compared to the men and women whose lives were changed for the better, the destruction was negligible. Many of those who had been turned into hopeless alcoholics by these drinks are now sobered up and have become productive citizens and breadwinners for their families. Others have joined rehabilitation centres and are on their way to becoming normal human beings again.
It is, however, instructive to note that some Kenyans have sought to push others out of legitimate business in the guise of fighting alcohol. Others are blaming genuine alcohol business for the break-ups in their families and now seek to rid their towns and trading centres of all forms of alcohol and ‘re-design’ these towns into modern day ‘Kijabes’, complete with no bars or shops selling cigarettes. Well, Kijabe is a tradition and it was not built in a day.
Among the hardest hit by this anti-alcohol crusade is the town of Isinya in the county of Kajiado. Once a booming trading centre, Isinya is slowly turning into a no-go zone as marauding women backed by the county government seek to outlaw legitimate businesses licensed by the same government.
Last month, women from one community, ostensibly angered by their randy husbands, who, according to them, spent all the family income dining, wining and generally enjoying themselves in the pubs of Isinya town, invaded the town armed with sticks and destroyed everything in their wake.
Supposedly joining the fight against alcoholic drinks that had been started by the women of Central Kenya, they, like marauding invaders armed with crude weapons, overran the town, marching from bar to bar, breaking and entering to destroy everything in sight. They also beat barmaids accusing them of keeping their men away from home. What trash! These men are over 18 and even if all the bars in Isinya are closed, they will still drink, whether in Dagoretti or Machakos. So the women, their supporters and sympathisers must look for alternative ways of keeping their men on a short leash, instead of paralysing a whole town.
It was surprising to hear Kajiado Governor David Nkedianye give in to their pressure and agree to have Isinya become an alcohol-free centre, despite the fact that his county had licensed the bars and was earning revenue from them.
When the women took their case to the county government, the governor, obviously looking at their number that translates into votes as opposed to the few businesses, actually declared that his county would not renew bar licences, if that was what the women wanted. Kajiado would turn Isinya into a second Kijabe, for, as the governor put, his county did not depend on alcohol for revenue. What the governor did not tell the women, however, was that the beer drinking industry also supported many other businesses. Most of those who drink alcohol eat nyama choma thus keeping the meat industry going, they buy all sorts of snacks and so support food hawkers and even buy ornaments like the ones sold by the women who want alcohol out of their town.
As was witnessed during the recent crackdown that for example left many bars in Kiambu temporarily closed, you cannot stop a man who can afford his drink to drink unless that drink is universally unavailable. When you close the bars at Isinya, the men will just travel farther for their ‘kanyuaji’ and use more money in the process. Where they used to stagger the short distances to their homes, they will be forced to use taxis or boda bodas and in certain instances, just sleep over, which will translate into a bigger blow for the family.
With the governor acceding to their demands consciously or out of turn, the women of Kajiado appear more empowered and will now stop at nothing. Armed with sticks, rungus and other crude weapons, they on Tuesday invaded Kitengela town insisting that they get half of the stalls in the market, despite the fact that the stalls, according to the area MCA, were fairly distributed. Like it happened at Isinya, people, including media personnel, were hurt in the melee.
The question that now begs; are the Kajiado women genuinely fighting for their rights or is there an ulterior motive behind their actions. Is someone egging them on with the aim of locking out some elements from the county? Do they have to use weapons during their demonstrations?
And despite their violent ways, their leaders support them in causing the removal of police officers who try to keep peace in such instances.