Killer Alcohol Claims African Lives

by: Mike Miller

Alcohol costs lives every day of the week in every part of the world. In Africa, the alcohol itself is a killer.

In two adjacent weeks in August and September, about 30 people were killed by illicit brews. Others who survive are blinded by the drinks.

So disturbing have these deaths been that President Kibaki ordered the Central Provincial Security Committee to crack down on illegal brews.

The Central PC chaired the “crackdown” session as police across the region conducted impromptu inspection of drinking joints.

He read the riot act to the administrators, reminding them that the fight against illicit brews would form a key appraisal consideration of their performance contract. But the consumption and abuse of illicit brews in the province has a long history.

Indeed, this is what prompted the passing of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act (also known as Mututho laws).

Questions Need to be Answered

The two leading questions, which the government and the provincial political leaders are avoiding, are the following:

First, what actually is the genesis of this alcoholic plague among the Kikuyu?

And second, is it realistic to imagine that by using the police and elite acts passed by Parliament, the ordinary folk can be completely stopped from alcohol, while the rich and the mighty drink barrels of Tusker and Whitecap, which the ordinary folk also want but cannot afford?

To answer the first question, I want to say the following: Among Kenya’s communities, the Kikuyu, more than others, have seen their communal bonds and cultural norms badly damaged by capitalism and Western education.

This has led to the rise of a very disturbing and acquisitive individualism. The result is a society with a very rich and isolated people, on the one hand, and a very large number of very poor and desperate class that can only assuage their desperation by consuming alcohol.

Unfortunately, the alcohol which they can afford is the wretched stuff that often causes death and blindness. Is the government to blame? Should they make alcohol more affordable for the poor? I would like to hear your opinions on these questions.