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Locusts, Covid-19 attacks test to leadership

Sunday April 5 2020


Desert locusts invade Nguaruny in Samburu East on March 11, 2020. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Calamities have visited this country this year.

First was the unprecedented desert locust invasion in 17 counties. State interventions were uninteresting, less informative and callous, yet comically expensive.

The various faces of the intercessions had an illiterate demeanour and often offered the public unscientific talk.

We were instructed to take pictures — by the Cabinet secretary, no less — as a strategy to identify the dreaded pests. Insultingly, another CS brazenly told the nation that the locusts were ageing and posed no threat.

In February, Sh230 million was assigned with a possibility of another Sh300 million whose shopping list included aerial spraying and police shooting in the air to scare off the insects.

The events revealed four critical lapses whose sum total defeated responsive preparedness.


One, absence of relevant and reliable information regarding the problem; two, poor use of information to temper the damage; three, poor public communication, making the campaign a cropper, and, four, poor contextualisation of the impending challenge, hence inadequate mitigation while omitting coordination.


The eventual arrival of the novel coronavirus has seen disruptions, adjustments and systems overhauls with zeal never seen in Kenya even during the post-election violence.

The virus has made a joke of good and trusted constitutions, reducing freedoms, liberties and rights to privileges.

No right of movement and association without a caveat of social distance. The right to worship and fellowship retired to electronic broadcast.

We have acquired new vocabularies in our normal conversations and interactions, such as handwashing, sanitiser, self- and mandatory quarantine, isolation, isolation centre and lockdown.

The virus has pocketed monarch and pauper alike. Death, in this case, is not delayed by power and position; it’s for all people.

Survival is, however, akin to understanding the magnitude of the problem, knowing self and taking disciplined responsive action irrespective of social class, political power or economic prowess.

Though staying home is reasonably unpopular, upon curfew decrees, it is remedial.


The two scenarios are a dichotomy of lessons. On the similarities, there was prior and detailed information about the issues, both being foreign.

There were experiences to learn from, especially tested interventions. Countries where the issues originated were caught unawares and, therefore, all their actions reactionary.

On the discrepancies, in the case of locusts, information was skewed, skeleton and uncoordinated, contrary to Covid-19 situation.

Wars are won by well-trained, organised and motivated personnel with access to reliable information, data-based planning and effective execution plan.

But only in organised wars. Locusts and coronavirus are akin to guerrilla warfare. Insurgency warfare is hit-and-run attack and concealment.

We must resist contagions running over our homes, towns and basic infrastructure, as well as desperate responses by the government that sometimes harm those it intends to protect.

We must avoid comic leadership, whose outcome is usually catastrophic, especially when law-abiding citizens trade their liberties and rights with the desire to stay alive and save their country.

Mr Mukoya is the executive director, Legal Resources Foundation Trust. [email protected]