The relationship between alcohol and central Kenya is a bit complicated. Drunkenness is a widely accepted social vice, but harsh economic conditions and heavy taxation on bottled alcohol has left bottled alcohol out of reach of the populace. The alternative to this would be traditional brews, which unfortunately, are not commercially competitive compared to the cheap, readily available second generation drinks. Entrepreneurs have discovered that instead of the time consuming process of fermentation or distillation, they can make quick money by producing alcohol through mixing neutral spirit, water and flavours. Users have followed suit by adopting these drinks, because it costs much less time and money for one to get tipsy, compared to using the traditional drinks.
The implications of this trend are worrying. Alcohol related deaths are common in Central Kenya, Nakuru and Nairobi regions. Rarely do we get cases of people dying after consuming alcohol in western Kenya. The effects are also seen demographically, where the population is declining and nursery school enrollment keeps dropping. The fact that many people drink even before noon means that their productivity is low; a factor that makes them slip into more poverty.
What is the remedy? In June 2015, president Uhuru Kenyatta ordered a crackdown on all forms of second generation drinks. This ended up as a momentary crackdown that lacked structures to sustain it for long. Again president Kenyatta has called for the same in February 2016, and we only wait to see if there will be a sustained effort. However, there is a need for an informed approach towards the fight against alcoholism in Central Kenya, and an understanding that the problem has a cultural factor. A culture cannot be changed through an act of parliament.