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A modern pan-Africa needs the fierce urgency of now

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By ALICE WAIRIMU NDERITU
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Ghana’s Independence, celebrated on March 6 is as important as the profound statement by her pan-Africanist first prime minister and later president, Kwame Nkrumah, in 1957, that it was meaningless unless all African countries were free.

Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African country to gain Independence. In 1884-85, European powers met in a Berlin conference to partition Africa into what became colonial states.

The 1960s were exciting times for pan-Africanism as more African countries attained Independence.

Miriam Makeba, then living in exile in the US, writes in her autobiography of a women’s group called African American Friends.

This group believed in the pan-Africanism ideals of strengthening bonds between people of African descent and invited African students into their homes so they would not be lonely.

In 1962, the group invited Makeba to welcome a fellow Pan Africanist, Tom Mboya, who frequently visited the US to raise funds for Kenyan students.

Kenya was about to gain Independence and Mboya was slated to be one of the first ministers. The African American Friends asked Makeba to sing in all the functions which Mboya, a powerful orator spoke at, and together they raised enough money to sponsor one of the batches of 80 Kenyan students for studies in the US.

Mboya then invited Makeba to travel back to Kenya with him to raise money for Mau Mau orphans.

Makeba had been stateless for three years after apartheid South Africa had revoked her passport.

Mboya arranged special entry papers for her and the icing on the cake was Mboya taking her across the border to, for the first time in her life, set foot in an independent African country, Tanzania.

President Nkrumah provided leadership in pan-African thinking and practice, creating for instance a Ghana-Guinea-Mali Union in which the three countries did not send ambassadors to each other, sending instead, Resident Ministers who sat in Cabinet meetings.

Nkrumah had hoped to expand this arrangement throughout the continent, often saying that Africa had the natural resources and intellect to become a superpower without waging war, dislocating populations from their land or employing negative economic practices on other people or on itself.

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These plans however collapsed as the continent got sucked into the Cold War between the communist East led by the Soviet Union, and the capitalist West led by the US.

All was not lost however as the pan-Africanists bequeathed the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the later African Union (AU) to the continent.

The OAU stood by the artificial territorial boundaries created in Berlin as any change in one would have resulted in all boundaries being changed creating Africans who competed more that they co-operated defined more by difference than commonalities.

Can today’s African Union carry the aspirations of pan-Africanists and define African challenges and solutions through the lens of what Martin Luther King referred to as “the fierce urgency of now”?

Do these “competitors” realise their pan-Africanist power to lobby for one entity to rid Nam Lolwe of the noxious weed with the support of all three governments with the “fierce urgency of now”?

New media has been powerful in reigniting unhealthy competition between African countries. Technology enables competitors to reach large groups of people in accelerated and focused ways.

Sixty per cent of the world’s unused arable land is in Africa yet billions of dollars are spent annually on food imports.

Imagine if the AU, with the “fierce urgency of now” declared a year of food self-reliance, pledged that no African will ever die of hunger again, channelled African technological energy into agriculture, and encouraged Governments to use money for earmarked for imports to connect farmers and pastoralists to markets across the continent.

Maybe a time of co-operation and not competition will come when neighbours such as Kenya and Uganda, or Togo and Ghana will be served by one electric power generating company or one meteorological service.

Is our new pan-African challenge to improve our collective ability to find a better match between innovators, human institutions like Nkrumah, Mboya and Makeba and emerging and current challenges with the “fierce urgency of now?

Wairimu Nderitu is the author of Beyond Ethnicism: Exploring Ethnic and Racial Diversity for Educators and Kenya: Bridging Ethnic Divides. [email protected]

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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