Asla Kerubo, a 26-year-old mother from Ngenia village, Kiambu County, is a discouraged woman.
After battling alcohol abuse for two years, Ms. Kerubo seems to have come to terms with the effects of drug addiction.
Her story paints the portrait of a scarred woman, caught between ambition and the good life.
However, she is pulled down by a habit that has now seen her cross paths with the law.
The mother-of-two says she started drinking after her husband abandoned her.
“The local drink, changaa, was the cheapest available drink that helped me come to terms with the situation. After having had a pint or two, I forgot my misery,” she said.
She told how the drinking habit led to pregnancy.
“I gave birth to a premature baby, who was admitted for four months to the neonatal unit at level 5 hospital in Kiambu,” Ms Kerubo said.
And after being released from hospital, she continued to drink, a move she says led to her arrest for neglecting her newborn baby.
“That’s when I realized I was losing my mind and decided to adjust my lifestyle. I am currently serving a two-year probation sentence by a court in Githunguri after being been arrested for neglecting my four-month-old baby,” Ms Kerubo told The Standard.
Mrs. Kerubo’s story is one of many moving stories of residents of the wealthy but sleepy village of Githunguri, whose lives have been ruined by illicit alcohol.
The village, known for coffee and dairy production, is a shadow of its former self as outsiders from as far away as Uganda take over as locals shun agricultural work.
Mr. Njatha Njenga, a resident, accused the local administration and security agencies of complacency.
“As parents, the threat causes pain and agony in many homes, which has hindered development. The sight of drunken youths in broad daylight shows how unproductive they have become,” Mr Njenga said.
Githunguri OCPD Mary Kaimenyi has denied allegations that the police were complicit.
“We are committed to eradicating illicit beer and drugs throughout Kiambu County,” she said.
Ms Ruth Wamuyu, a mother of five, said she started consuming alcohol in high school.
“When I moved to Kwa Maiko, a friend introduced me to the chang’aa dens in Ngenia village,” she said.
Living in a single room, Ms Wamuyu admits that alcohol has affected her.
“I am now a drug addict. I have tried many times to end this lifestyle, but I keep backing down. I humbly ask for any help in taking care of my children,” she revealed.
Ms. Wamuyu said three of her children stayed with her mother in Murang’a.
“I should take care of the other two, but I’m depressed. I only get happiness and peace when I am drunk because I forget all my problems,” Ms. Wamuyu added.
Crossing the Ngenia, which borders the elite town of Tatu, carries all the images of a slum.
The stench of chang’aa emanating from the houses of the village is what greets you as you wander the dusty streets down to the Ngewa River.
It is the epicenter of the illicit beer and bhang trade, which has now turned many families upside down.
As early as 7 a.m., the scenes of youths, staggering men and women wandering the dusty paths of the village and infiltrating the coffee plantations are familiar.
And it continues even late into the night.
Residents said their appeal to Kiambu Governor Mr James Nyoro, Githunguri MP Kago Wa Lydia and the local administration fell on deaf ears.
“For the past two years, we have written letters and gone to every office to no avail. We understand that some police are asking for 3,000 shillings for every 20 liter jerry can of illicit beer sold,” Mr Nyaga said.
Kiambu County Alcohol Enforcement Director Michael Kangethe said the issue of chang’aa was handled by the deputy county commissioner and the sub-county police commander.
“We always do a multi-agency application. As previously reported, the matter was not brought to my attention,” Mr. Kangethe said.
Men were also victims of alcohol abuse.
Mr David Njure said frustrations and desperation due to unemployment led him to abuse alcohol.
“I am a graduate in economics, it has been five years since I graduated and I have not found a paid job. I pledge to drink with my friends to beat idleness,” Mr Njure said.
Counseling psychologist Ms Millicent Muchene said alcohol consumption has been normalized as it is consumed at family, community gatherings and occasional outings.
Mr Muchene said alcohol abuse could be attributed to poverty, a family history of an alcohol use disorder and the availability of alcohol at a younger age.
She also said abuse can be the result of stress from historical trauma, social and economic stressors including poverty, stagnating or declining incomes, loss of blue-collar jobs and disintegration. family units.
“Over the past decade, economic opportunities have been reduced for young people despite their qualifications, the problem of lack of income aggravates mental and physical health problems. Moreover, the availability of cheap alcohol has aggravated the situation,” Mr. Muchene added.
Mr. Muchene cited drug rehabilitation and equal income-generating opportunities among possible solutions to drug abuse.
Villagers said drug and alcohol abuse had driven up the crime rate, accusing police of laxity.
Resident Mary Wambui recounted how her home was broken into during the day and all household goods stolen while she was away attending a relative’s funeral.
“It is sad. The young men have become criminals. They are stealing sufurias, chicken and agricultural products. We call on the relevant authorities to intervene and restore sanity to this village,” Ms. Wambui said.
She claimed that the police knew the source of the chang’aa and the bhang.
“They go to these dens daily to collect money, what people call ushuru (taxes) or tango, and they only target peddlers, not lords,” Nyaga said.
The villagers accused the administrators and police officers of the nearby Kwamaiko police station of sleeping on the job and also alleged that they were profiting from the illicit trade.
Ms Kaimenyi, however, said allegations of bribery and extortion by the police will be investigated.
“We conducted raids to ensure the threat ceased. Our goal is to save the lives of our young people,” Ms Kaimenyi said.