Covid-19 crisis calls for bipartisan approach

Monday, April 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe addresses the press at Afya House yesterday. He announced a fourth case of coronavirus. Photo/PD/John Ochieng

Opiyo Wandayi

Kenya, like the rest of the world, is facing an existential threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This disease has brought with it unprecedented social and economic upheaval in Kenya with the many people forced to retreat to the supposed safety of their homes.

There are over 120 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Kenya and still counting. The government has, so far, been relatively proactive in responding to the crisis.

It has established a code of conduct for citizens geared towards checking the spread of the virus. 

The directives by the government can be classified largely into two categories: Those that define human interactions and the desired behaviour and those that require legislative approvals to win the war on corona.

Under the human interactions guidelines, citizens have been advised to observe social distancing, wash hands regularly with soap, use sanitizer, avoid crowds and stay at home.

Secondly, the government has come up with a raft of legislative proposals touching on taxation that are aimed at making life bearable especially for low-income earners. 

For the government initiatives to bear fruit, there is a need for mutual collaboration between the Executive and the political class.

Our social structure is made up of elected leaders of different cadres and societal or community leaders who are equally important in their spheres of influence.

We must tap into this array of leadership resources to communicate the correct message to the people about the Covid-19 phenomenon and what it portends for all of us.

Patriotism dictates that all political leaders, irrespective of political persuasion, should close ranks and face this calamity with a singular purpose.

This is not the time to score cheap political points. It is the inherent duty of every leader to promote public interest.

And there can be no greater public interest at present than defeating the Covid-19 threat.

How then can our leaders help the government in dealing with the Corona pandemic? Since the management of Covid-19 requires that we limit physical interactions, the media is the ideal tool for leaders to use in educating the populace.

The use of community radio, especially in rural areas, can bring about maximum benefits in this regard.

Leaders can also use social media platforms such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter to reach out to the youth.

This crisis presents a unique opportunity for leaders to pursue a bi-partisan approach, especially in Parliament, when processing legislation on the proposed tax reliefs and other measures aimed at lowering the cost of living in the face of the pandemic.

 Other countries have shown the way. For example, in the United States Congress, both Republicans and Democrats were united in passing a two trillion-dollar corona virus economic rescue bill in record time.

In Israel, the Covid-19 crisis has compelled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the opposing Blue and White-led coalition of parties to fast track negotiations towards the formation of government that had been elusive for many months. 

And in South Africa, the hostility between the ruling ANC, and the combined opposition of Democratic Alliance, and Economic Freedom Fighters, has been put aside as the country rallies behind President Cyril Ramaphosa in managing the Covid-19 crisis.

And in the pursuit of this common good, the people themselves have to be reminded that they need to remain extra vigilant and keep leaders on their toes. If there was a time that leaders needed to be held to account, it is now.  —The writer is the MP for Ugunja and chair of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly. The views expressed here are personal.

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