The month of July has seen the highest number of confirmed positive Covid-19 cases and fatalities, painting a grim picture of the weeks to come as August and September are expected to mark the peak of the disease in Kenya. There currently is no light at the end of the tunnel, however long it may be. The country went from panic shopping for toilet paper and sanitizer, making memes from the press briefings, readjusting to the rules and regulations, processing deaths and night-time burials, dealing with police brutality and finally seeming unfazed by the growing number of cases and deaths.
How has the government responded to this? More stringent measures and unsurprisingly, more threats. Just two days ago, President Uhuru Kenyatta extended the nationwide curfew and ordered that all bars be closed for the next 30 days failure to which licenses would be withdrawn. This came on the backdrop of several Kenyans including elected officials being caught on the wrong side of the law, all in a bid to enjoy a drink. These actions have most definitely been condemned by the Ministry of Health officials and Members of Parliament that warned that the recklessness being displayed was bound to lead to even more infections. Which is true seeing considering most would ignore social distancing in those social settings.
The point being driven home by leadership is that to truly succeed in flattening the curve, we the citizens have to seriously embark on preventive measures. The challenge with this approach is that it is largely dependent on social behavioural change and spares the leadership from looking inward. Talk of the government scapegoating!
It would be unfair to place all the blame on Kenyans only. The social behaviour of Kenyans pales to the gaps and failures of the leadership in fighting the virus and its impact on all aspects of life. It is a fact that the virus originated from Wuhan, China. However, what led us to this point of thousands of ill Kenyans, a dying economy, halting of learning and general uncertainty? It is important for the government to self-evaluate and look at the opportunities they missed out on, past and present, that would not only prevent the virus from getting into the country but make it manageable.
“The Jubilee government has already delivered improved security, economic stability, jobs, expanded access to affordable health care and modernised public services. We must now redouble our efforts to build upon the foundations of success. The task is not yet complete. The work must continue and should not be derailed,” reads an excerpt of the first page of the Jubilee Party 2017 manifesto.
Had this vision been brought to life we wouldn’t be reporting thousands of positive Covid-19 cases and burying tens of Kenyans. Thanks to leaders’ incompetency, mass looting of public funds and poor accountability Kenya and her leadership is clutching onto straws to not only save lives but save face. Had the laptop project been implemented in full, thousands of learners would still be in a position to stay on track with the school year.
The Managed Medical Equipment System project, currently marred with irregularities, was an opportune moment for counties to enhance their health care services with more equipped facilities. But the multibillion project from the onset was bound to be surrounded by controversy given the way it was undertaken. There was little consultation with local leadership and the deals made were the least bit transparent. On top of this, different media reports have revealed that few counties are prepared to deal with the virus. In essence, devolution was meant to solve issues of county capacity but challenges that range from corruption to power struggles between the national government and county governments have stopped counties from realizing their full potential.
So it is hypocritical for the government to constantly call out Kenyans on derailing the fight against the virus as if their actions or lack thereof have not greatly contributed to the prevailing circumstances. It is then prudent for current and future leadership to realize that service delivery is a bare minimum that not only serves Kenyans on normal days but also prepares and cushions the country for such eventualities.
So when the leadership points a finger at Kenyans they should remember that three fingers point back at them.