It is happening in Italy, a more developed nation than many African countries. Southern Italy is experiencing looting, suicidal tendencies, robbing of supermarkets and uncontrollable public rage. We must learn from them in this matter just as we have kept learning (many times a little late) from their challenge with Corona management.
If Kenya’s government, the private sector, religious leaders and we as citizens do not act quickly, it will happen here. I insist that this appeal is not just for those in leadership but for all of us working together. We can reverse some of the losses if we think through the following:
You cannot stop people from working or going about their daily business and send them to stay at home without giving them something to eat. They will die by starving to death. Which of the two deaths is preferable?
You cannot sack people or cut their salaries and tell them to go home and assume you still have a country to lead and life continue as normal. You will be increasing crime.
You cannot enforce the curfews to enable social distancing by beating people up men, women, youth, children, etc. and piling them close together like sardines in police trucks and cure Corona in this way. You will actually be multiplying the virus much faster than if you talked to people or planned the curfew better.
You cannot send all the children home and assume parents will miraculously be able to contain the unease given that you have stopped the parents from working.
You cannot just keep announcing how many more people have caught the virus or have been tested. We can almost tell at every new press statement that the C.S. is about to say the number has increased and will keep increasing unless….We want a new script.
We cannot just keep telling people ‘Trust in God! Let us pray! It shall be well as a Church’ while, the whole time, we sit on resources that could make a difference.
We cannot just keep bringing news bulletins as media, 100 per cent choking Kenyans with nothing but Corona news and negative stories of what is going on around the world and expect we will keep a healthy society.
Something has to change and we must act differently.
Dear Government, Church, media, C.S. LSK, police, and citizens in general, here are a few suggestions you can consider to turn all this around. If you do not, it is still fine, but you might just remember me some day:
1. Stop police brutality against citizens and, if possible, instead of using police, give the task of citizen education to the media, religious institutions, social workers and counselors. Empower them to reach wananchi with any message you wish to relay.
2. Mobilize a welfare fund and immediately begin to provide for hungry Kenyans. You have to choose between Kenyans dying from Corona and dying from hunger, suicide and homicide. If you deny a human being the very basics, they will hear nothing from you. Take my word. If you don’t provide the basics, you will push Kenyans to the wall and they will look for that food in ways you will find harder to contain than Corona. Buy the maize, wheat, sorghum, whatever from farmers and distribute it to the needy, and store some for the tough days ahead like Joseph in the Bible did for Egypt. By the warus and ngwashes, milk and other products from citizens and, instead of helpless men and women having to go back home with their wares, buy it all and you will be providing for them to feed their families. County governments can help with this implementation. Divert projects that can wait. Take all that money you had put aside for BBI rallies and conferences, etc, and feed your people with it. They will remember you more. Read my lips: Feed the people and you will be at peace.
3. Every Church with any monies in accounts should turn some of it to social welfare. It makes no sense to sit there and watch Kenyans go through this terrible time with millions and for churches, billions sitting in bank accounts in the name of tithes and offerings, building funds, etc. The Church should offer ministry through both relief and providing some of her resources such as guest-houses, retreat centres, schools, etc. as places of refuge for street families, those undergoing extreme deprivation, etc. as was in the book of Acts. This is what any religious group should be doing, but I talk of the Church because I belong to it.
Yes, let us pray, but dear bishops, pastors, boards, etc., let us do a bit more than online services and calling for prayer meetings. James chapter 2 and Matthew chapter 25 should be a very stern reminder to anyone in Church leadership that soon Jesus may actually turn to the Church with resources and say, I was hungry and you did not feed me. I was sick, naked, etc. and you did not help me. What shall it profit to keep millions/billions in Church accounts as you keep telling your own members to trust God or pray? Give the food. Buy the masks for doctors. Offer tele-help to the infected. Let us be counted. Please begin at least with your own members. You have databases of members. Like John the Baptist of old, I tell the Church leaders: Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation (Luke 3:3-6). Let us ask ourselves what our key mandate would be at a time like this. How did the Early Church do it? (See Acts chapters 2, 4, 5 and 6). God bless you as you think about this.
4. It is not enough for those with means to accept salary cuts. Implore the rich (and you know them) by issuing government direction to the effect that anyone with any large earning or vast resources should give a percentage of it to help deal with the pandemic. Some people in this nation of Kenya have savings and investments that can feed them and their families for the next one hundred years. The only problem is that they will not be there then. So why can’t we see the government going this direction? This is what John the Baptist would tell the Kenyan leadership, law-enforcers such as the police, those with resources and policy makers: Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same. Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They were told not to collect any more than was required. Soldiers asked him: What should we do? He replied: Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely. Be content with your pay.
5. Let the C.S. in his weekly briefings brief about coping measures, success stories of recovery and the great intervention measures by groups that are reaching out. Don’t tell us that we will have one hundred thousand cases (God forbid) by the end of the year. The question is, so what? Let us deal with that.
6. The media should break this 100 per cent concentration on Corona with some other stories. My advice is that, for every seven stories you have in a bulletin, four should be about other things, if possible, entertainment-related or positive in nature. 100 per cent bad news kills a society and makes things worse.
7. A polite word to the Law Society of Kenya: I understand your going to court to challenge police brutality and other citizen rights, but what is the point of challenging the curfew as a whole? Should’t you instead be asking the government to put Nairobi and environs as well as Mombasa on total lock-down, being the epicentres of the crisis in Kenya now? Or, pray tell me: What do you have in the place of this curfew to deal with the crisis?
8. Last but not least, I appeal to every citizen to take personal and corporate responsibility in order to manage this crisis. If you travelled recently from the hot spots of the pandemic and you have quietly settled among your family members, work mates, congregants, etc., you are likely to infect even those you love dearly. Please show yourself for testing and let the systems help you. Now that the curfew is in place, let us not make things any worse than they already are. Again, let us ensure we wash our hands, keep relevant social distance and observe the highest hygiene. Let us play our part even in matters of social responsibility. Let us share what we have with the needy around us and let us help with the dissemination of the virus management information. Some of us have parents and relatives in the village that do not understand what this is all about. Let us love them by calling and explaining things to them. Again, let us keep checking on one another by text or phone call. We are social beings and so we should do this to stay sane. Again, as Kenyans, we are known to be resilient and able to hold tough in difficult circumstances. Instead of forwarding all the latest rumours about Corona, why not forward a song, a poem, a cartoon, a joke, just something to cheer one another up? We can do it. Let’s do it. We shall and must overcome with the help of our God.
By Reuben Kigame
Christian Apologist, Musician, Radio Journalist and Social Commentator.