Former MP Mbonimana Pioneers “Sober Club” to Combat Alcoholism

Gamariel Mbonimana, a former Member of Parliament who resigned in November 2022 due to drunk-driving incidents, has unveiled plans to launch a groundbreaking initiative called the “Sober Club.” Aimed at aiding those seeking to overcome alcohol addiction or adopt moderate drinking habits, Mbonimana shares his personal journey of triumph over alcohol-related struggles as inspiration for others.

At the age of 43, Mbonimana decided to relinquish alcohol after grappling with its challenges. Now, driven by a commitment to combat alcoholism in the country, he is fervently working towards the establishment of the Sober Club, emphasizing that its commencement is contingent upon securing adequate funds.

In an exclusive interview with The New Times, Mbonimana stated, “I am actively working on securing funds for the club’s initiation.” He underlined that the club would be an inclusive space, welcoming individuals ranging from victims of alcoholism to those who consume alcohol moderately.

The Sober Club’s primary focus will be on educating people about the process of quitting alcohol or embracing responsible drinking habits. Mbonimana envisions incorporating mental health practitioners into the initiative, ensuring that attendees have access to professional guidance during the club’s gatherings.

Mental and behavioral disorders stemming from alcohol use have been a significant concern in Rwanda. According to the 2021/2022 annual report from Ndera Neuropsychiatric Teaching Hospital, alcohol-related cases contributed to a substantial portion of the total cases addressed in the psychiatric department. A survey by the Rwanda Biomedical Centre also revealed a concerning increase in alcohol consumption from 41% in 2013 to 48% in 2022.

Health minister Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana stressed the urgency of reversing this trend, cautioning against excessive alcohol intake and its association with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), including specific types of cancer.

If successfully launched, Mbonimana’s Sober Club would join the efforts of existing initiatives in Rwanda, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The country currently has one AA club, established in 2008, which employs a twelve-step program to facilitate abstinence-based recovery from alcoholism.

Dr. Jean Pierre Gafaranga, a psychiatrist and academician, emphasized the potential for collaboration between individuals seeking to overcome alcoholism and mental health professionals. He also highlighted the positive impact of AA clubs in supporting people on their journey to recovery.

In addition to his efforts with the Sober Club, Mbonimana recently authored a book on sobriety. Released on November 12, the book recounts his personal struggles with alcoholism, including financial hardships that led to the sale of property to avoid foreclosure on his house. Through both the Sober Club and his written work, Mbonimana aims to inspire and assist others in their journey towards a sober and healthier life.