While the pomp and cheer around festive holidays have significantly fizzled out over the years, the ushering of 2021, will so far, go down as the least eventful. The nationwide curfew, for one, restricted night movement confining Kenyans in their homes. Secondly, a majority of city dwellers opted to skip the annual exodus to their rural homes owing to the steep fares by long-distance buses that were trying to break even considering the massive losses they incurred for the most part in 2020.
Indeed the unprecedented times didn’t spare the holiday cheer. The pandemic not only robbed people of their little joys such as gathering and feasting with their loved ones but widened the rift between the rich and poor. Basic needs such as education and health proved to be a luxury for a majority of Kenyans who had to make drastic adjustments to their daily lives to make ends meet.
In the new year spirit of reflection and setting of new goals for the incoming twelve months, many fear that 2021 may just be as rough as 2020. Firstly, the government revised the tax preventive measures meant to cushion the economically vulnerable. Secondly, all learners across the nation are resuming school for the first time since March last year. This again puts a lot of households in a tight spot to ensure they raise the necessary funds to purchase ordinary school items and additional things for their children’s’ protection against the virus, such as masks and sanitiser.
While all these are attempts at resuming normalcy, there seems to be a breakdown in the communication between the citizenry and their representatives. Lately, the cabinet has taken on a rather abrasive approach. Cabinet secretaries have been issuing directives that have a great mismatch with reality. The Swahili phrase “vitu kwa ground ni different” loosely translated to the “situation on the ground is different” is an apt description of the Kenyans’ reality. Constitutionally, citizens have a right to make their views known on any legislative and policy proposals as enshrined on Article 118. But the feeling generally has been that public views are not considered in the decision-making process. We now find ourselves in an awkward position where leaders seem to be stamping their authority and the result of this has been a lot of public criticism.
Leaders now have to rise to the occasion and listen to Kenyans to avoid missed opportunities. To achieve an inclusive nation, there needs to be a deliberate effort in addressing the gaps that were exposed on the onset of the pandemic. Unprecedented times call for different approaches. They call for leaders to abandon boardroom ideas and instead face issues having the common mwananchis interests in mind. On top of that, it’s not enough to copy what other countries are doing because each country is experiencing the pandemic differently depending on their levels of development. Communication ought to be top-down and requires empathy, patience and consideration of the other party in order to achieve impact. Hopefully, in 2021, Kenyan leaders will embrace this more to achieve efficient service delivery.