President Uhuru Kenyatta has warned leaders against destroying private property in the ongoing war against illicit brews.
The President, who spoke at St Peters and Paul Catholic Church in Kiambu Town on Sunday, addressed his warning directly to Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu who kicked off a storm recently when he organised youth who went around breaking into bars destroying alcohol.
The youth were also accused of massive looting and burning of property.
“Do you hear this, Waititu?” President Kenyatta told the MP who had just addressed the congregation.
“The campaign we kicked off last week to rid our country off illicit brews is only meant to help the youth who have been rendered hopeless by the brews,” said the President.
“Destroy the brews but don’t destroy property or factories where they are being distilled. We will need them in future,” he told worshippers.
State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu, at a press conference on Sunday, reiterated the president’s words saying the crackdown must be executed within the confines of the rule of law and natural justice.
He added the directive is not targeted to one region, it would be extended to the entire country.
President Kenyatta had made a surprise visit to Kiambu. Reporters were barred from the church service but ours sneaked in.
Mr Waititu has been leading youths and women in bar raids looking for the second generation brews, which they have been destroying.
He had earlier complained that youths in Kiambu County were consuming too much substandard alcohol.
Mr Waititu led a group of more than 200 youths into Wangige and Gikuni trading centres where they descended on all bars looking for these illicit brews. In the course of the crackdown, they tore down doors and windows.
They also destroyed furniture, electronic goods and in some areas, the youths are said to have stolen money they found in cashboxes. Mr Waititu’s enthusiasm has divided leaders in Kiambu with its Governor William Kabogo, who is his political rival, taking a different side.
Bar owners in the county, led by their chairman, Mr Richard Kagiri, reported the destruction of their businesses to the police.
They demanded that Mr Waititu be charged with malicious damage to property and pay for the losses they had incurred.
But the MP has vowed to continue with the fight saying it was justified.
On Tuesday the president convened a meeting for all MPs from the region at State House and asked them to lead the crackdown to save the youths.
Then, the following day, Mr Kabogo organised a meeting of all bar owners in his county and advised them to temporary remove all second generation brews from their shelves in the face of the crackdown.
In certain quarters, his advice was construed as discrediting the campaign.
Mr Kabogo also promised to assist the traders whose property was destroyed should they seek legal redress from the MP.
The governor also wondered why the Inspector-General of Police, Joseph Boinet, had remained silent over the destruction.
On Sunday, President Kenyatta’s visit took Kiambu leaders by surprise.
Both Mr Kabogo and the county commissioner, Mr Maina, were not present.
Those who rushed to the church included area MP Jude Jomo, County Women Representative Annah Nyokabi and Mr Waititu.
The President said he was there as an ordinary worshipper and asked politicians to stop quarrelling and use the funds they have been allocated to improve the lives of the people.
Mr Jomo said the ongoing crackdown had crippled the killer brew business in the county.
“The good thing is the public is in total support of the move. The County Commissioner and the police have also worked with us,” the legislator said.
Ms Nyokabi thanked the president for the order against illicit brews. Mr Waititu said the war against illicit brews had been effectively carried out in Central Kenya but not Nairobi.
He said a factory producing illegal alcohol was still “standing” in Kandara, Murang’a, and blamed the police and administration officers of complicity in the illicit brew business.