Leaders must lead by example

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), Deputy President William Ruto (left) and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the Bomas of Kenya during the launch of the BBI report.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The world is confronting a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths
  • All signs are that we are well into the second wave of the pandemic.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was an unhappy man when he gave his 13th national address on Covid-19. The wanton irresponsibility by leaders as the world grapples with one of the world’s worst outbreaks in a century.

They were and are still behaving as if life had gone back to normal. Their behaviour is increasingly at odds with what one would expect of a leader in such times — gallivanting in total disregard of the health protocols. Then, in their political rallies, as now in their scaled-down gatherings, thousands of Kenyans were exposed to the coronavirus. These gatherings are fanning the monster.

 “We have failed Kenyans as leaders, the President retorted as he railed at leaders for their double speak — often going against the grain. They were a let-down and the weakest link in the fight against Covid-19. His Seventh State of the Nation address was again directed at leaders to lead the way in combating the pandemic.

The world is confronting a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths. Countries are struggling with their most widespread wave of infections yet. Those in Europe, as the Americas, are witnessing sharp spikes in infections. They have reinstated lockdowns while others, mostly in Africa, Kenya included, are delicately balancing their acts — saving lives and livelihoods. Recovery for most sectors from the free-fall triggered by the pandemic will be long-lasting.

 Second wave

All signs are that we are well into the second wave of the pandemic. In England, a recent study shows almost 100,000 people catch the virus everyday, prompting the government to impose restrictions such as closure of bars, restaurants and other social places.

Experts have warned of alarming infection rates, especially in Europe. This monster that is ravaging lives and livelihoods in more than 217 countries and territories worldwide has claimed over 1.3 million lives with over 56 million infected.

Kenya has more than 72,000 infections. Of those, we have lost over 1,300 lives. Some countries have been hit harder than others. Every other country is trying whatever mix of containment measures is available.

Kenya is witnessing a sharp spike of cases and deaths. Healthcare workers have borne the brunt of the virus. We are among 11 African countries said to have spiralling numbers of new cases in the past weeks.

This is unlike the figures being bandied around by our neighbours showing new cases as lower and staying low.

There are signs of pandemic fatigue with people going about their daily lives as before. We have lowered our guard — no masks, plenty of hugs and handshakes, no washing hands or sanitising. We are flirting with a deadly enemy.

Before the President banned public rallies, these gatherings (they continue, though) were fertile grounds for super spreaders. Then, as now, it is causing alarm to health officials and fear of overstretched medical facilities.

At the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, the President called out the pretence that shadows the political leadership. Whereas he was referring to leaders perpetuating tribalism while posturing as national figures, it summed up what ails our collective national conscience. It surmised the leadership morass afflicting us. They have a profound impact on the Covid-19 situation.

Unfortunately, there is a wide gulf between what they say and what they mean. The political class has become impervious to reasoning; through their rallies, they continue to pursue selfish political interests in the disguise that they are advancing priorities for the hoi polloi. They are the worst violators of the safety protocols.

New restrictions

The leaders have joined their counterparts elsewhere, like in Brazil and Nicaragua, who have been blunt and blatant in discouraging their compatriots from following the pandemic response measures.

US President-elect Joe Biden was appalled as the outgoing President Donald Trump and his advisers attacked leaders of states that have imposed new restrictions to contain increasing cases. “What the hell’s the matter with these guys?” he said. “It’s totally irresponsible.”

Going by the impact of the first wave on lives and livelihoods, we cannot afford fresh seal-offs and lockdowns.

We may resent the curfews, early closing times for bars and restaurants and other restrictions but the difference between destruction and development will be determined by how responsible we are — starting at the individual level.

We risk being overwhelmed by overstretched health facilities, a deadlier hit on the economy and unprecedented loss of lives and livelihoods.

Most importantly, our leaders could do with a dose of measured reflection and lead by example — lest they become authors of despair, desperation and death.

normanmudibo7@gmail.com. @normanmudibo

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