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Covid fact-checking tools must extend to politicians

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022 00:00 | By
Ida Odinga and Rachel Ruto at political rallies. PHOTOS/COURTESY

With the General Election only four months away, time is running out on the presidential candidates to clearly spell out their agenda amid difficult political and economic scenarios.

In a toxic political environment replete with bad language and bitter recriminations, the quest for national cohesion in an election year remains a mirage, just as in the last one.

God spared Kenya and indeed the African continent the worst consequences of the worst calamity to hit the world this century – the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite hopes that the virus is receding, we must remain cautious as its mutant variants are capable of swooping unexpectedly upon our fragile conscience, just like our foul-mouthed politicians at heady rallies, masks and social distancing long forgotten.

Hopes of consensus on thorny issues of peace, reconciliation and the quest for democracy remain elusive, abandoned at the altar of political expediency in the race to State House.

National pacification unfulfilled, attempts at coalition-building remain the only visible path toward political consensus on issues that continue to bedevil citizens since independence – poverty, ignorance and disease.

Some contenders seem to think the only way to get citizens out of this morass is through a “radical surgery” of our economic structures. Only that their real intentions and suave rhetoric betray the fact that political ideology is not the driving force motivating their parties. The danger is that they are perceived as seeking office merely for the power it gives them as individuals.

Unfortunately, the art of double-speak is the yardstick upon which the existing conditions that have failed to deliver millions of citizens from the perpetual claws of poverty is measured. 

Truth is that our existing development plans and institutional foundations aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals cannot suddenly be crumbled by promises of untested revolutionary theories of economic salvation.

What ails our pillars for progress? Political deception, corruption, impunity, the unbridled quest for power and unforeseen external factors such as the pandemic.

The media must sustain awareness of the hovering threat of Covid and bad politics, as we adapt to the changing communications environment. The pandemic has caused untold disruptions to lives, livelihoods and information.

Climate change, unemployment, low purchasing power and crafty politicians further compound the situation, threatening to push millions more into food insecurity and poverty.  The pandemic has tested the limits of societies and economies across the world, with African economies hit particularly hard, according to the World Bank.

Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa fell sharply from 2.4 per cent in 2019 to -2.1 per cent-5.1per cent in 2020, the first recession in the region in 25 years. Covid also gave rise to the faster adoption of new technologies to communicate and the coordinated need for misinformation and fact-checking efforts focused on regions and topics.

These fact-checking tools on the pandemic should be extended to the political class, especially those seeking high office in the run-up to elections.

Rwanda President Paul Kagame says despite the impact of Covid on the economic and health sectors in Africa, the continent can achieve inclusively, people-centred sustainable development envisioned in the UN Agenda 2030 and African Union’s Agenda 2063.

Kagame spoke during the 8th Session of the African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (ARFSD), held in Kigali, Rwanda recently and attended by more than 1,800 participants.

The ARFSD is an annual multi-stakeholder platform organised jointly by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, host governments, the African Union U and the African Development Bank. Take heed.