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Untouchables: Kenyan politicians at it again breaking Covid-19 protocols

POLITICS
By Josphat Thiong’o | July 6th 2021
ODM Leader Raila Odinga concluded his two day tour of Taita Taveta County by addressing a rally in Voi Town where the residents stated emphatically in unison that they support BBI on March 02, 2021. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

Despite tough Covid-19 protocols in place for the past one year, the top political brass has continuously flouted the same leaving a trail of infections and deaths. 

From President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto to opposition leader Raila Odinga and their cronies, the apex leadership continues defying the same protocols that they seek to enforce and use to reprimand those of “lesser” standing in society.

This past weekend saw a flurry of political events as respective leaders toured different counties - some to launch projects and others to popularise their stab at the presidency, attracting mammoth crowds and potentially a stream of Covid-19 infections.

Noteworthy is the fact that with only approximately one million Kenyans being vaccinated, the remaining 53 million is vulnerable to contracting the novel disease.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga was on Sunday at the Coast holding a series of meetings with politicians as he sought to consolidate his grip of the region and wade off DP Ruto’s forays.

Raila met politicians from Mombasa, Kilifi and Taita Taveta at his Nyali residence. A day before, Raila was at the Treasury Square in Mvita constituency to launch the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) medical cover for the constituency.

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi on Saturday embarked on his two-day tour of Nakuru County, which began with a courtesy call on Governor Lee Kinyanjui. He then toured Nakuru town accompanied by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja among other leaders where they interacted with a huge crowd.

On Sunday, the former deputy PM was expected to attend two church services starting at NEEMA PCEA 8:30am and at St Peters Catholic Church, Lanet. He was then to meet representatives from communities in the cosmopolitan county.

The tour was barely three weeks after Mudavadi concluded another in Mombasa where he held meetings with various local leaders and residents, drumming up support for his 2022 presidential bid.

The Deputy President was also in action where he attended PCEA church service in Umoja, and a fundraiser for the construction of a youth church.

The second in command later addressed a public gathering in Umoja. Ruto has also been hosting delegations at his Karen home and meeting different women and youth groups.

Moreover, the western region- which is under intense lockdown- is currently reeling from a surge in coronavirus infections after the Madaraka day celebrations in Kisumu.

Even prior to the June 1 fete, coronavirus infections were spiking, hospital isolation units were filling up and the highly contagious Delta variant had been found in Kenya for the first time in Kisumu County.

On the day of the celebrations, attaining the social distancing measure was a nightmare due to the high number of people at the Jomo Kenyatta International sports complex.

It had earlier been estimated that only 3,000 invited guests would access the complex but on the D-day, all the 17 spectator stands erected around the stadium were full to capacity.

The consequences are now reverberating across the region as evidenced by the latest Covid-19 statistics which indicate an alarming surge in infections and deaths.

To counter the ongoing crisis in the region, the Ministry of Health imposed a restriction on gatherings and extended a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Kisumu and more than a dozen surrounding counties but it just might have been too late.

By-election campaigns such as those currently ongoing in Muguga ward and Kiambaa constituency are also to blame for the spread of the Covid-19.

In the by-election scheduled for July 15, top contenders - Jubilee’s Kariri Njama and his UDA competitor Njuguna Wanjiku - have intensified their campaigns. They have resorted to measures such as door to door campaigns, roadshows and even gatherings.

Health CS Mutahi Kagwe however in a subtle way defended the politicians, saying they only stop to address gatherings at the behest of the public.

“The truth is that when politicians including the President go round the country for instance, launching projects, what naturally happens is that people crowd to see them,” said Kagwe during an earlier interview with The Standard.

While admitting that it is the task of the police to deal with violators of the Covid-19 protocols, he called on Kenyans to avoid political gatherings.

“Social responsibility requires that one should not be at a political gathering when you know you should not be at one. If we all stopped going for political rallies they would stop. If we go crowding in places for whatever reason we are going to get increases in cases,” he added.

Interfaith Council chairman Anthony Muheria asked political leaders to be concerned with the increasing cases in western region.

“Sometimes we have to do unreasonable things. We must be concerned as Kenyans and sacrifice some things for our survival,” Muheria said.

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