The deadly tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, killing up to 20,000 people, appeared to have cemented belief among scientists that unusual animal behaviours (UABs) can be used to predict earthquakes.
A study found owners of pets and dairy cows observed UABs days or hours before the earthquake.
Milk yields at a dairy facility 340 km from the epicentre decreased significantly a week to the earthquake. Within 24 hours of the earthquake, dogs barked loudly, looked frightened or bit their owners while cats hid, became restless, meowed pathetically, took the kittens outside, climbed tall trees or simply disappeared.
The simple explanation for this is that these animals were able to sense the earth’s vibrations or the quake’s foreshocks much better than humans.
For some reason, this Japanese tsunami story keeps popping up in my mind every time I try to explain the behaviour of Kenyan politicians whenever a general election is approaching.
Although politics tends to be fluid and the past three presidential contests have gone down to the wire, you can tell the direction the wind is blowing at a particular time in a particular area by watching the steps or reading the lips of individual politicians.
Like the Japanese animals and their ‘Sixth Sense’, the politicians here react rather frantically to any perceived threats to their personal political careers.
With less than two years to the elections, they will be sniffing around or having their ears on the ground for any signs of danger. None will want to wait to be swept away by a political wave.
I believe this was the message Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata meant to send in his leaked letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta recently. The letter purported to warn the President about the unpopularity of the BBI referendum in Mt Kenya region, which is fairly obvious.
But reports indicate Mr Kang’ata, who has ambitions to be the next Murang’a governor, is actually apprehensive about his own political survival in light of a wave of pro-William Ruto sentiment gathering in Mt Kenya. What he appears to lack is the courage and honesty of his Senate colleague Isaac Mwaura, who, upon jumping ship to the Ruto camp recently, admitted it was all about personal political survival.
Sometimes they react prematurely to perceived signals of political waves and their moves may be misleading, as Malava MP Mululu Injendi demonstrated last month.
But if President Kenyatta is to rescue BBI in Mt Kenya, he needs to take the concerns raised by the likes of Mr Kang’ata and Mr Mwaura seriously.
The tragedy about the pre-tsunami UABs in Japan was that people largely ignored them. In a rare positive story, the yelping and whimpering of a dog alerted a relative to the distress of a family trapped inside their house, leading to their rescue.