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Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 11:51 GMT
Local liquor: Should it be banned?

In Kenya more than 130 people have died in the past week after drinking a locally manufactured, illicit, alcholic spirit.

News and Information for Africa
Five hundred people have been hospitalized with a further 20 blinded.

As the death-toll mounts, there have been calls for tougher action against these small-scale illegal operations.

But is that fair, given that the products from large breweries are far too expensive for much of the population?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Why any form of alcohol? Being in a medical profession I see daily so many people due to alcohol related illnesses in a developed country (US) that it should be banned and treated like cocaine or heroin.
Rehan, USA

The popularity of the deadly illicit liquor should be regarded as a socio-economic indicator that measures the standard of living of the average Kenyan. It represents for the masses the means by which the pains of frustrated aspirations and strangulated goals are released. The question then is not the existence or prohibition of the sale of the liquor, but rather the factors that are responsible for its widespread consumption. Instead of banning the industry, the government should either control its production or address the welfare of the masses in order to arrest the drift towards its consumption.
Ernest Cole, The Gambia (Sierra Leonean)

There has been grave dangers of unemployment in Kenya, leading to higher poverty levels. Some Kenyans desperately look for cheap source of livelihood including brewing and consumption of the deadly liquor. This is just to fool their frustration. The government must take every step to immediately stop the illegal brewing, selling and consuming of this 'chang'aa' and embark on job-creation programs for the health of the society. Not only does chang'aa create adverse health effects, it promotes family break-ups, idleness and a high degree of immorality.
Jimnah C W, Canada

Encourage strict quality controls

Anthony Musonda, Zambian student in Germany
I doubt if banning local liquor is the solution, given the worsening economic conditions and the increasing sense of hopelessness that makes people take recourse to cheap but equally dangerous local brews to help them temporarily get away from seemingly unending economic problems. What is most important is to legalise the brews and encourage strict quality controls that make the brews fit for human consumption. But in legalising these brews, the authorities should not slap too high a tax on the legal sale of the brews to again make them unaffordable to those who cannot afford products from large breweries. For, this in itself would cause the illegal trade in dangerous brews to continue.
Anthony Musonda, Zambian student in Germany

This problem is got to do with African governments because in other advanced countries they have a government agency that looks after the food and drink businesses. African governments have no agency that deals with this kind of thing and so some mad person can just add an extra ingredient in the drinks that could be very deadly.
AbdiFatah, Somalia

The reports of deaths resulting from the consumption of a locally brewed alcoholic spirit is regretted. But that may not be a reason for clamping down on the brewers or its consumption. Instead the government should carry out an extensive investigation into the causes, and identify areas by which the important industry can be encouraged, such as better and harmless production techniques. The nation would benefit more from doing so in terms of employment and better utilisation of scarce foreign exchange, which would be used to import foreign brews. An alternative option for the government is to adopt Sharia Islamic code that prohibit alcoholic consumption.
Damilola Olajide, Nigerian, in Melbourne Australia

Legal brew is a luxury and therein lies the problem. Given Kenyans ingenuity in the face of adversity there will always be a way to make cheap brews as long as the legal brews are sold at the highly inflated prices. This is not the first case of poisoning by liquor in Kenya. This case will soon be forgotten, like all previous cases. Life will go back to "normal", and brewers will continue brewing potent and lethal liquor
Wanjiku Njuguna, Kenya

Prohibition never worked

Jonas Konan, Cote d'Ivoire/ Houston TX
This is extremely bad to hear that, we have lost our dear and beloved ones, just because of this illicit drink. This was caused by bad economy facing this country. Banning will cause more woes as bootlegging will be more prominent. Let us all remember the USA. Prohibition never worked. Let us license the brewers and create training centres. The industry is at its infancy let give it the proper means to make it take off. Sure enough western breweries started that way.
Jonas Konan, Cote d'Ivoire/ Houston TX

As a Kenyan, I feel sad that people loose their lives over alcohol. Banning it should not be the issue, the government should take responsibility to license products that do not endanger people's lives.
George Ananga, Netherlands

Without doubt the current fatal incidents associated with illicit brews in Kenya today are a clear reflection of the country's political and economic climate. For sane people to "choose" to kill themselves they must be in a state of dire hopelessness. And that is exactly the despair that overwhelms many Kenyans today. The corruption, crime, disease, and joblessness have driven many of our people to these lethal forms of drug abuse. Shame on our leaders for they have steadily led us towards this path of destruction.
George Mutua, Kenya

You could ban a $1 billion dollar industry (continentally)? If Africa has hopes of being industrialised some day in future, then we will not get there by banning important industries.
Alan Njeru, Kenya

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