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Fellow Kenyans, we need not be this hard-headed

By Julie Masiga | April 19th 2021

Implementation is always a problem in these parts. That, plus the common sense to follow rules. If there’s a ‘panya route’ somewhere, anywhere, a Kenyan will find it. And exploit it. That’s how motorists got caught up on Thika Road last Saturday night.

The curfew rules are very clear. Unless you’re an essential worker you need to be off the road by 8pm. That’s it. There’s nothing that needs to be interpreted or analysed. Just let 8pm find you in the house. But because the cops were not enforcing the rule consistently, folks decided to contort it into a pretzel.

Which is typical of us. If there’s no supervision, things don’t work. People feel emboldened to run around like free range chicken, poking holes in the law and then wiggling through. Even then, it’s only ever a matter of time before our parental authority decides that the children are running riot, and that’s when they send in the troops.

That’s what happened on Saturday night. The government was putting its foot down and it worked. One bad night was all it took to put an end to the party. It’s a peculiar dance that all Kenyans are familiar with: That two-step between rule makers and rule breakers. And it’s also a sure sign of the dysfunctional relationship we have with our authorities.

Put aside just for one moment, all the glaring inadequacies of the current government, and let’s agree on one thing. Kenyans don’t listen. We’re a hard-headed community who would rather live with the discomfort of constant supervision than the freedom that comes with doing the right thing. Which, on a normal day, wouldn’t be so bad. But in a pandemic? It’s ridiculous.

Even the government is not that ridiculous. All these restrictions that we feel are interfering with our right to a good time? They’re actually for our own good. And don’t come at me talking about political rallies and super-spreader events. Things like political rallies are outside our sphere of influence.

Unless you were among the fellow Kenyans who attended them, probably hoping to catch a few bobs in these hard times, the only choice you could make was to stay home. And if you did stay home, congratulations. You did the right thing. But that’s the only choice that was open to you.

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That’s the thing with this new coronavirus. Protection starts with you (security is a rant for another day). Your first and the best defence is to follow the protocols that the government has so graciously provided, because you know for sure that it’s not going to do much else. Forget about what the higher-ups are doing, think about yourself. Your family. The people you love. Do what you can with what you have to protect that bubble.

Be an active citizen. Active citizens don’t think of government as a high school principal wielding a big stick. They understand that citizenship is a give and take. A collaboration between those who make the rules and those who follow them. An understanding that countries only function if both sides work together.

It’s about participation in the governance project. Now, I know that our government rarely gives us a good reason to cooperate. But in this particular season, cooperation benefits the people. Cooperation saves lives. Let’s do that first.

Let’s focus on us and what we need to do to survive and stay healthy. After that, and it won’t be a long time coming, we can have a reckoning.

-Ms Masiga is Peace and Security editor, The Conversation

Covid 19 Time Series


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