The move by police officers to destroy 2,200 litres of a local illicit brew, chang’aa, in a crackdown on sellers in three villages in Mautuma Ward, Lugari Sub-county, has elicited fury among residents.
The officers from Mlimani Police Station, as explained by area chief Pamela Kulali during an interview, hunted down chang’aa brewers in Makutano Township, Makutano Centre and Makongeni Villages and managed to arrest some of the suspects and destroyed litres of the illicit drink.
After the story was published, residents took to social media to call out police for the act they referred to as cowardly and wanted them to find alternative solutions because many families depend on the trade to earn a living.
“I don’t think that should be the way to counter illicit brews, in my view the government should emphasize in creating more job opportunities to the citizens, but I think this is unrealistic because in real sense the people I believe they have invested there,” commented Prince Amo on Facebook.
Another user blamed the police for being quick on harassing chang’aa sellers but reluctant in dealing with insecurity cases that have become rampant in the area.
“Police, their greatest achievement is arresting and destroying harmless chang’aa dealers but in case of armed robbery they are fearful they will arrive at the venue one day later pretending to be on patrol,” another one, Ambrose Shiyuli, had a take.
Days before the police crackdown on chang’aa sellers, a businessman in the same area was robbed 26 gas cylinders, an incident that led to the arrest of three out of five suspects.
This comes amid rise in insecurity cases, a factor that prompted Kakamega Deputy County Commissioner (DCC) Moses Gicharu to hold a baraza with the local security team to find a long-lasting solution a week ago.
The DCC, during the meeting at Lugari Station, laid blame on the residents accusing them of shielding criminals and bangling the justice process.
He blamed the rise of crime on chang’aa trade, saying more than 400 homes are involved in the trade that has led to unruliness.
Brewing and selling adulterated chang’aa is illegal in Kenya and anyone found guilty risks a penalty of up to five million shillings or five years in jail, or both.
In many parts of the country, the local brew is a major source of income that serves a big part of the unemployed population by feeding families and education children.
Sam Oduor is the editor-in-chief at the Western Kenya Times who leverages the power of the Internet in telling stories that shape opinions.