Rolling out red carpet for diplomats as citizens suffer

Trying to please guests shows disregard for ordinary Kenyans

In Summary

• Already privileged people will jump the vaccination queue if Kenyans accept, move on

A medic holds a bottle labelled Vaccine Covid-19
A medic holds a bottle labelled Vaccine Covid-19

I don’t know if things are done this way any more, but when I was a boy, in many homes I visited, there was often a special set of crockery and cutlery that only saw the light of day when there were honoured guests visiting for a meal.

In many homes, the slaughtering of a goat or a chicken for a meal was in itself a sign of a special occasion.

There were also certain dishes that were only prepared when there were special visitors coming or on special occasions. And when the food was served, the visitors were offered the choicest cuts and first dibs at everything.

As I grew up, I remember I would sometimes joke that certain visitors should make a habit of coming round more often, because only when they did would certain delicacies be brought out. 

In the same way many people, whether they went to church or not, had a so-called ‘Sunday best’ outfit that was worn on high days and holidays. 

God forbid that you dared wear your Sunday best clothes to go outside and play with your friends or without the express permission, nay, on the strict instruction, of your parents or guardians.

By the time I grew up, I had cast aside all of these useless pretensions, for truly that is what they were.

My guests did not receive any particularly special treatment by way of crockery or cutlery. There was one set and it didn’t matter whether I was eating takeaway chicken and chips alone or a home-cooked meal in company.

It would seem that the people running the government of Kenya still like to engage in that outdated foolishness of putting on a show for visitors. Despite the fact that those visitors know and understand that the situation is dire and they really won’t be fooled by us pretending otherwise.

Last weekend, some people appeared shocked by the announcement made by some official in the Foreign Ministry to the effect that already privileged people such as diplomats and UN workers would get to jump the vaccination queue. But I must say I was not in the least surprised.

Clearly the people making such a decision have absolutely no concern for ordinary Kenyans and would sweep them under the red carpet for visitors to trample on, because if we can’t impress our guests, we are nothing.

At least that is what it seemed like to me.

It did not seem to matter to the Foreign Ministry that in January, the Health CS had made a point to stress that priority for vaccination would be given to health sector workers and other essential workers like teachers.

At no point were UN staff and members of diplomatic missions mentioned on the list of priorities.

It is shameful that some of these diplomats, who of course are only too happy to jump the queue, are from countries that will be trying to sell us vaccines. Others are from nations that have blocked us and other poor countries from manufacturing our own vaccines.

In most of the countries these diplomats represent, if anyone were to suggest that essential workers be inoculated after foreign diplomats, there would be civil unrest. But in Kenya, we just grumble, accept and move on.

Here in South Africa, there have been a number of issues with the vaccine rollout, but so far, I have not heard anyone dispute the strategy of inoculating the health care workers first and foremost.

In fact, the stated objectives of the South African vaccine rollout plan are to protect health care workers and the impact on the health system, to reduce morbidity and mortality amongst vulnerable individuals and to reach herd immunity amongst the general population, in that order.

One day, I hope Kenyans will have a government that puts us first. But we have been doormats for so long and are so used to it, we probably shouldn’t hold our breath.