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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The lethal brew of Ngomongo

By Priscah Karachu
The introduction of the Alcohol Drinks Control Act 2009 (popularly known as Mututho law), is nothing to Ngomongo village. Evidently, this drinking hub is slowly being destroyed by the effects of uncontrolled brewing. Villagers are up in arms due to lack of assistance from the local administration to regulate the illicit brew which has blinded economic development in the area. Ngomongo is one of the villages located in Wangwaci area of Laikipia County. It is typographically rocky and the local brew has literally rocked the livelihood of people in the area.

Young man overwhelmed by Chang'aa
Cracks are appearing in many families thanks to unregulated operation of this business. Men are reported to snatch food from their families and take them to these joints. Young people who are supposed to engage in meaningful activities have joined the bandwagon of those who roam around looking for drinking dens. This has also heightened insecurity because the young men are forced to mug people to get money for the drink. One motor bike operator confessed being robbed of his items as early as 7pm. He suspects the culprits to be young men idling around looking for money for beer.

Typically, the area is endowed with lands suitable for poultry and dairy farming. The large dam in Wangwaci can also sustain irrigation activities. But the beer locally referred to as ‘steamers’ and commonly called chang’aa has ravaged the potential of the area. 

Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) conducted a spot check and the reporter met Mrs. Jane Wambui a seasoned brewer. Jane just like all other brewers uses pseudo names to be at home with revelers and to conceal quick identification by the local administration. In her case she is popularly known as ‘Mama Pima’ loosely translated as ‘the one who metes out’. Jane defends the beer business arguing that she has been able to fend for her family through brewing. “I have been in this business as long as I can remember. It has supported me very much. I have fed and educated my seven children. All have gone up to O-level and can now work for themselves, courtesy of chang’aa,” she said. “Furthermore, the government should come and support this venture because we are contributing to the economic growth of the nation. We congratulate the Minister for Finance Hon. Njeru Githae for acknowledging the importance of this sector in the development of our country and not imposing taxes as has been done over years during budget reading.”

Jane admits that there are greater risks involved in running the business. The biggest one is the many people which must be tipped to allow smooth operation. The police are the worst since they part with hefty amounts or risk being arraigned in the court of law for engaging in the activity. Even with the presence of Mututho Law, they will bend it to the extent that you will be found to have broken it in one way or the other. 

Residents on the other hand argue that the police are bending the law to suit the brewers to the detriment of the village. One villager who wished not to be identified for fear of reprisals confessed that people in one of the drinking dens drink at any time of the day. He further said that the local administration is aware of it but since it is part of the cartel they cannot do anything about it except turn on a deaf ear and blind eye to what is happening there. “It is a pity when you see the government officer who is supposed to protect the law goes ahead and drink in the morning. Some of them are even drunk while on duty,” our source revealed.

Investigations done by LRV showed that one of the brewing dens near Ng’arua Maarifa Centre admits revelers any time of the day in total violation of the law. The local police and the administration are also located near the centre and have not done anything to bring the culprits into book.

The smell from the brewing den is another nuisance altogether and Public Health officers have not taken the initiative to contain it. Sights of young women fighting in broad daylight while drunk are becoming common scenes in the small town. Business operators in the centre are appealing to the government to reign in this sector and bring sanity to the centre.
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