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Waiguru Orders Closure of Illicit Liquor bars

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru has ordered the immediate closure of all liquor outlets in the county following the deaths of 17 people after consuming illicit brew.

Waiguru said the County Government has withdrawn all licenses issued to the bars to allow for a fresh vetting.

Speaking on Saturday during a mass burial ceremony of the 17 illicit brew victims at Kangai Primary School, Waiguru said no alcohol outlet will be allowed to operate in the county until it is vetted and found to comply with liquor licensing regulations.

“I have today ordered the closure of all bars in Kirinyaga to pave the way for fresh vetting, those bars that will be found to have been operating without license or had previous cases of selling unauthorized products will not be allowed to open again,” Waiguru said.

The illicit brew that killed and left others blinded at Kangai and Kandongu villages is suspected to have been laced with ethanol.

The governor further called on all law enforcement agencies to act closure order to get rid of illicit brews from towns and villages.

“We have put in place tighter liquor outlets registration and inspection mechanisms that require the support of the law enforcement agencies to implement. This has been the missing link,” Waiguru said.

She asked County Government staff operating liquor outlets to choose between venturing into business or retaining their employment. Eleven staff from the County Government were operating bars and therefore existed a conflict of interest and a hindrance to the enforcement of the liquor licensing regulations.

Their remains, in front of us, radiate the full horror of alcoholism and the ferocity of greed among the merchants of death who manufactured and distributed the killer drink, we must not allow this to happen again,” the Governor said.

Waiguru noted that no one is safe from illicit brews, saying unscrupulous traders are packaging third-generation brew into bottles belonging to popular brands and using fake Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) stamps to get their products onto the shelves.

“As these families prepare to lay their spouses, children, relatives, and friends to rest, the disturbing concern is that illegal trade in ethanol is fast becoming pervasive in the country, fueling the re-opening of backyard alcohol manufacturing facilities that had been shut and a rise in the consumption of illicit brew.

She said her administration will tighten regulatory checks on manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of alcoholic beverages to avert more deaths in the future.

“Sale and distribution of illicit brews does not only deny the government requisite and legitimate traders’ revenue but also poses a serious health risk to our people. Kirinyaga will be the county that will show an example that we will not tolerate the sale of illicit brews and drugs,” she added.

She reminded bar owners that they have a responsibility to protect the lives of their patrons and that the Kangai and Kandongu deaths should “prick their conscience”.

“They must ensure they are selling products that conform to standards set out by the Kenya Bureau of Standards,” she said.

The county has launched a campaign dubbed “Fichua Pombe Haramu” via free till number, an initiative meant to help eradicate the manufacture and sale of illicit brew through the sharing of information.

“We have introduced a toll-free line 0800721812 and SMS number 0759674392 that you can use to give us information on suspicious cases of illicit alcohol brewing and sale in your area,” the Governor said.

The event was attended by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Second Lady Pastor Dorcas Rigathi, Lands Cabinet Secretary Alice Wahome, Secretary to Cabinet Mercy Wanjau , Health and Professional Standards Principal Secretary Mary Muthoni, and other leaders from Mount Kenya region.

By Mutai Kipngetich

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