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Casual response to disaster is often deliberate

by kenya-tribune

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Were he not dead serious when he told Kenyans on Friday to take pictures of insects and post them on social media so that his ministry could help identify if they were locusts or not, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri could probably have been excused as a guy with a skewed sense of humour!

But there he was, reassuring Kenyans that the locust invasion that in late December was reported in Wajir, Mandera and Moyale was well under control.

That what people may see in other counties may not necessarily be locusts and that for them to ascertain what they were, they should post them on social media for experts to confirm.

Kenyans on social media love nothing more than lampooning their leaders for such gaffes. Soon, there were images of all types of animals and even people posted with hilarious questions to the minister.

But seriously, who advises some of our leaders on what to say and how to approach matters of public concern? Do they, for a moment, pause to reflect on the implications of some of their comments?


As he was urging Kenyans to post pictures of insects on social media, the menace remains real. In fact, it grows by the day.

Reports on Friday indicated that the locusts had been sighted at numerous sites within the three original counties and also in Meru and Isiolo counties.

Aerial spraying in Wajir was going on but more resources were needed to extend coverage to the other counties and slow down the very rapid spread of the locusts, which multiply with astonishing speed.

By Friday, efforts were being made to deploy a second aircraft to boost the spraying in Mandera and Moyale.

If the insects are already in Isiolo and Garissa, then the pace and force by which the menace is being confronted is woefully inadequate.

The director of the Desert Locust Control Organisation of East Africa, Dr Stephen Njoka, warned that the hostile terrain in the now affected counties and the insecurity in neighbouring Somalia multiply the complexity of confronting the locusts.

But the shortage of aircraft and pilots to deploy in the campaign do not help matters.

Entomologists have warned that rather than be subdued and confined to the areas in which they have been seen, the locusts are more likely to increase in number and spread to other counties, causing serious destruction of any crops in farms.

While no one is calling for the spread of fear and panic, the very casual response we are seeing from those responsible for spearheading such matters is depressingly familiar.

We have seen it in the face of dire warnings of imminent food shortages because of insufficient and erratic rainfall.

We have seen it in the lazy warnings given to people confronting death and destruction because of inclement weather.

We continue to see it in the anaemic and disjointed campaigns mounted against core threats like youth joblessness, corruption, environmental degradation, and so on.

Some of these responses, like those in reaction to the cyclical food shortages, can only be attributed to an atavistic streak of malevolence driven by corruption.

Hunger creates opportunities to make bags of money. And the love of money means that if the opportunity can be made to recur, it shall be.

No other explanation can account for the fact that after so many committees formed to investigate the recurrence of hunger, no lasting solution has been found.

Actually, there will never be a lasting solution until there is a restoration of fidelity to public service and a recommitment to respect the sovereignty of the people from whom all public authority is borrowed by those that lead.

In the absence of such a rebirth, responses to threats to public order, security, life, and so on, will never be comprehensive and conclusive.

Excuses that will be given, and there always will be, will just mask the real fault lines that cripple us as a country.

Fault lines that define and determine Kenya’s dominant narrative to be almost exclusively on who is going to be president, because the presidency is the licence to do (or not do) whatever one wants, and not what the people want.

Mr Mshindi is the former editor-in-chief of the Nation Media Group and is now consulting. [email protected], @tmshindi

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