• In some villages in the larger Mt Kenya, some primary schools have had to be merged because there aren’t enough children to make economic sense in keeping them
• It is no longer news to find women in Murang’a, Nyeri or Kiambu demonstrating because their men are not rising to the occasion.
Early this week, Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki revoked licenses of brewers of alcoholic beverages in the county.
Governor Njuki also demanded a fresh analysis of the beverages by the Kenya Bureau of Standards. According to the governor, there is a resurgence of second-generation brewers, who do not have the necessary documentation and are operating without regard to the law.
Njuki noted there were many second-generation brews in the market that are made without following the due process of law and have greatly affected the production and health of many youths.
But the Tharaka Nithi county boss is not the only one worried by the sad alcohol situation in the country. And it is not just a resurgence. It looks like a problem the region has lived with for decades.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua has been singing that song for a bit too long. Though there has been resistance, which is expected since the merchants of the substances make billions of shillings in profits, the DP has consistently held his position: There is a drinking problem, especially in the larger Mt Kenya region that must be urgently addressed.
The second term governor says a few rogue people have been profiting by mixing chemicals without any analysis, bottling them and selling to the people, as his administration and that of the national government watches.
He now wants the administrations and security officers to join hands with his government to ensure no illegal brew is sold in the county.
Last month, Gachagua told all county administrators in the Mt Kenya region to start enforcing a one-bar-per-town directive he issued earlier and ensure all entertainment joints only operate from 5pm to 11pm. The DP also directed county governments from the region not to renew bar licenses when they expire, arguing that they are the reason many Mt Kenya youth are perishing from drug and alcohol abuse.
I might not necessarily agree with approach the two leaders are taking in addressing the alcohol problem but one thing is clear and agreeable. A problem exists.
In some villages in the larger Mt Kenya, some primary schools have had to be merged because there aren’t enough children to make economic sense in keeping them running separately.
It was established that men of productive age have taken to alcohol so much that they can’t find time to do anything else, including impregnating their wives. In recent time, we are told, young men are not marrying and those who are lucky to get married do not create time to get intimate with their spouses because of their love for the bottle.
It is no longer news to find women in Murang’a, Nyeri or Kiambu demonstrating because their men are not rising to the occasion. There are allegations that male church elders are stepping in to help, not by praying for or counselling the young drunk men, but actually making the women pregnant.
In other areas, tales of the ramifications of the alcohol menace read like a fictional story. A man in Nyandarua, for instance, is said to be living in his own world, literally. Neighbours narrate how the lover of the tipple most times forgets his home, bed and wife and replaces them with an open ground, the grass thereon and an electricity pole respectively.
Once he has imbibed his drink, the man walks comfortably to that particular spot, undresses, lies on the grass and hugs the pole in a manner one would hug a spouse until he falls asleep. On waking up, the man dresses up and marches back to the same bar he was the previous night and starts drinking again until late in the night.
If this is the situation prevailing in DP Gachagua’s neighbourhood — unfortunately it is the reality — then it is unfair to dismiss him as mad when he gives the directions he does. Those of us who have not been personally subjected to the effects of alcohol overuse, the madness of one-bar-per-town sounds just that, madness.
However, to those women who live a life of widowhood while their husbands are alive, to those children whose fathers are absent while present in the liquor dens, to the young ones who call the drunkards dad when their biological fathers are the local church elders, the DP’s directives are the nearest thing to wisdom they have ever heard.
Let’s face it. Even though alcoholism is most rampant in the Central Kenya, it is present across Kenya. Every village has at family that has been raked by alcohol over use. The prescription given by Gachagua and Njuki may not be the most effective. I learn the government has added the trade in illicit brews and hard drugs to the list of existential threats to the country’s future.
That indeed is the right move.
Other than the adverse public health risks alcohol use poses, the alcoholism is a real danger to the country and its well-being. It is more dangerous than tribalism, corruption and even terrorism. What is needed is a personal, regional and national reflection and deliberation on how to handle alcoholism as a condition.
In the meantime, let everyone, including the police, the Kenya Bureau of Standards and the County Liquor Licensing Boards, play their role in ensuring the alcohol in the market is safe.
It is not only a matter of national security but also national survival.