DISCRIMINATION

SGR night train demonstrates Covid-19 inequalities, double standards

Curfew apparently does not apply to aeroplane and SGR passengers, costing the government credibility

In Summary

• Unequal measures continue to benefit government-supported businesses at the expense of the privately owned businesses.

• While SGR continues to transport passengers at night, bus companies are forced to strictly adhere to the curfew and ensure no movement during the night.

Passengers at the Nairobi terminus going to board the SGR passenger train to Mombasa
Passengers at the Nairobi terminus going to board the SGR passenger train to Mombasa
Image: FILE

The recently launched SGR night train has clearly demonstrated the double standards of the Covid-19 measures dictated by the government.

These unequal measures continue to benefit government-supported businesses so they flourish at the expense of the privately owned businesses.

While SGR continues to transport passengers at night, bus companies are forced to strictly adhere to the curfew and ensure no movement during the night. Not only is this discriminatory but it also promotes unfair trade practices in a liberalised economy.

The disparities in the Covid-19 measures by the government are not only evident in the night train but also manifest themselves in the social distancing rules.

In the SGR and air flights, there is no such thing as social distancing. Passengers squeeze together as they did in the pre-Covid-19 period and there is no such thing as limiting the number of passengers to provide for more spacing.

However, when it comes to matatus and buses, adherence to social distancing and limiting the numbers of passengers are requirements.

Traffic police officers have time and again set up check points on the roads to ensure matatus and buses comply with Covid-19 regulations. Many have been arrested and/or forced to end their trips as a result of flouting the rules.

It would appear as if there are two sets of rules being applied to different people. As a country that boasts of a non-discriminatory Constitution where all are equal before the law, this practice by government is shameful to say the least.

The discriminatory practice is also witnessed in transit to these stations. The curfew apparently does not apply to plane and SGR passengers. Police will stop anyone beyond curfew hours but if you are holding a ticket for a flight or SGR, then you are allowed to proceed.

It has become public knowledge that the curfew rules do not apply to those using SGR and flights. However,  others who use other modes of transport will face the wrath of the police should you find yourself in unfamiliar territories beyond curfew hours. This inequality is unacceptable.

As the country gets into the third Covid wave and looks into the future in terms of enforcement of Covid-19 protocols, the government must create a level playing field for all actors in private and state-owned enterprises.

It must be a government that walks the talk in terms of enforcing the Covid-19 regulations across board.

Just like Caesar’s wife, it must act beyond reproach on matters regarding favoritism and enforcement of the laws.

To reclaim a good image in the fight against Covid-19, the government must act fairly with everyone.

Indeed. the government has a duty to protect its citizen from Covid-19. However, this must be done within the confines of impartiality, fairness and equity. Any selective application of the rules makes the government lose credibility and support of the people in fighting the pandemic.

In fact, discriminatory acts such as these undermine the war against the spread of the virus and makes the majority of Kenyans complacent about Covid-19 rules. It is at this juncture that the people then start questioning if indeed the disease is real.

Selective application of the rules is a great impediment to collective efforts of fighting the pandemic. It is difficult for Kenyans to work together on a common mission when they see openly that they are treated differently by the same government that wants them to work together.

In the words of Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, if we act normally, the disease will treat us abnormally.

Unfortunately in this case, it is the same government that is leading in acting normally. This must change now lest we make it difficult for us to end the pandemic.

Article 27 (1) of the Constitution states. "Every person is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law."

The government must thus treat everyone and every sector fairly and justly.