Political activity shrinks as BBI team insists agenda on course

Thursday, March 19th, 2020 00:00 | By
ODM leader Raila Odinga (second right) with Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka (right), Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho (second left), Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru (left),  and Senator Kipchumba Murkomen (back, left) during the Mombasa BBI rally on January 25. Photo/PD/BONFACE MSANGI

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

The fight against the deadly coronavirus has forced politicians to scale down activities following the ban on public gatherings.

However,  the Building Bridges Initiative team yesterday put on a brave face that the outbreak will not affect their June deadline.

“We are continuing with our deliberations as we await the outcome of the Nakuru and Nairobi rallies.

We are going through what we have collected and have started discussions on the best way to present it,” said lawyer Paul Mwangi, a secretary to the BBI taskforce.

“We are on course. It is highly unlikely that the suspension of the rallies could affect our deadline,” he told People Daily.

A planned BBI meeting in Nakuru, which was scheduled for Saturday and another one in Nairobi later, are among critical political events that have been suspended as the government moves to tame the spread of the virus.

The Health ministry yesterday revealed that Kenya had confirmed seven coronavirus cases.

Besides the ban on public gatherings, county governments have warned against huge funeral ceremonies, which usually serve as platforms for politicians.

Prevent spread

Key politicians, including opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi, have confined their activities to their homes. 

The two Houses of Parliament on Tuesday suspended their sittings, a situation that could further lull activities on the political arena.

Multiple sources confirmed key politicians had scaled down public activities but carefully dispatched their allies to media talk shows to sustain their messages.

“Media platforms, especially press conferences and targeted interviews, will be the remaining avenues for politicians in the coming days,” said a politician identified with Deputy President William Ruto’s camp.

World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has cautioned every possible action should be taken to prevent spread of the virus which has claimed about 7,500 lives globally.

Do it all

“We have suspended all public gatherings, meetings, religious crusades, games and all events that are of a huge public nature.

Normal church services can go on, provided they provide hand sanitisers as people go into the worship areas,” said Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe when announcing Kenya’s first coronavirus case last Friday.

“Not testing alone. Not contact tracing alone. Not quarantine alone. Not social distancing alone. Do it all,” he advised.

But some politicians such as Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri have read mischief in the anti-corona campaign.

“There are doubts about this corona thing. Maybe it was meant to block the BBI meeting in Nakuru and demonstrations (against the impeachment of William Ruto),” said the MP, a staunch supporter of the Deputy President.

The controversial MP was making reference to demonstrations last week in Baringo and in the North Rift in solidarity with the DP after a section of politicians, led by Siaya Senator James Orengo, vowed to have him impeached over claims his office has brought dishonour to the Presidency.

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika celebrated the suspension of political activity, saying it was “a blessing in disguise to stop the BBI rallies”.

“The anti-corona campaign has come in handy to stop reggae,” she said in reference to the BBI rallies.

Reacting to the measures which included the ban on public gatherings, Raila rallied Kenyans to effect the proposals.

“We are pleased with the government’s approach to handling the threat and protecting the health of Kenyans,” he said.

He supported the cancellation of the BBI rallies, saying the move will help prevent the spread of the virus.

“Let’s observe basic hygiene. Let’s remember to wash our hands and avoid shaking hands,” he said.

The cancellation of public activities is not unique to Kenya. Other affected countries such as the US, Italy and Britain have suspended huge public gatherings.

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