The spiraling spread of Covid-19 in Kenya which began gradually after the first positive case was confirmed on March 13, 2020 according to media reports, is blamed on politics and politicians.
Kenya’s political arena is characterized by continuous politicking from one general election to another; when politics took centre stage and politicians began visiting their electorates, they attracted large crowds which become breeding grounds for the deadly viral disease which has currently killed more than 1,700 patients with over 100,000 getting infected.
The Covid-19 global pandemic arrived in Kenya at a critical moment when the country was in the middle of campaign rallies for a controversial constitutional referendum popularly known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) which was supported by president Uhuru Kenyatta and his ‘Handshake’ partner and former Premier Raila Odinga.
Politicians opposed to president Kenyatta’s administration started poking holes into Covid-19 statistics by spreading propaganda that the government was exaggerating Covid-19 figures so that they attract global funding for their selfish gains which include sourcing money to fund the BBI campaigns.
The propaganda sunk well into the minds of their supporters across the country and they began to ignore laid down health protocols barring them from attending public rallies and other public gatherings and this contributed the spread.
In May 2020, the health Chief Administrative Secretary Dr Rashid Aman during a weekly press conference confessed that they had no control over politicians who flout Covid-19 rules saying their actions incited the public to ignore the health protocols.
Politicizing of Covid-19 also caused a section of Kenyans not to cooperate in the fight against the spread of the pandemic.
On May 29, 2020 some 140 people, who may have been influenced by the negative talks over Covid-19 by a section of politicians, gave wrong contact information and thus spreading the virus across their various parts of the country.
A section of politicians in some parts of Kenya especially members of Baringo County Assembly were opposed to establishment of isolation facilities and quarantine centres in certain parts due to their own selfish reasons and their actions frustrated the fight against the viral disease.
Kenya was the first country in the world to impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew which paralyzed many activities in many sectors but when politicians began to politic against Covid-19 they influenced their electorates who began to ignore the containment measures thereby increasing its spread.
A section of politicians also interfered with enforcement of the night curfew and combined forces of health and National Police Service officials who were in charge got intimidated and could not do their work effectively thereby contributing to spread in a way.
Several containment measures especially ban on political rallies and public gatherings meant to control the spread of Covid-19 paralyzed the constitutional making process because their public meetings had to be cancelled.
During those moments when Kenyans were barred from public meetings and with the introduction of dusk-to-dawn curfew on March 25, 2020 as a way of controlling spread of Covid-19, some politicians became creative and secretly advanced their political agenda in the guise of giving donations to vulnerable groups.
The food donations from the politicians was also another reason for spread of Covid-19 because people tend to crowd and sometimes scramble for the goodies as was witnessed in some parts of Nairobi especially informal settlements like Kibera.
The government had to change the manner of distributing food and non-food donations including facemasks to needy Kenyans and this is whereby all donors including the politicians were asked to channel their contributions through administrative officers who include County Commissioners.
The government also began sending cash money through mobile money transfer services whereby vulnerable groups of Kenyans got the Covid-19 funds directly and that step minimized meetings with their political leaders which were blamed for spread of the virus.
Back to BBI: For obvious reasons, its opponents led by deputy president Dr William Ruto were much elated when the National Emergency Response Committee on coronavirus announced the ban on public gatherings and political rallies, a move which stopped the campaigns prematurely.
At the peak of the BBI rallies, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga had used the song “Nobody Can Stop Reggae” by the late South Africa’s musician Lucky Dube as the theme song during the rallies but when the campaigns were suspended due to ban on political rallies, pro-BBI politicians were heavily ridiculed by politicians opposed to the proposed constitutional referendum.
Politicians supporting BBI started using funeral, wedding and engagement ceremonies to advance their political agenda about the constitutional referendum but a further restriction on number of people attending such events became an impediment to them.
The spread of Covid-19 dropped from then because there was no more sharing of equipment like microphones which were much used without being sanitized during such public events.
Besides the ban on public gatherings and political rallies, politicians were restrained from moving from one corner of the country to another due to other containment measures including suspension of local and international flights, partial lockdowns in Mombasa, Nairobi, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera counties which were considered as Covid-19 hot spots.
Politicians fond of using helicopters to crisscross the country advancing their political agendas during the eve of Covid-19 were a disadvantaged lot as they were forced to stay at home.
On September 27, 2020 when President Kenyatta announced relaxation of some of the Covid-19 containment measures after flattening of the infection curve, the BBI proponents diverted from using rallies and utilized church and other activities like weddings to popularize the document.
Despite relaxation of some of the Covid-19 rules, the ban on political rallies and public gatherings was still on but supporters of BBI were seen going round the country conducting their meetings, a move which angered politicians opposed to it.
Some of the politicians opposing BBI began to popularize a propaganda that Covid-19 was not there in Kenya saying it was just a gimmick to muzzle them from speaking against the impending constitutional amendment process and also to gag them from speaking over the 2022 general elections.
When the political temperature shot up politicians opposed to BBI stopped being quiet and began touring various parts of the country to counter their rivals and during such meetings, huge number of people usually turn up and that resulted to increase in Covid-19 spread and pushing up of positivity rate from four percent in September up to 16 percent in October.
Health Cabinet Secretary (CS) Mutahi Kagwe was not happy with the manner in which politicians conducted the BBI awareness campaigns because it resulted to high violation of Covid-19 rules especially social distancing and mandatory wearing of facemasks which was a non-issue to people attending the highly polarized political rallies.
The Health CS has been talking tough about Covid-19 but Kenyans took his warning for a ride and at one moment he said; “if we continue to behave normally, this disease will treat us abnormally.”
Some politicians instead of lauding CS Kagwe for efforts by his ministry to fight against the global pandemic, began sabotaging his work by spreading rumors that he embezzled the Covid-19 funds which resulted to creation of what they called Covid millionaires.
Of all the 47 counties in Kenya, Baringo was among the last three to record positive cases of Covid-19 but with actions by politicians that include a big demonstrations they organized in Kabarnet town, the virus slowly crept into all the seven sub-counties.