Forced quarantine shone new light on me, confesses brewer

Thursday, June 4th, 2020 00:00 |
Benjamin Kipserem, 72, displays a bible he was given at the Kaplelach Mixed Secondary School isolation centre in Uasin Gishu after he renounced his illicit brew business. Photo/PD/JIMMY GITAKA

Winstone Chiseremi @Wchiseremi

As coronavirus pandemic continues to destabilise economies across the world, it has also given some people time to reflect on their lives and future.

This is the case for Benjamin Kipserem, 72, who has been earning a living by selling busaa and chang’aa brews for half a century in Uasin Gishu county.

A polygamous father of 17, Kipserem says he has never stepped into any house of worship since he married his two wives 51 years ago.

This revelation comes after he was placed in forced quarantine at Kaplelach Mixed Secondary School for flouting the Health ministry’s guidelines to curb the spread of the virus. It is at the quarantine centre that Kipserem says he saw the light.

The man, who has been behind the sale and supply of illegal brews for decades in the county and its neighbours has been on the police radar for a long time. He says he has been evading arrest by colluding with some officers, who he has been sharing his profits with.

A resident of Nyelilbei village in Soy constituency, Kipserem told People Daily, his luck ran out recently when police officers  and area residents recovered more than 700 litres of the brews from his house and another consignment hidden in a maize plantation.

Throng dens

He is now among 350 people who have been  forced into quarantine in the county.

The suspects, among them public servants, college students and drivers of public service vehicles, were arrested for not adhering to the Health ministry’s guidelines aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

“My business was booming for the period the government closed down all bars and clubs as revellers thronged my dens spread in four sub-counties to drink the illicit brews,” recalls Kipserem.

“I have escaped death several times after irate villagers raided my home and set it ablaze after their pleas to me to abandon the illegal trade fell on deaf ears,” he recounts.

Turn to God

He says when he shifted his base to Kiplombe area near Eldoret town, the same fate followed him there after members of Nyumba Kumi in collaboration with a local chief set his house on fire in an attempt to have him arrested.

“The mob thought I was in the house when they were setting it on fire at night not knowing that I had already fled for my safety after I was tipped off by one of my loyal customers about the impending attack,” he says.

However, Kipserem says he has turned over a new leaf after his experience at the isolation centre. He says the counselling sessions they have been receiving from various experts hired by the county government have helped him regain control of his life for better.

He says they have been taught how to be responsible and other values that will go a long way in ensuring that they contribute positively to the society after completing their quarantine period at the facility

“The most interesting programme is biblical teachings that we receive from religious leaders and evangelists that have made me to reform from my past and turn to God,” he says.

Kipserem has  pledged to join a church upon reuniting with his family and has vowed never to look back to his past illegal trade.

Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Abdirisack Jaldesa has said so far 150 people have been discharged from the facility after completing the 14-day quarantine period.

He said the suspects had been arrested for various offences that range from failure to maintain the recommended social distance, wearing of face masks, ignoring the dusk-to-dawn curfew order and avoiding public gatherings.

“It is unfortunate to note that a majority of the people especially in urban areas are only complying with the Ministry of Health’s public gathering and wearing of face masks directive when they see police to avoid arrest,” said Jaldesa.

According to the commissioner, the government has been footing the bills of all suspected persons quarantined for Covid-19 at various isolation centres in the county. 

He said they are following up on reformed alcohol and drug abuse addicts with a view to supporting them to start various income-generating projects such as poultry and dairy farming so that they do not relapse.

“The government has rolled out income generating programmes for reformed alcohol and drug abuse addicts so that they continue with their normal lives away from their past,” said Jaldesa.

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