By Mzalendo contributor Moreen Majiwa (on Twitter – @mmajiwa)
Kenya’s urban landscape is littered with bars. There are bars to cater for all demographics, palates, and wallets. From famed locals like ‘Njunguna’s’, ‘Mimunas’ and ‘Kathingati’s’, cobbled from little more than mabati and wood to sophisticated lounges, beer gardens and sports bars, the range is endless.
One can buy alcohol for as a little as Kshs.10. It comes in bottles, sachets, cans and some establishments require that you bring your own glass. Depending on your cash flow you can buy, brand name alcohol or elicit brews so potent that it has causes loss of sight and in extreme cases death. Last call is typically when the last client leaves.
Last month the government enacted the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act 2010, an Act that is set to dramatically impact how and when Kenyans drink. The Act prohibits the sale of alcohol before 5pm on weekdays and before 2pm weekends. The Act is aimed at addressing the increase in alcohol outlets in urban residential areas and near schools, the increase in the drinking among people under 18, the aggressive marketing of alcohol to the youth, and the increase of injuries and death from consumption unadulterated alcoholic drinks.
With alcohol and nyama choma being big a part of Kenyan culture the issue of alcohol control is an emotive one and though most people I spoke to had not read the Act most had very definite opinions on it, here are some:
I haven’t read the Act, the truth of the matter is that there is a new alcohol act, but as a consumer I don’t know what I’m going to do about it if anything, because I don’t know what it says. If I knew what it said I would have a stance and I’d be thinking differently. Now I’m just scared that I’m breaking the law when I go drinking and I don’t think that’s right.
Alcohol control is essential for personal protection and for protection of the society. Having said that alcohol control is not new to Kenya, it has always been there but it was more for the manufacturers and sellers of alcohol. We were more aware of it being used against people who brew chang’aa and such. However given the rising levels of alcoholism particularly among young people there is need for more extensive alcohol control I support the Act, of course enforcement is a different issue.
I haven’t read the act but I heard something like you can only drink after 5. What if I want to have a drink at lunch-time, what if I am taking clients out for lunc,h does that mean that they cannot drink alcohol? And what about the office Christmas lunch? Is this Act really well thought out. You can’t control adults in the same way you control kids, and the government should not try to control my alcohol consumption. As long as I don’t hurt people how much and when I drink is a personal choice.
No, I have not read the Act but I’ve heard of it, I wonder why the government introduced the Act in December when people drink the most and when opposition would be strongest they should have introduced it in January by then people are tired of drinking and are focussed on work and school fees, and business of bars is slow and people might have been more receptive then, the government needs to be more strategic about these things.
The Alcohol Act is really good particularly for the village. I come from Western and this issue of arresting women who brew busaa is serious. Women are always being arrested for selling illict brews, yet this is their main source of income. I know women who have supported their families and educated their children through selling busaa, now their children are teachers and even doctors. These women often live in fear of arrest or have to pay protection money. This new Act will make them legitimate businesswomen, and they can package and sell their brews like any other brewery. They might even become the next keroche.
The Alcoholic Drinks Control Act can be found here.
What are your thoughts on the Act and its implementation?