Author: Winnie Mabel
I have never stepped in a theology class but the most elementary of Bible studies exposed me – and perhaps you – to one of the most exciting and poetic promises to the human race.
At least four times in the Old Testament, God describes Canaan, popularly known as the promised land, as a land flowing with milk and honey. “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” God told Moses as described in Exodus 3:8.
Like liquid gold in the sunlight, honey would drip down the hives dotting the green hills, from whose slopes pure milk would also flow. What a promise for a people fleeing slavery in Egypt?
This was, I assume, God’s beautifully graphic way of highlighting the agricultural fertility of the land; and that is exactly what Israel remains to date.
Canaan is not a strange word in current Kenyan politics. National Super Alliance presidential candidate Raila Odinga has promised to take Kenyans there. Yes, he now calls himself Joshua, the man who led Israelites into Canaan.
Unfortunately for his supporters, that is apparently where the comparison with the Biblical hero starts and ends. Raila’s ‘Promised Land’ will not overflow with the sweet honey or the soothing milk. No. he has instead promised springs of a much bitter intoxicant; chang’aa.
He has unapologetically insisted that he will legalise the traditional brew if elected president, as he feels people should be allowed to enjoy their favourite drinks. I would say this is a tragic manifesto by Odinga, and NASA by extension. For starters, Kenya is a country still struggling with alcoholism.
There were sighs of relief across the country when President Uhuru Kenyatta led a highly successful war against sale and consumption of illicit brews in 2015. The country was helplessly staring at a whole generation lost to chang’aa and other brews.
Zombies in the form of young men roamed our villages all day. And who can forget those dramatic dark days when a whole community would be thrown into mourning after losing dozens of members to the liquor.
While the cleanup campaign helped reverse this situation, we are not out of the woods yet. According to National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), over 6,000 people die annually from alcoholism while 2.5 million people require rehabilitation.
This partly explains why we need to join hands and eradicate such brews, as opposed to legalizing and promoting them. One young man excited by Raila’s populist promise pleaded with the NASA leadership via social media that they also consider legalizing bhang.
This is a key pointer to the fragile nature of the young generation upon which we are dangling these inebriating ideas. It is a generation that will hurtle to self-destruction once set on the wrong track.
Raila’s chang’aa manifesto thus raises fundamental questions, especially when coming from a national leader. Luckily, Kenyans have the power to kill such thoughts at infancy and save their souls when they go to vote on August 8. If anything, chang’aa in Canaan is not a funny idea. Or is it?