Kenya: Uhuru Faces Litmus Test As COVID-19 Burden Sits Heavily On His Shoulders

President Uhuru Kenyatta is facing a litmus test of his leadership mettle and, now more than ever, the burden on his shoulders is heavy to bear.

A day after he addressed the nation from State House, Nairobi, on his administration's new measures to tame the coronavirus, the President Tuesday took to Kikuyu vernacular stations to explain the reasons behind the closure of entry routes into Nairobi.

Elsewhere, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i was on Egesa FM expounding on the measures. Some Kenyans questioned why the President had gone to a vernacular radio station.

"This is deliberate and it is part of a strategy to reach to the communities through the media. There will be more leaders sent to their respective vernacular stations and our intention is to create awareness first," State House spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo told the Nation. "CS Matiangi was on Egesa FM and many will follow."

Nairobi has emerged as the epicentre of the coronavirus spread in the country and a survey published this week showed that most Kenyans were in favour of a lockdown -- a measure of last resort.

But in a city of more than four million at night and more than five million during the day, the government has been left with the headache of whether to merely restrict movement or to go for a total lockdown.

"We have to stop the spread of this virus to other counties," said the President in the question-and-answer session. The President was angry that some leaders had endangered the lives of many people. He revealed that he had ordered the arrest of Kilifi Deputy Governor Gideon Saburi after he refused to isolate himself for 14 days following his return from a trip to Germany.

Mr Saburi has already been arrested and taken to court.

"I'm the one who said that the Kilifi deputy governor should be arrested ... I wish he gets 10 years in prison to serve as a lesson for his negligence," he said.

The new rules gazetted by the government have set the jail term at no more than three years or a fine of up to Sh50,000.

Complete investigations

"How can a leader fly from Germany and start infecting people in Nairobi and Kilifi?" the President wondered, adding that his position of power would not insulate him from the consequences of his actions.

His comments came a day after Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji petitioned to have Mr Saburi held at the Manyani Maximum Security Prison as police complete their investigations.

Mr Saburi argued before Senior Resident Magistrate Ritah Amwayi that there was no medical report indicating that he had tested positive for Covid-19. He also claimed that he did not infect anyone with the virus.

The President also revealed that the hospital bills incurred by people who get infected in the course of their duties will be footed by the government.

This was after it emerged that some nurses could have been infected within hospitals and while handling patients.

Mr Kenyatta also noted that people coming to Nairobi to seek medical treatment should not be punished but instead be assisted.

"The people we are stopping are those entering the metropolis without a genuine reason," he said. On the elderly, Mr Kenyatta said the State is starting a programme that will ensure that they do not suffer.

"I have instructed chiefs to get names of all those who have not been receiving money," he said. In the new rules, transporters and traders in farm produce have been given a free pass into Nairobi, which relies on food and vegetables from the outlying counties.

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