Kenyans are still waiting for the gods of fortune to smile upon them and keep the "illicit" or "adulterated" liquor from killing dozens every time it is consumed with Kenyans' traditional fatalistic wild abandon. Then there is that sophisticated lot - at least they see themselves as sophisticated - who are praying for the "enforcement of the rules and regulations" relating to liquor and sale of liquor to bring to an end the regular reports of dozens having been "affected" by the poison being peddled by greedy men. Both sets of Kenyans continue to bury their heads in the sand.
We might pretend otherwise, but we are all united in our contempt for the law. Most of us only demonstrate our contempt for what we call petty laws, inconveniences that if ignored do not lead to harm. The sophisticates call them victimless crimes. This contempt for the rules pervades every social stratum in Kenya. It seems not to matter whether one is a Big Man or a Little Fish, there is a rule we will break with impunity because, after all, "no one gets hurt."
The irony is that for the most part our laws, rules, regulations, guidelines and the such are well-written and well-thought out. If one reads the Traffic Act one might disagree with the draconian nature of the penalties imposed on offenders, but one will not quibble with the basic structure, architecture or objectives of the Act. The same is true of many laws. It is in the exceptions, the loopholes, though, that we set the cat among the pigeons.
Kenya is a nation that promotes its inequity, and iniquity, by the granting of privileges and none are more egregious than privileges created by statutes. Some are reasonable. For example, in that selfsame Traffic Act, priority is given to emergency vehicles and the presidential motorcade. And because of the public safety fears of passengers, public service vehicles are not permitted to "tint" their windows while private vehicles are.
Kenya's elite, however, are consummate acquirers of privileges. Many are unfair. Why should the Cabinet Secretary for Transport and Infrastructure not face the same indignity of sitting in stand-still traffic when he has failed to do anything to make the traffic run smoothly? Why should the Inspector-General of Police be accorded an armed bodyguard when thousands of Kenyans live with the risk of being shot, robbed or blown up? Why should "a senior officer in the Office of the Attorney-General" own ten houses allocated under the Civil Servants' Housing Scheme when tens of thousands of civil servants barely make enough to qualify for the same scheme, many of them in the Office of the Attorney-General?
So every time Kenyans get a chance to cock-a-snook at the Government and its "petty rules," they take it, even if that chance might lead to acute poisoning, blindness or death. And what petty rule could be simpler than on the manufacture of liquor without a permit? Chang'aa and its variants and traditional substitutes have always been the equivalent of the finger; they are manufactured in unlicensed places, no excise is paid on them and their consumption is open to everyone regardless of their rank in society. The sophisticates might down their Heinekens and Black Labels for which hefty duties have been levied; but they do so in a world occupied by less than ten per cent of the Kenyan population. Until that world is as welcoming as the world of the chang'aa den, stories of dozens being "affected" by "illicit" liquor will not end.