‘Reggae’, ‘Tangatanga’ virus pots

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga interacts with his supports after arriving in Kisumu County for a delegates' conference on September 20, 2020.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The government cannot dare lift some of the restrictions.
  • On Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta made an extensive tour of development projects in Mombasa.

It’s great that the Covid-9 curve seems to be flattening. That, obviously, has influenced the government decision to have schools reopen from next month after they were forced to close in mid March.

Already, some of the stringent measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus have been progressively relaxed.

However, we are not out of the woods yet. Covid-19 has not been conquered. It is still a malevolent presence in our midst and could bounce back with vengeance if we foolishly stop observing the common-sense measures that keep it at bay.

Face masks, hand hygiene, avoiding crowded places and observation of social distance remains imperative if we are to protect ourselves from catching the virus and minimise the risk of infecting others. That is why, even as containment measures are relaxed, some necessary curbs to check infections must remain in place.

The government cannot dare lift some of the restrictions. Those functions and events allowed to resume are only those than can strictly adhere to restrictions on numbers and ensure observance of protocols on social distance and human contact.

Comply with guidelines

Our noisy, rowdy and ungovernable political rallies, processions and feasts obviously cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be expected to comply with the guidelines. Pick any newspaper over the past week and you will be forgiven for concluding that some absolute ruler has declared miraculous victory in the fight against corona — as has our neighbour, President Pombe Magufuli in Tanzania .

On Saturday, for instance, President Uhuru Kenyatta made an extensive tour of development projects in Mombasa. The dignitaries on the presidential entourage might have been safe in their supposedly secure antiseptic bubble but the teeming masses for whom there was no pretense at observing or enforcing health guidelines might as well have been immersed in a coronavirus Petri dish.

The same scenario applied the following day, when his deputy, Dr William Ruto, took his 2022 presidential campaign rally to Africa Inland Church, Ziwani, in Nairobi.

He then drove through the excited crowds in the populous Gikomba area and, from his car he couldn’t, like any politician, resist the hands thrust his way. The first bumps thrust the DP right in the middle of the coronavirus Petri  dish.

I fear for Dr Ruto. He didn’t have a mask over his mouth and nose and ignored the basic precaution against shaking hands. One might argue that a fist bump isn’t a handshake but it amounts to exactly the same thing as it involved a part of the hand that one will, unconsciously, wipe the mouth or face with.

Covid-9 precautions advise that if you must physically greet another, it should be with the elbows rather than fists, palms, the back of the hand, hugs or kisses. Or better still, just do the ‘namaste’.

We also witnessed Dr Ruto’s arch-rival, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, continue a series of engagements in Kisumu, meeting ODM party delegates a day after travelling from Bomet County, where he had attended a function hosted by Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion. Those were other coronavirus culture, placing at risk all present, from the gawkers to the high and mighty.

Former Vice-President Musalia Mudavadi wasn’t to be left out of the campaign roadshows. The Amani National Congress leader came visiting to affirm in Kajiado County that his 2022 presidential bid was still on. In the county famous for succulent goat, Mr Mudavadi engaged in the obligatory ‘meating’ amongst crowds that, as elsewhere, did little to conform to the personal hygiene guidelines designed to keep Madamme Corona in check. I hope he didn’t ingest more than the juicy roast ribs.

Building Bridges Initiative

Mr Odinga’s Building Bridges Initiative ‘Nobody can stop reggae’ campaigns are cranking up to resume at full throttle. Dr Ruto’s ‘Tangatanga’ presidential campaign events will be countering the BBI head-on. Mr Mudavadi and other declared and potential presidential candidates will not want to be buried in the dust.

The legal notices banning such public gatherings have not been repealed. Those public rallies are, therefore, illegal.

More than the illegality, it will be extremely irresponsible of the convenors, who know full well they immerse thousands of innocents in the coronavirus cooking pot.

Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai has been in criminal dereliction of duty for allowing these gatherings, and for exercising extremely partisan application of the law when deciding to disperse some of them. The IG must now rise to the occasion, assert his independence from political influence, and apply the law without fear or favour.

mgaitho@gaitho.co.ke www.gaitho.co.ke @MachariaGaitho