Alcohol Bill: Stakeholders in Kampala propose harsher restrictions

KAMPALA-Stakeholders have proposed tougher restrictions to regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol in the country with a fine of Shs 20 milliom or spending 10 years in prison proposed in the bill for a person who is convicted of selling alcohol outside the stipulated time.

This was during the stakeholders meeting organised by the Parliamentary Department of Legislative and Procedural Services regarding the proposed Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill on Tuesday.

The bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, importation, sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks and also provide for the licensing of persons trading in alcoholic drinks and premises.

The bill also seeks to prohibit the sale of alcohol to specified persons and regulate the promotion and advertisement of alcoholic drinks.

Tororo district Woman MP Sarah Opendi (R) wants alcohol consumption in Uganda regulated (Courtesy)

Whereas clause 12 of the proposed bill seeks to regulate the time of sale of alcohol from noon to 6.00 am, stakeholders think this proposed timeline is ‘good for nothing’ in terms of regulating the consumption of alcohol.

“There are mandatory duties that we need to perform as parents. Therefore, 12.00 pm to 6.00 am is not good enough to consume alcohol. I am proposing that the time for alcohol consumption should be from 4.00 pm to 10.00 pm because at this time some of the working class would have left their workstations,” Pastor Julius Oyet said.

Pastor Joseph Sserwadda of Victory Christian Church Ministries thinks alcohol should not be sold or consumed beyond midnight.
“Let us set the time of sale of alcohol from at least 4.00 pm and close by midnight. I believe that if somebody has taken a little alcohol just to make them happy and by midnight they go to bed, then they can wake up by 5.00 am or 6.00 am to get ready for office the next day,” he said.

Pastor Joseph Sserwadda (with IPAD) attended the stakeholders’ meeting in Kampala (Courtesy photo).

Isharaza Mwebaze, the Chairperson of Addiction, Prevention and Rehabilitation Association of Uganda suggested that the time of sale of alcohol should be restricted to 4.00 pm onwards to restrict underage drinkers.
“Most of the addicts started using these substances as underage drinkers and this usually happens during working hours. Therefore,  drinking hours should be adjusted to 4.00 pm onwards when parents are back home and are able to regulate these children,” Mwebaze said.

Dr Hafisa Kasule from World Health Organisation [WHO] advised Parliament to consider benchmarking in Kenya which recently passed the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act that prohibits the sale of alcohol in bars before 2.00 pm on weekends and 5.00 pm on weekdays. She also proposed a new clause to regulate volumes of alcohol consumed.

On November 8, 2022, Tororo District Woman Representative, Sarah Opendi, was granted leave to introduce a private member’s bill.

MP Opendi has since embarked on drafting the bill which she hopes to table for first reading by end of February or early March 2023.

She also allayed the fears of the public that the bill intends to stop the consumption of alcohol.
“The bill does not stop the consumption of alcohol because we do not have the capacity to do that. We want to come up with a bill that is comprehensive enough to deal with the challenges that have been with us for a long time,” she said.

The bill also proposes to prohibit the sale of alcohol in passenger service vehicles as a measure to curb road accidents.

Further, the bill proposes a fine of Shs 4 million and imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both, for any person found culpable.

The Private Member’s Bill seeks to repeal the current legislation that includes, the Liquor Act, the Portable Spirit Act, and the Enguli [Manufacturing and Licensing] Act, all enacted in the 1960s which have become obsolete to address contemporary challenges of excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks.

Opendi is concerned that the harmful use of alcoholic drinks causes a high burden of disease and has significant social and economic consequences like domestic violence that often results in harm to people.

In 2019, the Ministry of Health formulated the National Alcohol Control Policy that guides stakeholders’ actions by all relevant stakeholders to reduce the harmful use of alcohol but the policy has not been well considered and implemented.

Notably, the WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health of 2018 ranked Uganda among the top alcohol per capita consuming countries in Africa.

Uganda was also ranked the leading per capita consumer in East Africa.

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