Ugandan authorities have tightened checks on the importation of alcohol from Kenya as authorities in Nairobi intensify the crackdown on illicit brew that has killed over 80 people since last year.
Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) customs officials who man borders are on the lookout for this illicit brew to stop it from entering the country, a source in URA revealed.
UNRA’s assistant Commissioner for public and corporate affairs, Sarah Banage, said they have put in place strategies to contain the importation of illicit brew into the country, according to the New Vision.
“This killer brew as a far as we are concerned has not surfaced here in Uganda, but following the information from colleagues in Kenya, we are putting our staff at the borders on high alert. We are also going to undertake surveillance along the porous borders and towns to ensure that any attempt to smuggle it in is averted. All our enforcement teams at URA and other Government Agencies with whom we manage the borders are on high alert,” Banage stated.
The killer alcohol, commonly known as second generation brew, has become a subject of deliberation in Kenya given its fatal consequences once consumed, leading to government banning 385 companies making spirits.
Dan Marlon Nabutsabi, the Uganda Consumer Action Network coordinator warned alcohol consumers against drinking suspicious brews.
“You should only go for recognized and well labeled alcohol brands that have been approved by UNBS (Uganda National Bureau of Standards), have a quality mark and a specific address where you can address your complaints,” he advised alcohol consumers.
Nabutsabi observed that low-income earners were largely fond of going for cheap brews that they sometimes consume on empty stomachs, adding that, “this is dangerous to their lives.”
When contacted, UNBS executive director, Dr. Ben Manyindo, said he could not comment because he was locked up in a meeting by press time, while the bureau spokesperson, Barbara Kamusiime did not pick our repeated calls.
Over the weekend, eight people died and scores more were left wounded in a crackdown in Kenya on illegally brewed alcohol, the Kenyan media reported.
Hundreds of others were also arrested, business premises destroyed and thousands of litres of illegal brew destroyed in the operation, sparked by government concern over rising alcoholism and a recent spate of deaths linked to illicit drinks.
The crackdown focused on central Kenya and the capital Nairobi, where last year at least 80 people died and dozens more were blinded by concoctions laced with methanol – a chemical used for the manufacture of anti-freeze and used by some unscrupulous manufacturers to increase alcohol content.
The crackdown followed the personal intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who a State House official said was “personally alarmed” by the situation.
Several local leaders also joined Uhuru in the crackdown. The increased consumption of alcohol has also been linked to violent crime and domestic violence.
While speaking at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Kiambu town on Sunday, Uhuru asked illicit brewers to start other businesses in their premises as there will be no slowing down on the fight against illegal alcohol.
But Uhuru urged Kenyans not to destroy property even as they scale up the war against illicit brews.
Uhuru said the crackdown on illicit alcohol would continue until the country was free of the menace.
Meanwhile, the Kenyan government has banned 385 companies making spirits (second generation) Uhuru to hold meeting with MPs on the progress of the campaign.
According to The Star newspaper, seven people died when a lorry carrying confiscated methanol exploded in the Nairobi district of Kayole, apparently after one of the persons on the truck lit a match. Another person was shot dead in a raid on a factory in Naivasha, west of Nairobi, reports said.
Quoting figures from the state-funded alcohol and drug abuse authority, The Nation newspaper said illicit brews accounted for more than three quarters of all alcohol consumed in some areas, with 62% of road accidents linked to drink driving.
Kenya has strict laws banning the public consumption of alcohol during much of the day and the sale of alcohol at certain times of day.
However, alcohol laws are rarely enforced in poorer districts and widespread poverty means that illegal vendors have no problem finding clients despite the health risk.
Locally-distilled alcohol, usually made from fermented maize or sorghum, is popular among the poor, as it is a fraction of the price of commercial and legally made brews.
In Nyeri, second-generation brew worth Ksh3.4m (over sh100m) was yesterday set ablaze at Othaya Stadium.
A trailer ferrying the brew was intercepted in Othaya town by police few minutes before offloading the cargo. Othaya MP Mary Wambui also led women in pouring second generation brew at Othaya Stadium.
Kiambu Women Representative, Annah Nyokabi thanked the President for the order against illicit brews.
Kabete MP, Ferdinard Waititu said the war against illicit brews has been effectively carried out in Central Kenya but had not been fought well in Nairobi.