In Summary
  • Let us admit that alcoholism will not be solved by raiding chang’aa dens and having muratina sellers fined Sh500-1,000 while still allowing poisonous concoctions under the cover of darkness.
  • When our people freely drank some of these brews, before the White man banned them in his greed for free labour, there were no cases of drunks going blind

  • In central Kenya, where drinking has broken many a dream, muratina played a crucial part in marriage ceremonies; ditto mnazi, the palm wine that is a favourite at the Coast.

A most disturbing observation that one makes about the youth in Nairobi and parts of rural Kenya is that we are slowly sliding into an alcoholic country.

Besides the trend of youth getting high on cough syrup for babies, and hopelessness borne of joblessness, there is a proliferation of highly concentrated substances that reduce many otherwise productive young men and women to zombies.

In some places, a group of youth huddles at a pub at dawn, some shivering, waiting for the joint to be opened so that they can ‘unlock the system’.  This ‘unlocking’ business is a peer-induced habit of warding off the hangover from the previous night’s reveling by drinking one or two “for starting the day off”.

HEALTHY

This has spawned a culture of full-time drinking that gets many hooked on poisonous substances sometimes packed in containers that don’t give the details of the manufacturer.

No, this is not another rant about the lack of regulation by State agencies, some so useless they deserve no mention here. While I have heard that there is keg beer, which is said to be cheaper, we are still saddled with a colonial mindset that frowns on traditional African drinks, which were healthy.

When our people freely drank some of these brews, before the White man banned them in his greed for free labour, there were no cases of drunks going blind as they swore, as one famously did in a tragic incident in Embu: “Even if you switch off the lights we’ll not stop drinking.”

CULTURAL

Take busaa, that maize-based ale favoured in western Kenya. No one ever developed gout or went blind as men dipped their straws into a common pot. It was perfect social bonding.

In central Kenya, where drinking has broken many a dream, muratina, which was fashioned from sugarcane juice, honey and other natural ingredients, played a crucial part in marriage ceremonies.

Ditto mnazi, the palm wine that is a favourite at the Coast.

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