By: JANE MUGAMBI
Kirinyaga residents have demanded the re-opening of six second-generation liquor factories, saying the brands sold currently are too expensive.
The factories were closed in July when President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered the destruction of second-generation liquor factories and bars in Central Kenya.
The residents also want more bars licensed across the county.
They were attending a public meeting organised by the Kirinyaga County Liquor Licensing Board at Kerugoya Catholic Church hall.
The meeting nearly turned violent when board chairman Mugo Mwara tried to dismiss the residents’ views as impractical.
Mwara said he was shocked the meeting had been “hijacked” by bars owners, drinkers and manufactures, leaving no room for other people to air their views.
He said closure of the second-generation brew factories was a presidential directive and cannot be reversed.
The 300 residents accused the board of only licensing factories from outside the county to sell the liquor in Kirinyaga, but denying local companies permits.
The residents, mostly men, accused the board of trying to turn Kirinyaga into a tea-drinking county.
Speaker after speaker accused the committee and the county government of killing the local beer industry, which they said had employed more than 10,000 people.
Jane Muthoni, a former employee of one of the closed liquor factories, said she has been forced to look for menial jobs in Kerugoya town to feed her family.
“When working we were able to feed, educate and cloth our families,” she said.
Muthoni said she fears her children may drop out of school if the factory is not re-opened.
Samuel Kamutu said the government should allow low-income people to enjoy a drink.
He said he now spends more than double what he spent before the crackdown.