Has Gachagua given up on war on alcohol, drugs?
Soon after assuming office following the 2022 General Election, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua declared himself a champion of the war against harmful liquor and drugs abuse in the country.
Save for the few beneficiaries of the trade in alcoholic and narcotics addiction, majority of Kenyans welcomed his avowed crusade against the vice. He instantly became a darling of many parents and religious leaders across the country, all who saw in him a saviour of their children and families from the vagaries alcoholism and drugs addiction.
Gachagua hit the ground running. Dealers in illicit brews started to cry foul. But Gachagua was relentless. He promised to tour all the corners of the country in pursuit of his mission to contain the vice.
He said he would commence the mission in his native Mt Kenya region and then move to other parts of the country within three months, starting with Western, Nairobi and the Coast regions.
Unfortunately, that did not happen. Gachagua’s fight against drugs and alcohol abuse has largely remained a Mt Kenya issue. This is a great concern because his publicly declared stand was the first strong statement from a senior State officer to pronounce themselves on this serious matter.
His sentiments were taken seriously by one and all because alcoholism and narcotics are indeed a very serious challenge in Kenya today.
My concern is that Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya is being perceived as having abandoned his initial promise to fight the vice in the whole country and has now “regionalised” it.
That may not be the case. But that impression is already being created. It leaves a lot to be desired when the Deputy President, through his actions, starts to make it look like drugs and alcoholism are a challenge only in the Mt Kenya region and not the rest of the country, or if the war is won in his home turf then the rest of Kenya has been cured.
In a country that is politically ethnicised and developmentally partisan, the slightest whiff of discarding certain areas on certain matters are viewed in very unhelpful lenses.
Nearly in every function, President William Ruto has attended anywhere in Kenya since becoming the Head of State, residents have repeatedly expressed their discomfort with the rise in consumption of the killer drinks and narcotics.
Millions of youthful Kenyans are today deeply immersed in the abuse of drugs in public places. Nairobi, is a pitiable case. Here, narcotics are openly on sale, both day and night. Shebeens litter every corner of the estates, and even parts of the Central Business District, with illicit brews. Night clubs dot residential buildings all over Nairobi, with full-blast music throughout day and night to boot.
To conquer drugs and alcohol addiction, the fight must first begin and be won in Nairobi. Which is why the Deputy President’s retreat on this matter concerns a lot.
Nairobi now has the third county government since the advent of devolution. Unfortunately, none of the leadership of those governments have ever pronounced themselves firmly on the matter of drugs and alcohol abuse in Nairobi.
There is every indication that fighting drugs and illicit brews is not a matter that the current Nairobi county government has any desire to give a priority. That is like waiting for Godot.
Which is why Gachagua’s voice and presence on this matter are essential. Reneging this early would be pointing at defeat or sheer negligence.
—The writer is the Revise Editor, People Daily — [email protected]