Opinion: Shame of government officials using West Pokot disaster for political gain

Knowing how our bureaucracy works, ground presence of senior government officials is very critical in moments of disaster where every minute counts and that chance was lost on Monday.

Opinion: Shame of government officials using West Pokot disaster for political gain

Last Saturday, an unfortunate natural disaster in the form a land slide hit our brothers and sisters in West Pokot County.

As I am writing this, at least 52 people have died from the accident, 22 are still missing, and scores are nursing injuries from the accident.

A single death is one death too many, particularly when it could have been avoided by the government implementing a recommendation by its own agency, on the need for residents to relocate from the affected areas.

What is even more concerning is the handling of the disaster with some government officials using it for partisan political score points.

It took senior national government officials more than 48 hours to have a ground response to the Saturday night disaster – and even the – the coordination was disjointed and out of tandem.

On Monday morning, a military chopper carrying Interior CS Fred Matiang’i and his delegation of senior national government officials including Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, IG Hilary Mutyambai, and Regional Commissioner George Natembeya, aborted a mission to Kapenguria citing poor weather in the area.

Matiang’i promised to coordinate the rescue exercise in Eldoret awaiting the air to clear, even committing to spend the night in the North Rift town when he and his team would proceed with their mission.

However, within an hour or two, Matiang’i had already boarded his Kenya Air Force helicopter back to Nairobi.

It is possible that the CS was caught up in an emergency back in Nairobi but it is unfortunate that senior government officials in his entourage never made it to Kapenguria.

For those of us who have been observing political contests in the past year, it is likely that the mission to Kapenguria was postponed for political reasons considering that Deputy President William Ruto, perceived as Matiang’i’s nemesis in government, arrived shortly after in a private, less sophisticated, chopper.

In my opinion, Matiang’i owes Kenyans an explanation on why he could not wait for a few hours, as promised, to make the much-needed presence in Kapenguria. It would be satisfying to know why he and his delegation did not consider traveling to Kapenguria by road, given that it is about an hour’s drive – and only twenty minutes away - if he had flown to Kitale.

Unlike Matiang'i, Ruto was accompanied by local political leaders with few, if any, national government officials to execute his orders.

Knowing how our bureaucracy works, ground presence of senior government officials is very critical in moments of disaster where every minute counts and that chance was lost yesterday.

Shortly after Ruto’s arrival in Kapenguria, Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen claimed that the DP was unable to distribute government aid after some PSs locked it while allegedly awaiting for CS Matiang’i’s arrival.

The comment would not have been alarming if it did not come from the Senate Majority – who leads government business in the Senate of the Republic of Kenya.

It is inexcusable that government officials would stoop that low, hiding aid in a humanitarian situation, for partisan political optics.

It is equally irresponsible for a Senator Murkomen to make such allegations on social media or in public, at a moment from victims of the disaster were looking for help from the very government he works.

If indeed Murkomen believed PSs were delaying humanitarian aid for political reasons, he was better placed to call for a formal inquiry through the Senate which oversights the Executive.

The US House of Representatives is currently conducting a formal impeachment inquiry to determine if its President Donald Trump, withheld military aid to Ukraine for personal political gain. That is how civilized societies operate – through decency and due process which Kenyans, including victims of the West Pokot disaster deserve!

Tony Mukere is a journalist and political commentator. The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Pulse Live Kenya.

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