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Dear politicians, wake up and smell the coffee

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KWENDO OPANGA

By KWENDO OPANGA
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To those mad at Covid-19’s stoppage of Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) I say: wake up and smell the coffee. Kenya will never be the same. This Covid-19 crisis is the turning point.

Picture the disease as the burning house in the Igbo tale and BBI as the rat fleeing the inferno. Would you chase the rat in rage or rage at the fire? Kenya needs a new house.

It is, therefore, concerning that whereas President Uhuru Kenyatta has focused the government on containing Covid-19, politicians are peddling frivolity and toxicity.

It is disappointing that when businesses are shutting, livelihoods crumbling, unemployment rising, and the future looking bleak, some leaders want to rewind to the pre-Covid-19 status quo.

These must be emergency tasks going into post-lockdown: establish an economic recovery plan and fund, keep businesses and livelihoods afloat, and get Kenyans back to work, earn and spend.

Current politics should, therefore, be about into what (recovery), and how (rescue) Kenya will exit the curfew and lockdowns. If phased out, what businesses or regions will be front and centre or first and last?

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Politics should be about credit for improving rural and urban household incomes for the poor and the revival and quick take-off for small and agri businesses. These must start immediately to sustain belief in rebirth.

The politics of economic recovery and rescue fund will bring the Central Bank, banks and the Industrial and Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC), for example, into the fray.

CBK will make credit available, banks tackle disbursement and ICDC handle identification, qualification and execution of business plans vis-à-vis the recovery effort.

Politics, therefore, needs a change of direction going into post-lockdown. It cannot be about unity and referendums. Kenyans are united in their determination to overcome Covid-19 and the conviction to forge ahead.

They have rallied around the government to steady the good ship, steer through the pandemic and guide Kenya yonder into berths of economic rebirth and growth.

The politics cannot be about turbulence because there is none. Risk, however, looms large because threats of bankruptcies and business closures, as well as job and asset losses, are a powerful instigator of populism.

On current evidence, while the Cabinet is attuned to play, not so the politicians. So the governing Jubilee Party would trigger a civil war that sets President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto on a collision course.

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Then Mr Raila Odinga, the Orange Democratic Movement party leader, would plant himself at the centre of the feud. He said in an interview that the fight in Jubilee arose from opposition to his détente with the president.

In the ensuing politics of personalities and clashes of egos, supremacy duels and exchange of insults, motley crews came out of the woodwork to fight in the president’s or deputy president’s corner despite a national crisis.

Enter the VIPs. They brazenly rub salt in the wounds of Kenyans who cannot access their Kajiado or Nairobi homes because they were caught in either county by the city lockdown.

MPs James Orengo and Junet Mohamed, and former MPs Eugene Wamalwa (Agriculture minister), David Murathe (the president’s pal), and Mr Odinga (the president’s confidant), flout the lockdown.

They travel to rendezvous with organised labour boss Francis Atwoli at his Kajiado County residence.

They delivered no essential services that Easter Monday. They just plain broke the rule most Kenyans are living by.

During crises, Kenyans expect solidarity from their leaders. In these unprecedented peacetime curfew and shutdowns, politics should front discourse on economic renewal.

But Jubilee has spectacularly failed this test. It is mired in unending infighting. And by seeking ownership of the chaos in Jubilee, Mr Odinga confirmed the disorientation in non-government parties and political arena.

Is there hope? Yes. One, President Kenyatta and Cabinet have focused the government and Kenyans on containing Covid-19. They just need support in rallying public resilience and confidence to spur speedy recovery.

Two, the president, the government and people have left politicians behind. The president should embrace political distancing because it affords him space to consider, inter alia, Covid-19 as a driver of his legacy.

Mild malady made monster?

Plain-spoken surgeon and urologist Samson Misango says Covid-19 is a mild infection most “will recover from without anything to talk about”.

But, like HIV-Aids before it, it has been stigmatised to “fulfil some donor requirements” and trigger “draconian” State intervention. Come in, Kenya Medical Association. Weigh in.





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