KENYA – Kenya’s largest brewer EABL has moved to court seeking orders quashing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive on destruction of illicit liquor.
East African Breweries Limited filed the suit at Nairobi’s Milimani High Court, arguing that the Ministry of Interior has misinterpreted Mr Kenyatta’s directive in ordering the destruction of second and third generation alcoholic drinks.
The alcoholic beverages manufacturer says the ministry’s directive did not define second and third generation alcoholic drinks, leading to the destruction of its brands that have been mistaken to be in the illicit category. It now wants the entire directive struck out.
EABL wants the police compelled to protect its plants that manufacture wines and spirits. The brewer also wants the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) compelled to publish an advertisement identifying EABL products it has certified for consumption in at least one newspaper with nationwide circulation.
“The directive did not define what constitutes second and third generation alcoholic drinks. The ministry has deliberately misinterpreted the President’s directive. It is necessary that the directive be quashed,” EABL says in its petition before court.
EABL is seeking a court order restraining the ministry and police from confiscating EABL’s licensed liquor brands and directing Kebs to confirm to the public that EABL’s brands as set out in the permits issued are not second or third generation drinks.
Justice George Odunga issued a temporary order restraining the government and police from impounding, destroying or interfering with any of EABL’s products until the suit is heard.
He will hear the case on July 21 when the government and police will be expected to have filed a response.
Mr Kenyatta last Wednesday ordered MPs to team up with respective county commanders to draw strategies of closing all outlets selling illicit brews- with or without licences.
The directive comes amidst a growing concern that the youth have taken to excessive consumption of the brews, making them unproductive.
EABL says the directive published last week did not specify which drinks would be targeted in the crackdown that has led to the destruction of over 50,000 litres of alcohol countrywide.
The brewer says it has lost more than Sh12 million in the crackdown and wants it stopped.
EABL reckons that some of its products like Jebel, Chrome, Kenya Cane and Kane Extra have been impounded or destroyed in the crackdown even as it denies producing any illicit drinks.
The brewer was hardest hit in Nyeri where it lost Sh8.6 million after its products were destroyed, and in Nairobi where drinks worth over Sh2 million were lost.
EABL further argues that industry stakeholders and the public were not consulted before the directive was issued as required by law. The brewer claims it has been forced to seek the court’s intervention after it sought police protection for its products in vain.
Nadida Rowlands, EABL’s legal director, asked the court for a temporary order stopping implementation of the directive, arguing that the government and police may take advantage of the time it would take to hear the case to hasten confiscation of its brands.
“No health related or safety concerns have been reported arising from consumption of EABL’s products. Unless the orders sought are granted, the order being implemented by the police is likely to occasion EABL unjustifiable loss,” Ms Rowlands says.
The firm holds that impounding its beverages has led the public to believe that they are substandard, which has wrecked the reputation and trust it says has taken years to build with its clients.
High Court Judge Isaac Lenaola is Thursday morning expected to rule on whether he will issue orders in a similar case filed by the Association of Spirit Manufacturers of Kenya.
The association wants the High Court to issue orders stopping the police and the Interior secretary from unlawful intrusion of the licensed premises of its members.
It also wants to stop the looting, unlawful destruction and seizure of their products, pending the determination of the case.
It has filed a suit against the security minister, the Inspector- General of Police and the Attorney- General for what it claims is a blanket condemnation and enforcement of the presidential directive yet their products are inspected and certified as fit for human consumption by public bodies before they are licensed for manufacture and distribution.
Spirit manufacturers have also sued Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu who they claim was the first public figure to mobilise rowdy gangs to raid and destroy its members’ premises.
Justice Lenaola had given the parties an opportunity to consent to interim orders pending an interpartes hearing of the application but they failed to agree.
Mr Waititu, through his lawyers, told the court that he needed time to put in another affidavit since the Kiambu County government had revoked the licences of second generation alcoholic drinks.
The association’s lawyer, Kabugu Muguku, however told the court that they had not been issued with any notice on the revocation of the licences.