If there was any take-home from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s rare television interview from State House last week, it was his revealing that First Lady Margaret Kenyatta and one of the First Sons had been marooned in Mombasa since the lockdown imposed to halt the spread of coronavirus.
My mind did a double-take when I heard the President say that in the chat with Nation Media Group Editorial Director Mutuma Mathiu.
This is Africa. The First Lady and her brood are usually not subject to the same laws and restrictions applicable to the hoi polloi, the voters who bestow on them the life of power, wealth and privilege.
My mind couldn’t digest for a moment that, even in the absence of scheduled air, train and bus services between the coastal resort and the capital city of Nairobi, both under entry and exit restrictions, a private jet or the Kenya Air Force presidential fleet could not be dispatched on a mercy flight to rescue the First Lady and her wayward son from involuntary confinement.
Surely, all the President needed to do was make one phone call and his loved ones would be at his side at State House in a jiffy.
But then, he was leading by example.
It was by his Executive Order that the national curfew and the restrictions of movement into and out specific Covid-19 hotspots were imposed.
The law is the law, and he was not going to exempt his family or allow them to breach regulations the vast majority must abide by under pain of imprisonment, fines or forced quarantine.
When I shared on social media this admirable sense of duty from President Kenyatta unheard of in Kenya and other African countries, most of my ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ were openly sceptical.
They dismissed it as a public relations ploy, some advancing that there was no way the First Lady could be stranded if the president really wanted her back. Or if she really wanted to return.
I chose to believe my President, a man of honour who would not misuse his office to grant favours to his family.
That is why I believe he will not countenance a situation where politicians can get away with contemptuous defiance of the Covid-19 movement restrictions and regulations against large gatherings.
The President should be particularly outraged that, even as he was demonstrating his own family’s observance of regulations designed to check the spread of coronavirus infections, a large group of politicians were trooping to the home of trade union leader Francis Atwoli for yet another display of those useless political manoeuvres that despoil the landscape.
President Kenyatta will be demanding answers on why Mr Atwoli and his guests — who included Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Kakamega Governor and Council of Governors Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka and a large numbers of other politicians and court jesters — have not been arrested, charged and placed in quarantine.
He will be wanting to know why those who travelled to Mr Atwoli’s Kajiado County home were allowed to cross into and out of the Nairobi Metropolitan Area boundary, which has been closed to all traffic other than designated essential services.
Petty politics is not on the list of gazetted services that may be exempted from the curfew and cessation of movement.
Videos from the celebratory function at Mr Atwoli’s residence indicated a likely coronavirus laboratory and propagation centre.
There was little of the required social distancing amid the eating, drinking and loud speeches where spittle must have been ejected far and wide.
Protective face masks were little in evidence, and where present were tied loosely below the chin in typical Kenyan fashion, as useless as a neck tie.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho and Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai should be quacking in their boots ahead of the State House summons to explain this gross dereliction of duty.
They will, in turn, be demanding answers from the relevant county and regional police commanders and county commissioners, who must have aided, abetted and facilitated the large movement into and out of restricted zones ans well as a gathering in breach of coronavirus containment laws.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe will also be in a bit of a spot. His displays of righteous anger at the undisciplined citizens who flout containment measures mean nothing if he remains blind, deaf and mute as fellow leaders defy his edicts with impunity.
The least Kenyans can expect in coming days is Mr Atwoli and company in forced quarantine for at least 14 days as criminal charges proceed.
[email protected] www.gaitho.co.ke @MachariaGaitho