Local leaders in Moroto district have called for thorough investigations and prosecution of those behind the trade in illicit alcohol that has exacerbated poverty and chronic illness among the population in the region.
The leaders note that although operations have been ongoing against the sale of crude waragi in Karamoja for several years leading to the destruction of waragi worth millions of Shillings, the perpetrators are neither arrested nor prosecuted, which is counterproductive.
John Robert Adupa, the LC 3 chairperson of Lotisan sub-county in Moroto district, says that police claim that their operations target waragi traders, transporters, and the owners, but they have never seen perpetrators arrested raising questions if the business will really stop. Adupa says as leaders they want the local illicit gin completely stopped from entering the region because people take it on empty stomachs leading to deaths.
He says that illicit alcohol consumption has visible effects on the household economy, health, and well-being of the communities, which they cannot continue to watch. ‘’We really want to know the people behind the trade of illicit gin. How can waragi continue penetrating the region despite the roadblocks mounted by security?’’ Adupa wondered.
According to Adupa, he has arrested several security officers involved in the trade of illicit waragi and no action has been taken against the errant officers.
Ismail Mohammed, the mayor of Moroto municipality notes that impounding illicit gin is not a solution but instead the government should provide a long-term solution to solve the problem. He said pouring waragi has become a daily routine and the exercise is not working enough to contain the illicit gin.
According to Mohammed, it seems there are some people with power who are benefiting from the trade, saying there is a need to dig deeper to understand why the business is still booming despite the ban.
Joseph Abura, the Church of Uganda Bishop for Karamoja diocese, says the operations against waragi have been there for so long and he is skeptical if the business will end. Abura challenged security to explain why waragi is able to enter the region when the police are deployed all over checkpoints to block its entry.
George William Wopuwa, the Moroto Resident District Commissioner observed that waragi can only be stopped from entering the community if all leaders accept to work together to fight it. Wopuwa notes that this is a business that earns money for some people and they have their consumers in the community, making it hard for security to arrest them without any leads. He says that traders have developed tactics of transporting the gin without security noticing it and therefore the community should also join hands and help to report such cases to the police.
Peter Mugabi, the Moroto District Police Commander has asked the leaders to bear with the security operations against the illicit gin because there is no other action they can take against the traders without specific guidance from the law. Mugabi also blamed the local leaders for harboring and hiding the waragi dealers instead of reporting them to the police for appropriate action to be taken.
The Enguli (Manufacture and Licensing ) act 1966 prohibits the dealing and consumption of waragi and imposes a fine not exceeding three thousand Shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both
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