Kenya’s deputy president has tried to take a radical step to cut back alcohol abuse within the nation’s central area by saying that county governments ought to solely permit one pub per city, however not everyone seems to be satisfied that it is a good plan.
“Even when they shut down all these bars, we are going to nonetheless drink,” Charles Ngugi tells me as he sips an area standard draft beer.
It was darkish within the bar, however the morning gentle got here by way of because the blinds flapped within the wind.
“This isn’t low-cost or unlawful liquor, so why do they wish to intrude with my life-style and my occasion temper?” he asks as he raises his voice to be heard above the music blaring from the counter that almost drowns out our dialog.
There are 4 different males within the small bar, all consuming as they sit at wood benches set subsequent to lengthy tables.
A middle-aged man staggers into the bar and dances and sings alongside to a tune within the Kikuyu language earlier than slumping on one of many benches to hitch his mates.
In a couple of minutes, he’s asleep.
It’s 11 o’clock within the morning. Based on the regulation this bar shouldn’t be open for an additional six hours. And it ought to shut by 23:00.
Three different small bars within the village of Kanderendu, in Muranga county some 70km (43 miles) from the capital, Nairobi, are additionally open with revellers inside.
It’s locations like these which can be the goal of Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s ire. In January, he stated that the variety of bars and eating places allowed to function in every city needs to be restricted to only one.
However those that drink don’t agree that this may assist cease them imbibing.
“If small bars like this are closed down, extra individuals like me will resort to happening the river to get changaa [the local traditional brew],” Mr Ngugi says.
Unlawful brewers have historically used riverbanks to make changaa. There may be quick access to water and in most locations, it’s onerous for the authorities to succeed in the brewing dens.
Central Kenya is battling what the federal government warns is an alcohol and medicines epidemic.
The authorities haven’t supplied any information to again this up however they are saying there’s a drawback, which they blame on the excessive variety of unregulated bars and pubs and an inflow of low-cost, illicit brews.
It’s also not clear why central Kenya was singled out – however a go to to the area reveals there’s a proliferation of consuming dens. The Muranga county authority says the variety of pubs, in addition to wine and spirit outlets, has grown exponentially because the Covid 19 lockdown.
‘Destroying a era’
Liquor licences have turn into essentially the most sought-after enterprise allow within the county, the BBC has been advised.
Technically, it’s the counties which have accountability for licensing, however as he comes from the central area, Deputy President Gachagua has a variety of affect right here.
“[County] governors should decide, that within the pursuit of producing income, licensing each kiosk, each outlet to be a bar and restaurant, is a method of destroying a whole era and that’s not proper,” he stated.
Rosemary Kimani, 58, has private expertise of the impression of consuming.
She says she misplaced her husband to alcoholism. Three of her youngsters, together with her daughter, are all battling dependency.
“That river and these bars would be the finish of us all,” she says in her house in Kiunyu village. She moved there within the early Nineties to begin a household.
“We will not even fetch water from there as a result of the gangs that management unlawful breweries have taken over.
“You will not see many younger individuals right here in Kiunyu with girlfriends, or with households. All they do is get up and go to bars to drink,” she provides.
“How are we going to get grandchildren if our personal youngsters have deserted their wives, haven’t any want for intercourse and solely drink and sleep all day?” she asks.
Ms Kimani backs the nationwide authorities’s transfer to shut down what she calls “killer dens”.
The central authorities desires all locations the place drinks can be found to be restricted to promoting alcohol between 17:00 and midnight.
There may be some proof that licences are progressively not being renewed, however there has not but been a mass shut-down of consuming locations.
Bar and restaurant homeowners say the federal government has received its priorities all mistaken by concentrating on official companies.
“The issue is just not bars and pubs, as a result of we offer social locations the place individuals can mingle, we pay taxes for improvement of the nation and we make use of tens of hundreds of individuals,” argues Simon Mwangi Njoroge, nationwide chairman of the Bar Homeowners Affiliation.
“Within the central area alone, we have now round 17,000 companies using a workforce of 100,000 individuals.”
Native NGOs and the church have intervened to arrange rehabilitation centres, however they’re costly and out of attain for a lot of addicts.
“We genuinely wish to cope with alcoholism and its adverse social results however we have now to be very cautious about knee-jerk reactions. Is our challenge with official companies or illicit drinks?” says Steven Kimani, the politician with accountability for well being in Muranga county.
“In the mean time we would not have a rehabilitation centre sponsored by our county authorities, as a result of this isn’t our precedence. Our focus is to restrict entry to illicit brews that is plagued our county and the remainder of central Kenya.
“However this dialogue about bar closures is untimely. What standards do you utilize to close down companies? What information are you utilizing to assert that we’re most affected? There’s none,” he tells the BBC.
The Nationwide Authority for the Marketing campaign Towards Alcohol and Drug Abuse is at the moment gathering information, however says it has been involved in regards to the mushrooming of bars, and is frightened in regards to the prevalence of illicit brews in central Kenya.
Specialists are warning that a whole era might be misplaced if nothing is finished to sort out the difficulty.
For individuals who have already been affected, change can not come quickly sufficient.
“It is a nationwide catastrophe,” says widow Rosemary Kimani.