Hundreds knocked off the bottle in Kiambu’s war on illicit brews

The fight against illicit brews and narcotics in Kiambu county is on high gear with more than 300 rehabilitated youths spearheading the operation, which was launched four weeks ago by Governor Ferdinand Waititu. Waititu engaged the youths from Gatukuyu and Makwa villages, where the prevalence of illicit liquor is high, by giving them incentives that include meals and a daily Sh300 allowance.

They participate in garbage collection, clearing of bushes along the roads and unblocking drainages. They are also involved in destroying illicit brew dens especially along River Chania, where brewers carry out the outlawed trade.

“I employed tactics such as use a thief to catch a thief. Most of the youths in this operation are former brewers and addicts. They know every den and brewer,” said Waititu. Waititu says 90 per cent of the youths in the programme have fully reformed. “They were very weak, broke and in poor health. They had lost hope in life.

Their only assured meal was chang’aa,” he said. Waititu said the war will continue throughout the county saying, “I am not sending warnings to brewers and peddlers anymore. I am coming for you in person, one by one.

Our youths will not perish as long as I live.” Speaking to People Daily, Youths involved in the operation said their lives have taken a U-turn since the programme started. Taking shape One of them is David Waithaka, a former brewer who has since reformed. The 24-year-old has been a brewer at Chania River for seven years.

Courtesy of the initiative, his life has now started taking shape. “I save Sh250 daily and have managed to buy a bed, a mattress and a table,” he said. Waithaka says the proceeds of chang’aa are ‘cursed’.

“For 7 years I used to make Sh48,000 monthly but saved nothing. I would have been a millionaire. I have now shunned alcoholism,” he added. Waithaka introduced his close friend Moses Gacibu, 23, into the illicit trade and paid him Sh400 per day. “I could stay at the river making the brews for four months without seeing my parents,” Gacibu said.

Unlike his friend, Gacibu is married with one child. His estranged wife returned home after learning that he had stopped taking alcohol courtesy of the initiative. He says he started saving money since the project started and now wants to start a business.

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