Kenya and Uganda raised the stakes in East Africa’s infrastructure development race after Nairobi offered Kampala land to construct a dry port in Naivasha, 100km west of Nairobi, where the second phase of Kenya’s standard gauge railway line terminates.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta made the offer in Mombasa on Thursday during a meeting with Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni who was on a three-day tour of the country.
“We have agreed that we shall make land available in Naivasha for Uganda to develop a dry port for its cargo,” President Kenyatta announced, adding that the railway will have reached Naivasha by August.
Besides giving impetus to the joint railway project, the land deal is seen as President Kenyatta’s effort meant to lock Uganda into the project, whose fate appeared uncertain in the wake of Kampala’s recent dalliance with Tanzania.
In 2017, President Museveni upset East Africa’s balance of economic power when he abandoned an earlier agreed plan to jointly build an oil pipeline with Kenya in favour of one through Tanzania.
A recent diplomatic spat between Uganda and Rwanda that has since seen the two landlocked states close their common border appeared to make things even worse for Kenya.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame visited Dar es Salaam last month in the heat of the diplomatic spat with Kampala, a move that was seen as a firming up of diplomatic ties and to ultimately deepen Rwanda’s use of Tanzania as its main route to and from the sea. That would leave Kenya’s Mombasa port as the big loser.
President Kagame and Tanzania’s John Magufuli also discussed the ongoing construction of Tanzania’s standard gauge railway to the border with Rwanda — a project they agreed to speed up and whose completion would amount to Kigali’s total liberation from its current dependence on Uganda for trans-shipment of goods.
With Kenya’s own railway project seemingly halted in Naivasha, 250km away from the lakeside city of Kisumu and the border with Uganda, these moves appeared to leave Nairobi in the regional diplomatic cold.
It would be disastrous for Kenya if President Magufuli once again staged a diplomatic coup and got Uganda to sign up for Tanzania’s railway.
President Kenyatta having suffered his biggest diplomatic humiliation since taking office in the hands of Presidents Museveni and Magufuli in the pipeline deal, did not wait for things to roll on this time round. He launched a whistle-stop shuttle diplomacy that saw him visit Kigali and Kampala in one day, a move that was seen as one to not only defuse the tension between the two neighbours but also secure Kenya’s economic interests.
Keen observers of the East African Community political landscape termed the February and March diplomatic developments in the four capitals as the game of check-mating that has become the modus operandi of member states since Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda came together in what was dubbed the “Coalition of the Willing” that gave birth to a number of joint infrastructure projects, including the plan to build a standard gauge railway from the Kenyan port of Mombasa through Uganda into Rwanda.
Kenya’s recent offer of land to Uganda in Naivasha — whose details were not immediately available — however set social media ablaze with questions as to whether it was a government-to-government deal or a state project underlain with private interests.
President Kenyatta’s family owns large tracts of land in Naivasha and the Kenyan government has previously announced plans to establish an inland port and an industrial park there, and some critics now argue that the land deal may have partly been driven by private interests.
Locking in Uganda to the railway deal is however key to shoring up cargo volumes on the new line and increasing the viability of the project for its Chinese financiers.
Uganda remains the biggest market for Kenyan goods while the port of Mombasa serves as the region’s main gateway, handling transit cargo for landlocked states such as Rwanda, South Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kenya is at an advanced stage of negotiations with China for the financing of the Naivasha-Kisumu phase of the railway that is estimated to cost Ksh360 billion ($3.6 billion). The line will then be extended to Malaba on the border where Uganda is expected to pick up onward construction to Kampala.
Work on this last phase of the line has lately been shrouded in uncertainty, after Beijing demanded that Kenya and Uganda seek joint funding for the Kisumu to Kampala segment.
A planned joint trip to Beijing by officials of both governments did not happen last year, amid talk that Kampala had changed direction and was looking north to South Sudan.
Uganda’s Finance Minister Matia Kasaija said they had suspended the standard gauge railway project and would instead work on revamping the old metre gauge network.
“It is apparent the SGR is going to take us a lot of time to complete. We have to wait for Kenya to reach the Malaba border point then we can start,” Mr Kasaija said.
This seems to have changed with President Museveni’s visit this week.
“We have reiterated our commitment to moving all cargo by railway and reduce the cost of transport for Uganda,” said President Kenyatta.
For Kenya, locking in Uganda to the Northern Corridor project guarantees return on investment and the generation of money to repay the Chinese loans.
The proposed Naivasha dry port will therefore give Uganda a bigger stake in the cargo chain as a major transit point to hinterland states such as Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and South Sudan, and put the project in a better position to compete with Tanzania’s Central Corridor.
Last year, Uganda imported 7.4 million tonnes of cargo through Mombasa, translating into 82.1 per cent of the transit cargo to the region. This was an increase from the 6.2 million tonnes in 2017.
Kenya’s Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said more than 25 per cent of the 30 million tonnes of cargo throughput at the port of Mombasa was destined for Uganda.
In 2018, the Mombasa port recorded an increase in the transit haulage to Uganda, Rwanda, DR Cong and Burundi, to 9.6 million tonnes, from 8.6 million the previous year. Out of this, Rwanda had 230,774 tonnes; DR Congo had 470,968 tonnes, and Burundi 22,233 tonnes.
These three countries will be important to Uganda as it plans the construction of its new line.
Improvements in the efficiency at the Mombasa port translate into more Ugandan imports, and Kenya’s additional investments in both the petroleum pipeline and the Kisumu Jetty are of direct interest to Uganda.
“We are developing a new oil terminal across the channel, which will berth four ships at the same time, each with a capacity of 100,000 tonnes. This terminal will also have a common user gas manfold,” said Kenya Ports Authority managing director Daniel Manduku.
Nairobi is already in talks with a private firm to develop the Kisumu port and has already begun the dredging works and water hyacinth removal.
“We are utilising Lake Victoria for transportation thereby reducing the cost of moving fuel to Uganda and increasing potential for trade between the two countries,” Dr Manduku said.
Agreement over beef, chicken and sugar exports
Kenya and Uganda agreed to resolve most of the trade barriers that have persisted over the past two years, with beef and sugar topping the list.
“I am glad that our Kenyan counterparts have agreed to let Uganda increase its sugar exports from 36,000 tonnes to 90,000 tonnes annually,” President Museveni said. “It is also important that Uganda will resume its poultry exports to Kenya within a week from now.”
Uganda also sorted out the restrictive paper work requirements for its dairy products, about which its traders have complained over the past three years.
The agreement signed in Mombasa saw Kenya commit to reduce the bottlenecks at the border, which should see a rise in Ugandan agricultural exports to Kenya.
Nairobi will resume issuance of importation permits for dairy products from Uganda, which it stopped in February. Kenya’s biggest win was the lifting of the ban on meat exports to Kampala, and tile exports to the country.
The two countries agreed to conduct a joint verification of the tiles quality by mid-April, before Kenya opens its borders.
By Allan Olingo, Ahmed Mohammed and Samuel Baya.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
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.
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.
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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.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
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
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
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.
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.
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.