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CHERAMBOS: Keeping relations with our neighbours safe and friendly

Wednesday June 03 2020
By MICHAEL CHERAMBOS

The recently implemented restrictions on cross border travel between Kenya and Tanzania to prevent the spread of coronavirus might have been a difficult decision on behalf of President Kenyatta, but it was the right one. When it came to light that cases of Covid-19 were being transported across the border due to the expanded contact networks as a result of truck drivers moving around, the necessary measures immediately became clear.

There should simply be no risk taking when it comes to Covid-19. Scientists do not yet know the long term effects of the virus, nor is it clear how this will affect our economy over the coming years. In this case, it is always better to err on the side of caution - even if that means taking tough decisions.

Deciding to limit movement on the Tanzanian border, therefore, follows the fast and solid decision making that Kenyatta has been doing since this whole ordeal began. While shutting down or limiting movement is likely to be upsetting and frustrating to many, it is the right decision nonetheless. After all, true leadership is not about taking popular decisions, but rather taking correct decisions.

What we do know about the virus is that it first came to Kenya as a result of international travel. It is very easy to pass it on if a carrier spends a prolonged amount of time in the same space as someone else, or if they have physical contact. It is even possible to get it from droplets in the air, if a sick person has coughed or sneezed.

In order to protect Kenya from seeing it spread too much, we need to make sure that no external cases penetrate our borders. In the same way that the president decided to limit travel between cities, new measures were recently put in place to limit it spreading from country to country.

The fact that Tanzanian president John Magufuli was initially angered by this and saw it necessary to enact retaliatory measures does not indicate strong leadership on his behalf. Rather, it is a demonstration that he is not thinking reasonably about how to protect his people in the same way that Kenyatta is. 

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Whatever your politics are and no matter with which political party you affiliate yourself, now is not the time for division. Now is not the time for tribalism, for internal party fighting, nor for going against the government regulations that have been put in place to protect us.

While what other heads of state in Africa decide to do with the global pandemic is their own business, it starts to become our business when they do things that could put Kenyans at risk. Our president has always put Kenya first, and that is what we need not only now but always.

At a recent video conference between various African heads of state and industry leaders, the president stressed how important it is for Africans to work together in order to change the global perception of our continent. Not only that, but it is essential that we partner up with one another if we are to take control of our own destiny as a cohort of developing countries with growing populations and growing potential. 

While it did not take a crisis to bring about this kind of cohesion amongst African leaders - there has been talk of teamwork for many years - it does enable one to distinguish between the stronger leaders and the weaker ones.

Those who are putting the needs of their own nation first while at the same time trying to help other nations and work with their leaders to come up with solutions that fit both countries are the strongest.

The weak leaders are the ones that exhibit loss of control over the situation by trying to divert attention from their own failed responses to Covid-19 by acting out against African neighbours.

It is clear that Kenyatta is of the former caliber. We may not have the same budgets that wealthy countries have, nor the same medical equipment. We may not have the same infrastructure to make working from home doable and easy. But what we do have is a president that is unafraid of taking tough decisions, even if they are not popular, for the benefit of the people. For that, we should be thankful.

Michael Cherambos comments on topical issues. [email protected]

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