Gulu Launches Alcohol Control Ordinance

5912 Views Gulu, Uganda

In short
It stipulates that those seeking to sell alcoholic drinks in Gulu district must ensure that their places are located more than half a kilometre from education institutions. The others are all packaging must be in breakable bottles as opposed to polythene sachets, restricts the smallest quantity to 250 millilitres and establishes a district licensing committee to review licenses of operators amongst others.

The alcoholic control ordinance that Gulu district council passed in January this has formally been launched today.

The piece of legislation was passed to regulate the time bars open their doors to members of the public, packaging of alcoholic drinks and licensing of drinking places amongst others.

It stipulates that those seeking to sell alcoholic drinks in Gulu district must ensure that their places are located more than half a kilometre from education institutions. 

The others are all packaging must be in breakable bottles as opposed to polythene sachets, restricts the smallest quantity to 250 millilitres and establishes a district licensing committee to review licenses of operators amongst others.

Some of the affected brands include Adrikos Hunters Gin, Chief Waragi, Empire, Bond 7, Uganda Waragi, Kitoko amongst others. 

Simon Peter Oola, the district chairperson, says council seeks to make it expensive for the ordinary citizen to access and consume potent intoxicating alcoholic gins.

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Oola says Council will sit on Wednesday to formulate the district licensing committee that will review licenses of businesses dealing in alcoholic drinks. Uganda Radio Network understands that the district has given businesses a grace period ending December 6th to dispose of existing stock or transport them out of Gulu district.

Several civil society organisations have expressed firm support to the bye-law. World Vision Uganda Gulu cluster mobilised clients to join the procession of school students, district leaders and members of the clergy to popularise the ordinance.

Harriet Aloyo Nyeko, the Programme Manager World Vision Gulu, says cheap and poorly packaged alcoholic drinks have trapped many youth and husbands in vicious cycles of addiction and gender-based violence.

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Nyeko says alcohol is to blame for high illiteracy rates in post-conflict northern Uganda, high prevalence of gender-based violence and high crimes. She wants parents consuming alcohol to re-direct the resources spent on drinks to education of their children.

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A statement by Onapito Ekomolit, the Chairman of Uganda Alcohol Industry Association, says the association agrees with the objectives of the ordinance to protect people from excessive drinking, misleading alcohol advertising, prevent children under the age of 18 from accessing alcohol and prevent illegal trade in alcohol.

Onapito however says that "limiting drinking hours might in fact trigger negative rapid drinking to compensate for lost time while others will resort to underground drinking behind closed bar doors".

If the Gulu district Alcohol Control Ordinance is properly implemented, bars will open at 5pm and close by 1 am. The framers of the bye-law say this will allow ample time for rest for the next day's productive activity. Residents who have been taking part in the public launch of the ordinance have pledged full support to implementers of the law.

The clergy making up Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) have also hailed the new piece of legislation.

Bishop Johnson Gakumba, the bishop of Gulu Anglican diocese says religious leaders were prompted to collect more than 10,000 signatures to call for legal action against alcoholism in post-conflict northern Uganda. He urged producers to comply with the new law. 

Bishop Gakumba was one of the many religious leaders who joined hundreds of residents, Gulu district local government leaders, clients and members of the civil society organisations in a 2km march to popularise the ordinance through the streets of Gulu town. Others were Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu Archdiocese, and Sheikh Musa Khelil amongst others.

Wearing white, cream and black T-shirts bearing the national Coat of Arms alongside civil society logos, the marchers called for actions to rid the district of sachet waragi. Some of the writings they carried read, "Save Gulu from sachet alcohol, save the money to educate a child".

Others denounced sachet waragi in placards they carried bearing large writings "Alcohol Kills" and "Kick Sachet Waragi out of Gulu district" while women sang and danced to songs denouncing alcohol abuse in families.

In 2013, the US broadcaster CNN ranked Uganda the 8th in globally in alcohol consumption. 

The study titled 'World's 10 best-drinking nations' ranked Uganda ahead of Germany and Australia at positions 9 and 10, respectively.  The top ranked countries, according to the ranking, are United Kingdom who use bars to crack deals, initiate and end relationships, settle scores and overcome their "traditional reserve".

In East Africa, the Global Status on Alcohol and Health report 2014 indicates that 23.7 litres of pure alcohol is consumed per capita by drinkers annually in Uganda. Rwanda and Burundi follow with each registering 22.0 litres per capita per year.

According to the report, Ugandans consume the unregulated type of alcohol classified as "others".

 

About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.