In March, President Kenyatta imposed new rules to curb the spread of Covid-19 infections and, among them, outlawed political rallies and meetings. However, what we have seen in recent times is worrying. Politicians have persistently defied the directive as they convene meetings and attract large crowds that create a fertile ground for the spread of the virus.
Two scenarios have been playing out. One, President Kenyatta and his “Handshake” partner, ODM Party Leader Raila Odinga, have been holding public meetings attended by huge numbers of supporters without a care about the restrictions. The recent case was in Kisumu last week.
Two, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), which is associated with Deputy President William Ruto, has similarly been making attempts at holding meetings but have been violently repulsed by police officers as they violate Covid-19 restrictions. Which is justifiable. Even so, police must refrain from use of force.
However, the broader picture is that the Deputy President’s meetings are being stopped because of politics. It’s a ploy to stop the camp from campaigning while others are doing so.
In principle, no politician should be allowed to hold a public meeting — irrespective of his or her alignment. So, the Ruto camp should not whine about rallies being disrupted. However, it is not right to stop one group but allow the other to continue its campaigns. This is selective application of the law, which is counter-productive. It easily earns the victim sympathy and is detrimental to the administration.
This practice was rampant under the Kanu regime, which perfected the art of stifling the Opposition. But that era ended and, today, everybody is free to criss-cross the country to campaign for his or her party of choice.
At this point in time, however, all politicians should stop those rallies and obey the pandemic mitigation measures. We must avoid a situation whereby the law is applied to one group while the other is left to do whatever it likes.