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Alcohol abuse comes into sharp focus in Kenya 7s circuit

02 August 2014, 09:23

Nairobi - The popularity of rugby 7s in Kenya has seen the domestic circuit attract huge following across the country whenever events are held.

The national team's performances at the International Rugby Board HSBC World Sevens Series where the country has established itself as a force in the shorter version of the game have seen hundreds turn out at local events.

However, sport has taken a backburner at these events due to excesses fueled by overindulgence in alcohol particularly among underage drinkers (legal age in Kenya is 18) who have turned rugby 7s tournaments into dens of sin.

The climax of the debauchery was witnessed on the weekend of June 29 to 31 in the southern town of Machakos that hosted the Masaku 7s where shocking photos and videos of reckless sexual acts by heavily intoxicated youth stunned a nation and went viral.

Even though it was later proven some of the brazen images were pinched from events elsewhere on the Internet, there was no denying the depravity crossed the line.

With this in mind, the Governor of Kenya's capital Nairobi, Dr. Evans Kidero, initially announced a total ban on alcohol at this weekend's Kabeberi 7s tournament.

In his own words, "What happened in Machakos, we don't want a repeat of that in Nairobi and that is why we are making sure by 6pm (+3GMT) the pitch is empty."

"People will be checked, no alcohol will be allowed in the park. We will have Alcoblow in and around the pitch and indecent behaviour will not be allowed," he said.

Soon after his ban and threat to use breathalysers (Alcoblow) to nab drunken motorists went public, the County boss received a massive backlash on social media, majority whose users were directly affected by the ban, as the # ThingsKideroHasDoneForNairobi trended worldwide on Twitter, mocking the leader with undertones of his perceived poor record and his lawsuit for allegedly assaulting the Nairobi Women's Representative Rachel Shebesh last year.

In less than an hour, the governor backtracked and announced through a statement fired to newsrooms at night that he would allow "controlled selling and consumption" of alcohol at the event that runs Saturday and Sunday.

"The Nairobi City County Government has specifically directed that any alcohol consumption will be undertaken in the specific and controlled areas and as provided for in the Liquor Licensing Act and provision and there shall be no sale of alcohol to minors, family areas and after 6 pm," the statement read.

"We are ubiquitous to the fact that excess consumption of alcohol results in significant morbidity and mortality, increases violence, crime and road traffic crashes, has major consequences for individuals, families and communities and impacts negatively on the economy," it added.

With major domestic alcohol manufacturers among those who have jumped at the rugby 7s bandwagon by sponsoring Kenya Rugby Union and the events themselves owing to the soaring popularity among the youth, it was alleged the Governor may have had his hand forced to renounce his earlier edict.

"In the case of Masaku 7s, most of those who did those acts never even made it to the stadium. They know nothing about the sport and they are giving rugby a bad name," Martin Kariuki, a former Kenya Harlequins player and event MC said.

Similar tardy behaviour has spread to the local Kenya National Rally Championships circuit where inebriated "fans" have lost their lives in drunken speed driving or posed trouble to drivers.

Kenya Motor Sport Federation has since embarked on a program to close the routes and funnel all fans to controlled designated spectator stages whilst also using closed circuit to stage their events.

 - Xinhua

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