The role of Kenyan leaders in fighting COVID-19

A day after the president’s address to the nation on Covid-19 status in Kenya, one of the political leaders allegedly called for a political rally. This politician did this in broad daylight. The police did a good job in dispersing the crowd. How could a leader be so careless, knowing clearly that his actions could put people at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus?  A week before that, a group of political leaders had met to discuss western Kenya politics. Judging from the videos shared online, these leaders did not care so much about covid-19 guidelines. They hugged, shook hands, most of them did not wear masks and social distancing was not kept.

I asked a couple of friends later to share their thoughts on this situation. It was evident that they were hoping that the government could take more strict measures on people who breach covid-19 guidelines starting with their own.  One of my colleagues was recently fined Ksh 2,000 because he had forgotten his face mask at home. Mr. Charles Mwenda could not give his wife a decent burial because police forced his family and friends to turn back few kilometers from his home despite of them having the burial certificate and being declared covid-19 negative.  We have witnessed several cases of leaders breaching covid-19 guidelines during burials and political functions even after several threats by the Ministry of Health and the police.

On May 5th 2020, The New York Times reported of a top scientist in the UK who resigned after breaching social distancing rules: “I accept I made an error of judgment and took the wrong course of action.” “I deeply regret any undermining of the clear messages around the continued need for social distancing.” Domnic Cummings (Boris Johnson key adviser) has been under pressure to resign after allegedly breaching the covid-19 rules.

Kenyan leaders from all sectors need to understand their role in fighting covid-19. We may never flatten the curve if some of our leaders continue behaving like coronavirus does not exist. The daily press briefing by the Ministry of Health should not just include the numbers. It would be great if the public health act is taken seriously and those breaching the covid-19 guidelines are punished. This should happen to all leaders.  Perhaps the behavior of the ordinary citizen in fighting the pandemic is informed by the behavior of its leaders.

From my observation, most of our leaders lack the qualities of moral leaderships. As a leader your actions should not only be about your personal interests, learning to put the interests of others before yours is a key leadership quality. There is need to realize that leadership is a responsibility and at the same time power that should never be taken for granted. It is therefore the responsibility of all leaders to ensure that they lead the fight against covid-19.