Former President of Kenya Daniel Arap Moi recently announced that alcohol use had become rampant in Kenya – that it was as high as it had been in the 1970s and warned Kenya was slowly slipping back into alcoholism. For most who are currently aware of the “Alcoholic Drinks Act” enacted in Kenya in 2010, this may come as a surprise. How can there be an increase in use when there’s a law in place to reduce this?

Two reasons: devolution and the alcohol industry. The National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) was given the mandate to focus on demand reduction, which involves providing preventive education, public awareness, life skills, treatment, rehabilitation and psycho-social support to the general public. It also contributes towards supply suppression through policy formulation and capacity building.

The “Alcohol Situation Analysis (ASA)” conducted in 2012 by the regional office of the Swedish IOGT-NTO movement together with the regional partners here in East Africa corroborates the former President’s sentiments.
The findings of the ASA:

  • Out of the number of people interviewed 63% had used alcohol and 30% had more than five alcoholic beverages per sitting which is heavy episodic use.
  • Teenagers between 14-17 years of age who should not be even using are having two alcoholic beverages per sitting.

Accidents over any holiday or pay-day weekend are astounding in Kenya and NACADA has tried to do a lot to curb alcohol use and has received support from other Ministries e.g. Ministry of Transport who reintroduced “alco-blow” to reduce driving under the influence of alcohol over the holidays. This campaign succeeded in reducing the alcohol–related accidents in the country.

In 2010, the “Alcoholics Drinks Act” was enacted in Parliament and the whole country was supposed to accept and implement it. However, the new system of devolved government that began in 2013, has led to this act to be revisited and it is now up to the county governments to decide to make it into law or not.

Therefore Civil Society now has to advocate to all the 47 county government officials in order for them to ratify this act. The Kenya Alcohol Policy Alliance (KAPA) was officially formed in 2012 and the Alliance had taken upon itself to simplify the Act and spread it to media houses as well as to disseminate it to decision-makers to make them understand it better. However it seems that now KAPA has to start advocating for its ratification once again. Therefore the KAPA and other like minded organizations have to have a new strategy, regroup and advocate towards the county governments in order to mobilise support for the act.  The challeng is phenomenal since some of the politicians own bars in their counties. I look forward to the next 5 years to see and support KAPA master this new challenge.

The “Alcoholic Drinks Act” main champion is John Mututho and the law is even informally named the “Mututho law”. He was an MP who lost his seat to lobbying by Big Alcohol but then he was named Chairperson of NACADA and he has grabbed the attention of the media (see below).

I, for one, certainly hope he doesn’t lose his steam because he’s making Kenyans talk about alcohol use – challenging them in their own homes and this will in my opinion make more Kenyans realize how bad this product is for our wellbeing, families, communities and countries.

On the other hand, the global alcohol industry has a big foothold in Kenya and this has undermined proper implementation of the “Alcoholic Drinks Act” with aggressive advertising and promotion through musical and artsy events. Need I mention corruption of the police force? The odds seem to be against us, but we have heart-driven teams who aren’t willing to stand by whilst we flush our lives down the toilet. Here’s to a Life Set Free 2014!

For further reading:

Why John Mututho might soon “invade” your house

Mututho’s unwholesome concoction for the restauration of social sanity

KAPA: Alcohol control in Kenya and the necessary interventions