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Denzel Musumba

Denzel Musumba


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One would have thought Kenya had stumbled on a thousand oil basins as chang’aa and busaa parties popped up across the country. Some drunk in the open, relishing the newfound freedom to drink what has been illicit from 1978 until Wednesday evening, when President Kibaki signed the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2009. Others walked to shopping centres, where for the fear of the police and the chief, they never would when drunk, and even dared law enforcement officers to harass them. For many it did not matter the requirement chang’aa has to be bottled and whoever is found selling the adulterated version, faces a fine of Sh5 million or a five-year jail term. Those found selling the drink to minors risk Sh150, 000 fine, a one-year jail term or both. They also forgot or did not even know it will take 90 days for it to come into force and that there are other procedures before the big party opens. From Eldoret to Kisumu the wining went on as leaders from Central Province reacted with dismay to the legalisation of traditional liquors — which started in Parliament. In Ugenya, chang’aa drinkers flocked their former secret dens as early as 7am to toast the era — without fear of arrest or having to flee into the maize plantations at the sight of the chief or police.Even though the law comes into force within 90 days, those in western Kenya who love their chang’aa or busaa beamed with happiness all day. In Eldoret’s Langas estate, women joined men at drinking joints as they held old tins in the open, savouring the hard stuff that often knocks many off the feet. In Ugenya and Siaya districts, revelers thronged chang’aa dens early to celebrate presidential assent to the Bill and what they see as its tidings. In Ugenya, reputed as ‘the hub of the most potent chang’aa’, sellers reported booming business from as early as 7am. Consumers demanded to be served early, and even toasted to the President for signing the Bill.