For days, an Amharic Language song, Lanchi new Ethiopia (it is for you Ethiopia), dominated the streets of Addis Ababa. The song was particularly loud in vehicles flying the old Ethiopian green, yellow and red flag, which has no emblem with blue star in the middle.
The city was preparing to welcome its mayor-elect, Dr Berhanu Nega, who clinched the seat following the controversial 2005 elections. Unfortunately, things got ugly and bloody, before he took the office.
When Dr Berhanu and his colleagues arrived in Addis on September 9, the people lived up to their promise. The team led by the economist, based in the US before the election, was greeted by a crowd of thousands.
“I remember the shootings and funerals here and there following that election,” said Getahun Feyera, 38, who lives and works around Merkato, the biggest market in Addis Ababa.
“If you see each of them, they have more than enough knowledge and wealth to live their individual lives. But they choose to fight for us. After the election was stolen, they went to prison, and later into exile to pick up arms against those who have been dividing us and stifling our democratic rights,” he said, explaining why he was happy to welcome the Patriots G7 Front leaders back home.
“There are people in this country who do not like to identify themselves along ethnic lines,” said Mr Omer Redi, a journalist and a political analyst.
“I believe these people, who are very many, consider themselves Ethiopians first. With Ethiopia divided along ethnic lines and its politics dominated by ethnic nationalist elites, this significant constituency has been marginalised and unrepresented over the past 27 years. G7 Patriots Front is the representation of this constituency,” he said.
Their abandoning the armed struggle also gives hope to many Ethiopians about the possibility of a fair and competitive election as the country prepares for the May 2020 poll.
“It all depends on what they will bring to the table for the people during the campaign. If they manage to capitalise on their 2005 experiences and focus on what unites the people, I believe the team of Dr Berhanu is smart enough to win the next election,” said Mr Getahun.
After losing the election in Addis Ababa, the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which is dominated by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), came up with a law that made the capital an administration part of the Oromia Regional State.
The decision was understood by many to be meant to dry up the revenue sources of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), which won the election, with a view to crippling all their activities.
The major opposition parties had, at the 11th hour of May 2005, joined hands and formed CUD. The coalition was packed with energy and intellect from across the ethnic divide.
Within just a few months, CUD had won the hearts and minds of most Ethiopians, and went on to win in almost all the cities. More telling was that it won 137 of the 138 seats of the Addis Ababa City Council.
The overall election result showed that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling coalition, along with its allied parties, won the majority of the 547-seat parliament. The electoral board declared that CUD won 109 seats, while the other opposition, the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces (UEDF), got 52.
Soon, however, the CUD leadership wrangled over whether or not to join Parliament by accepting the results and the restrictive laws the ruling party continued to pass.
The country eventually descended into chaos, occasioning hundreds of deaths, thousands of arrests and many others fleeing into exile.
After around 200 demonstrators were killed by the state snipers known as Agazi, the CUD leaders were sent to jail along with thousands of their supporters, demonstrators and the opposition regional candidates.
In addition, civil society leaders involved in awareness raising and monitoring the election were also locked up.
The cruelty of the Meles regime also forced some of their supporters and donors to turn against the government and join the exiled opposition groups.
One of the Patriots G7 Front leaders, Mr Andargachew Tsige, was hijacked from Yemen Airport in July 2014 and taken to a jail in Addis Ababa. Earlier, and right after the post-election crisis, his 80-year-old father was arrested for being in exile.
Mr Andargachew has since been pardoned and released by reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. When he was captured in Yemen, he was in transit to Eritrea from where he, Dr Berhanu and others, were organising the rebels fighting against the EPRDF regime.
After he was released from prison and went back to US in May 2008, Dr Berhanu, along with other former CUD members, established a political movement called Ginbot 7 (G7).
They named it after the seventh day of May (Ginbot) in the Ethiopian calendar, which is May 15 – the 2005 voting day.
Following the election debacle, the G7 leaders were convinced that EPRDF, which took power through an armed struggle, would only be forced out by similar means.
In April 2009, the government claimed that it had foiled a coup attempt led by the Ginbot 7 members and arrested 35 people they claimed were part of the plot. Those arrested included Gen Tefera Mamo, Dr Berhanu’s
cousin Getu Worku and Mr Andargachew’s father, Tsige Habte-Mariam.
Not long after, Parliament declared that Ginbot 7, the Oromo Liberation Front, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, the Eritrean Regime and the Al-Shabaab, were terrorist groups.
Except for the Al-Shabaab, all the others have now been removed from the terrorists list. The leaders of the organisations and members have all been pardoned, thanks to the law passed a few months ago after Mr Abiy took
However, EPRDF too had to endure the consequences of the failed electoral process. Ethiopia was criticised by many international groups for violating human rights and pursuing the Chinese model of development, highly dependent on external support, while compromising democracy and basic human rights.
The ruling party fell out with some of its major allies such as the European Union, and organisations such as the World Bank decided to stop direct budgetary support to the regime.
Indeed the 2005 election was considered the only fair and inclusive one the country had conducted since the fall of Mengistu Hailemariam’s Derg Regime in May 1991, even though it ended on a tragic note.
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.
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.
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.