W*r on alcohol must not hurt legit business

Friday, March 8th, 2024 00:30 | By
Murang’a County Commissioner Joshua Nkanatha when he led other administrators to inspect counterfeit alcohol seized during a crackdown, on Tuesday. PHOTO/Wangari Njuguna
Murang’a County Commissioner Joshua Nkanatha when he led other administrators to inspect counterfeit alcohol seized during a crackdown. PHOTO/Wangari Njuguna

The government has outlined measures which it believes will help contain the menace of illicit brews, alcoholism and drug abuse.

It is a double-edged sword that attempts to address the symptoms of a problem that has been bedevilling the society without necessarily attempting to diagnose the root cause.

The move has won the hearts of those who have been pushing for the menace to be declared a national disaster, particularly in Central Kenya where consumption of illicit brews and drug abuse is taking its toll on families.

However, as much as the government’s latest measures appear commendable and timely on the surface, they sound like the usual government’s knee-jerk response to issues facing society.

Fort instance, the State has banned all officers working several government agencies such as the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), National Police Service and National Government Administration Officers from owning or operating bars or alcohol outlets.

Unfortunately, no law bars the officers from engaging in such businesses having failed to enact the Conflict of Interest Act.

For decades, the government has been ambivalent on calls to enact a law that would address numerous instances in which State and public officers find themselves in the middle of conflict of interest, without any regard to the dictates of Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity.

Article 73 (2) of the Constitution on leadership and integrity demands of all State and public officers to declare “any personal interest that may conflict with public duties.”

It has been difficult implementing this article due to the absence of the Conflict of Interest Act.

Again, the recent measures lack a pragmatic systematic approach.

Previous studies by Nacada and other agencies show that second generation alcohol is the most available, affordable and accessible in the country. These are not issues that need to be addressed in a holistic manner and not through edicts.

As the government wields the big stick, it has not spared individuals and entities undertaking genuinely legal bar businesses who seem to have been thrown to the lions. Police and other law enforcers have taken advantage of the situation to harass, extort and intimidate bar and liquor operators.

The war on alcoholism and drug abuse should therefore be systematic, within the legal framework and not targeted at crippling legal businesses.

More on Opinion