By Rev. Canon Francis Omondi.
Accurate Information to inform our hope and action during these CORVID-19 crisis is vital. We need the TRUTH. Some are down playing its dangers, while some are over stating its impact. Both could lead to untold deaths that could have been avoided, had we sought accurate facts. If we are to seek God’s help and speak his word it ought to be in factual information. Otherwise we speak when he did not speak and give people false hope.
Don’t listen to these motivational speakers, they will motivate you to your painful death. We must embrace this calamity, and pray with the prophet Habakkuk: “Lord, … in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2). For God has spoken to us, although the calamity if furious overshadowing us: “the just person will live by his faithfulness” [faith] (NIV Hab. 2:4b) This is our hope. Because God is faithful to save. And the just, those who do right and act justly. Those who have faith in God, can depend on His salvation in the centre of the storm. We must listen this voice.
The catastrophe is here already. It is medical in nature. We have information that it is spreading here also but not to the scale of China or Italy or Spain yet. Many will be affected and die, because of our healthcare system. COVID19 crisis has exposed the fraud that is government. Fifty seven years of Independence have yielded a fragile healthcare system unable to cope with medical need of all Kenyans. For this reason the government had resulted to preventive methods of personal hygiene; wash your hands in running water with soap, using sanitizers, social distancing, avoid congregating, stay home and curfew. So far it is working.
But medical challenge does not compare to the social-economic devastation awaiting us. This will spare no one. The rumbling of its wheels has thrown into panic governments across the world. We will have basically no help from outside. The government mitigation has been suspect. It has bent to the rich corporate group, while ignoring greater challenges of the poorer Kenyans. It’s a catastrophe to be poor in Kenya. The poor have been brutalised, terrorised, traumatised, and stigmatised for 57 years and have come to terms with their plight.
There are three ways in which we can act towards the government actions:
In the first place, we can ask the state whether its actions are legitimate and in accordance with its character as a state. We must demand the state takes its responsibility seriously. Majority of the poor Kenyans in the cities depend on casual work for day to day supply, they have not worked now for a week, and another coming. I doubt we have food in the national reserve where will they get food. It is a planting season, who is guiding planting to provide for us by August? Their children are with them and not in school. We just learnt that 4 million youth willing to work are unemployed.
Government policies on healthcare system, economic policies that are making us poor. The state has a responsibility to better lives of all Kenyans, including the poor.
The response has been in to protect the rich and powerful and most important in our society and the foreign markets. – total lockdown was suggested but done in half measure in terms of 7pm to 5 am curfew, this only vital services will be allowed but no one considers the poor as part of the matrix.
Second, we can aid the victims of state action. As citizens, we have an unconditional obligation to the victims of any ordering society, as we have often showed in times of crisis. Act towards helping the invisible poor, provide for those through this crisis lost jobs and means of living without waiting for the state to act.
The third possibility is to put a spoke in the wheel itself. Such action would be direct political action and is only possible and desirable since the state has failed in its function of creating law order and prosperity to all Kenyans. We fear that our existance as a nation would be threatened if we, as those affected by these policies, do not participate in shaping them. We have learnt this hard fact that if we citizens do not get involved in the political process, we will either die of sickness, or brutality, or poverty.
In embracing the present terror of COVID 19, we will heed the advice of M. F. Weiner, who in 1976 wrote in the journal Medical Economics an article entitled “Don’t Waste a Crisis — Your Patient’s or Your Own.” We will like Weiner appreciate that such medical crisis can improve aspects of personality, mental health, or lifestyle.
Canon Omondi. is a priest of the Anglican Church of Kenya, All Saints Cathedral Diocese. These are his own views.