Monday, June 27, 2005

Illicit brews & government crooks

Ok, so no doubt you’ve read about the recent wave of alcohol related deaths in Kenya lately. Briefly: 45 people have died so far because of an illicit brew that was distributed in various drinking holes in the town of Machakos. The drink, quite common in dodgy places and slums has completely affected surrounding villages as well. "Many of them bought their way the grave with as little as 20 shillings (.25¢) I know and the stories just keep getting worse. Basically most of the partakers fell ill shortly afterward or much later and the true scope of the destruction wasn’t discovered until people started trickling into the nearby hospitals and early the next morning when bodies were discovered in their shacks. The news crews were out en masse and captured some still in the grip of intoxication. This one guy was so wasted he was eating weeds off the side of the road. Hours later the camera crew found him writhing in pain while, complaining of unspeakable stomach cramps and later on, he died.

The drink in question is unfortunately fairly common and because of it’s price, very affordable by the many who can’t afford to buy a pint or two from a reputable place. It is called many names, "Kumi kumi" (meaning ten, ten – 20 shillings) is what this brand is and has many fans because it gets you drunk very fast for a small amount of money. It is sold in clear plastic bags and is quite flammable. What is this drink you ask? Basically, anti-freeze. The chemical make-up is methanol, easily obtained from industries that see little or no regulation or security features and also sold by employees who will make a quick buck. "It’s an industrial solvent for inks, resins, adhesive and dyes. It is used as an anti-freeze, is an ingredient for gasoline and fuel for picnic stoves. Short-term exposure by inhalation or ingestion may result in blurred or dimness of vision leading to blindness." (The Standard www.eastandard.net) Actually, a lot of the victims – about 150 have experienced some form of blindness if not gone completely blind. The victims livers and in some cases their stomachs are destroyed, practically shredded which is why they die in agony.

Sad but so true, a man who’d taken the drinks had told his wife he was feeling awful and that’s when the story came out he knew he had to go to the hospital. He however kept insisting that his wife bring along their one-year old son. She was puzzled but when they got there he confessed to her as well as the doctors that he had in fact given his son a few sips to shush him up as the child had been crying and begging for a taste. Shock and horror, he wasn’t the only dad to have given a child a sip of the beverage. One man also brought in his child as well to be treated.

They were treated with ethanol, which would counter the effects of the methanol. But get this: the hospitals were running out of it so they went out to various wines and spirits stores and bought vodka because "…it was the only antidote for the high level of methanol in the brew that the patients drank." So sad but incredibly true.

The government had a budget briefing a few weeks ago and as a result of some of the new laws and restrictions, alcohol prices could be set by the establishments that sold them as well as other products. So obviously beer prices went up etc. Now, most of these folks couldn’t afford to buy a beer or two to begin with which is why illicit brews reign supreme and no doubt will gain popularity even more because regulated products are less affordable. Of course various government heads are blaming everyone but themselves. The drunks are blaming the government because the economy sucks so they had to resort to taking the brew, their families are blaming the police and area heads because they were aware of the brew being made and did nothing to stop it, the Health minister (a lady I’m beginning to like even less - refer to Kenyatta Hospital incident) says that "these deaths could have been easily avoided" but doesn’t say how…it’s a finger-pointing circus.

Speaking of which, Kenyan MPs are scum. There’s one I know very well and I just found out that an overseas trip, which was paid for by Kenyans, a supposed agricultural forum was in fact a shopping trip for tiles for his new mansion. SICK. And they carry guns as well while preaching about the illegal use of handgus. One MP Gor Sunguh (a deplorable figure) may be charged by the police because he left his handgun in a toilet at a four-star beach resort. Oh yeah, they go on "working" holiday vacations to discuss bills that are pending on the floor! Half of this country can’t afford a decent meal, education, shelter – the basic necessities of life yet this fuckers (sorry ma) continually bitch about not being paid enough (500,000 tax free shillings monthly / about $6,600) Urghh!

Okay. Enough ranting but this is the state of the government today.

So like I said, if you're visiting Kenya and you want to sample authentic Kenyan dishes or culture, avoid anything in a plastic bag for a quarter only.

1 comment:

ArsenalGal said...

Sad but true story and i saw it on CNN of all places!