Government cracks down on illicit-liqour cartels in Taita-Taveta County

The government has vowed to crush cartels enabling the production and sale of illicit liquor in Taita-Taveta County as part of an extensive campaign to rid the region the outlawed brew.

In the past two weeks, security operation led by officers in Ministry of Interior Security has recovered over 6,000 liters of illegal brews and arrested 30 suspects in various villages in Mwatate sub-county.

Amongst the villages targeted in the operation include Manoa, Kamutonga, Mkuki, Kitivo, Wumari Sechu and Soko ya Zamani.

On Saturday morning, the team lead by Mwatate Deputy County Commissioner Kenneth Muriungi led a group of chiefs in raiding a homestead at Msisinenyi village in Modambogho where a notorious brewer was arrested.During the operation, 800 liters of illicit brew were recovered.

The suspect, Ms Constance Eghwa, had buried several drums of the illicit brew inside the bush in her expansive farm to avoid detection.

The administrator accompanied by villagers spent over four hours digging out the drums from the ground.

We suspect there is still more brew hidden in this farm but we will keep looking, said the deputy county commissioner.

A neighbor who refused to be named said the suspect has a son who is a police officer and the residents were scared of raising the alarm for fear of reprisals.

In a change of tact that seems to be paying off, the operation to eradicate illicit brew is being coordinated by the chiefs and their assistants with the help of villager elders and leaders of Nyumba Kumi.

Last week, a notorious brewer at Kirongwe village was nabbed with 900 liters of alcohol. She is suspected to be the main distributor to small-scale sellers who take the brew to the villagers in the far off villages.

Mr. Muriungi noted most-large brewers had organized themselves into cartels that bailed out those arrested during the operation.

He said when a brewer was fined by the courts, the cartels quickly held a fund-raiser and promptly paid the required amounts.

The members of this cartel are rich and easily pay over a hundred thousand shillings to one of their own. This means that after release, the brewer goes back to business, he said.

Part of the new strategy to eradicate illegal brew is to dismantle the cartels bailing out offenders.

This involves mass operation to arrest large-scale brewers who supply to small distributors.

This is expected to make it hard for the members to bail out each other.

We are going for the big fish. If we cripple the production at the source, we will win this war, he said.The people behind the cartels are said to be well-funded and have been in the business for years. Members of community policing, elders and chiefs are being used to collect intelligence on illicit brewers.

Mr. Muringi noted that members of public were providing information that is leading to arrest of the brewers.

Mr. Muriungi assured the residents that the information they will provide will be treated confidentially.

Ms. Zilah Kinoro, a resident, said the bulk of the men in the region had become wrecks from being addicted to alcohol.

She added that women in the region had become sole bread winners after men left homes for alcohol.

She blamed the high rate of marriage breakdown in the region to alcohol noting that it was time all brewers were put out of business.

My son is working and never brings anything home. All his money ends in drinking dens in this village, she lamented.

The residents vowed to support such initiatives to save their village from ‘extinction’. However, some expressed concerns over effectiveness of such measures given that some rogue police officers and government officials appeared to have been compromised by the brewers.

Mr. Goldrick Mghosi, an elder, said many police officers have been making rounds in the homestead but have never attempted to arrest the brewer despite being provided with information about her activities.

He added that the brewer had compromised senior police officers in the region which made her untouchable.

After this raid, we now have hope that the government in this region is working, said the elder.

The Deputy County Commissioner assured them no brewer will be spared in the operation.

He urged the residents to give out information to him should they feel they are at risk of being exposed.

Call me directly in case you feel your information will be compromised, he said.

Source: Kenya News Agency