NAIROBI (RNS/ENInews) Faith leaders in Kenya hope to collect 1 million signatures to petition President Mwai Kibaki to rescind a new law legalizing traditional brews that have left hundreds dead.
Christian, Hindu and Muslim leaders are concerned the law will lead to increased alcohol abuse in Kenya.

“We are opposed to the legalization of alcohol because we have seen the harm it has caused our society,” said the Rev. Geoffrey Songok, the moderator of the Reformed Church of East Africa.

Kibaki signed the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill 2009 into law on Sept. 1, decriminalizing thousands of traditional breweries, many constructed secretly on river banks, in forests and slums.

The brews have left a trail of deaths since they were outlawed in 1978. In July, 17 people died in Nairobi’s Kibera slums after consuming one of the brews known as Changaa. In 2000, 130 people died in the town of Machakos after drinking a similar brew.

“We are concerned that irresponsible drinking is destroying many families. We should be dealing with the brews in such a way that they do not continue to destroy families,” Roman Catholic Archbishop Boniface Lele of Mombasa told ENInews.

Muslim leaders also reject the bill, saying it will continue to impoverish Kenyans. “Kenyans need jobs, not more alcohol. We know alcohol has been a major cause of poverty and we urge the government not to implement the law,” said Sheikh Juma Ngao, the chairman of the Kenya National Muslim Advisory Council.

Rashmin Chitnis, the general secretary of the Hindu Council of Kenya, said the law’s regulations may make traditional brewers less destructive, but warned the law may also encourage heavy drinking and lead to less productivity.

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