WHO FAILED TO ACT?

Locust invasion an ethical issue, say bioethics experts

Experts say someone slept on the job and allowed locusts to swarm Kenya from Asia.

In Summary

• Nacosti director general Moses Rugutt links the invasion to climate change.

• He called for the implementation of the Paris Protocol, which the US refused to sign.

Nacosti director general Moses Rugutt, National Bioethics Committee chair Alice Mutuku and Macosti Technical Committee chair Francis Muregi at Flamingo By PrideInn Hotel in Mombasa on Thursday.
ETHICAL ISSUE: Nacosti director general Moses Rugutt, National Bioethics Committee chair Alice Mutuku and Macosti Technical Committee chair Francis Muregi at Flamingo By PrideInn Hotel in Mombasa on Thursday.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO
Nacosti director general Moses Rugutt, National Bioethics Committee chair Alice Mutuku, Nacosti Technical Committee chair Francis Muregi and Kenya National Commission for Unesco secretary general Evangeline Njoka at Flamingo By PrideInn Hotel in Mombasa on Thursday.
BIOETHICS Nacosti director general Moses Rugutt, National Bioethics Committee chair Alice Mutuku, Nacosti Technical Committee chair Francis Muregi and Kenya National Commission for Unesco secretary general Evangeline Njoka at Flamingo By PrideInn Hotel in Mombasa on Thursday.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

The invasion of desert locusts could have been stopped had all relevant authorities done their jobs, bioethics experts have said.

Speaking during the opening of the first Africa Regional Conference for National Bioethics Committees in Mombasa on Thursday, the experts said most people ignore the ethical side of phenomena, including climate change.

Francis Muregi, the technical committee chairman of the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (Nacosti), said some disasters that occur in different parts of the world, especially Africa, are a result of someone sleeping on the job when it comes to an ethical analysis.

"Sometimes we do not connect things. When there are flooding, drought, and locusts, we don’t connect that with ethics. The truth of the matter is there are so many ethical issues underlying that. Who failed, for example, when there are millions of people who are going to face starvation?" he said.

"Was it possible for us to stop the locusts from flying from Asia to Africa and now we are trying to shoot them with guns? Would we have done better?"

Nacosti director general Moses Rugutt linked the invasion to climate change.

Twenty-three countries were represented at the conference in Mombasa. Participants sought to find a common voice for Africa in climate change ahead of the 13th Global Summit on Bioethics scheduled for next month in Lisbon, Portugal.

Kenya has been chosen to carry Africa’s flag to the global summit. Muregi and Rugutt said Kenya is on the right path in developing capacity for bioethics. They added, however, that more has to be done.

The two termed it is unfair for Africa to bear the brunt of climate change when its people are the least responsible for the problem. Rugutt called for the implementation of the Paris Protocol, which the US refused to sign.

"Would these countries who are doing much harm to the globe also take responsibility? Those are the ethical issues. Who decides what to do? Who is going to take responsibility?” Muregi asked.

Nacosti is already building bioethics capacity in Kenya by establishing institutional ethics review committees. So far, there are 30 of them in Kenya.

The committees are responsible for guarding the country against helicopter researchers, who, Rugutt said, have, for long, given Kenya a raw deal when they come to do research.

“Their works were not reviewed by the accredited Ethics Review Committee and thus would violate certain ethical issues. Not anymore,” Rugutt said.

Muregi said in the next one year, at least two universities will be offering bioethics courses at both diploma and degree levels. None of the more than 70 universities in the country offers bioethics training.

Kenya’s National Bioethics Committee chair Alice Mutuku said Kenya will lead Africa in calling for more support for mitigation of effects of climate change at the global summit in Portugal.

“Our main issue will be how to mitigate these effects. We will be calling for more support,” Mutuku said.

Unesco programme specialist in the Bioethics Unit Orio Ikebe said the Paris Protocol spells out the best ways to mitigate the climate change effects and need to be implemented. She said Unesco always gives priority to Africa.

Ikebe said as many people as possible, especially the young people and civil society, needs to be capacitated to be champions of climate change.

(Edited by F'Orieny)