Russian strongman Joseph Stalin famously remarked that in some decades nothing happens, but in some weeks decades happen.
The events of last week speak to this, most notably being President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Kisumu, where he addressed a number of public rallies, climaxing in a well-choreographed visit to Bondo — Raila Odinga’s home turf.
Besides having breakfast at Raila’s residence, the President — guided by Raila in a carefully curated personal tour — visited the Odinga family’s burial site, laying wreaths on a number of graves, including that of Raila’s eldest son, Fidel, and that of his mother, Mary, who died while Raila was away in detention.
The pilgrimage culminated in a visit to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s mausoleum, adjacent to a museum packed with Jaramogi’s memorabilia.
Observing the President’s body language as he went through the motions of getting accustomed with the Odinga family history at such close range — being both sombre and attentive — one got the impression that President Kenyatta was walking on grounds which he might never have envisioned himself stepping on, yet seeing the elaborate welcome he was accorded, it is safe to say the President received the highest honour the Odingas could grant anyone.
During the main public rally in Kisumu, Raila did one of the things he does best — giving free history lessons punctuated with a song or two — reminding the attending masses that it was in Kisumu that a number of pro-independence rallies led by the likes of Jaramogi took place, pushing for the release of the then imprisoned Jomo Kenyatta, as if to remind the President and his family that there was a history of affection between their fathers before things fell apart.
Through these public actions of endearment, the Odingas and the Kenyattas were once again confirming that like Kenya’s past, the country’s future will be affected by the actions and omissions of the two families and their associates.
The subtext here is that these latest actions are a sort of rehearsal for something major which could be in the offing, seeing how coy the two leaders remain with each other while keeping the country in a continued state of limbo.
Of course the closing of ranks between Raila and Uhuru has accrued benefits for the country, but as students of politics and history are taught, always question everything.
For some, the big question that came out of the Kisumu-Bondo tour wasn’t that the Kenyattas and Odingas were solemnising the March 9 handshake.
In fact, the country seems to have all but surrendered to whatever fate the two families will deal it.
What’s raising eyebrows is that notable leaders who have been known to question things have quickly fallen in line and become unquestioning cheerleaders of the Odinga-Kenyatta affair, as if unaware that despite the best intentions of the handshake, nothing stops things from going against the script, and eventually falling apart.
One such leader is Siaya Senator James Orengo who, through his public pronouncements, now appears to be willing to sacrifice anything and everything for the sake of an anticipated Raila presidency.
Going by his Kisumu speech, the Senator seems be in the know of a deal as to who is to be the next president, but he should remember that the allure of tomorrow’s presidency shouldn’t make him and others abscond their watchdog roles today.
As Senate Minority Leader, Orengo easily occupies the office of parliamentary leader of official opposition, and much as his party leader is cosying up to the State, it would be useful for the Senator and his parliamentary troops to keep a level head.
He may have to borrow a leaf from his one-time pro-democracy comrade, Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, who has since questioned his party leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s willingness to voluntarily become President Kenyatta’s errand boy — whatever that means.
By challenging his leader’s choice of words and intentions in putting himself at the President’s unfettered disposal, Prof Kibwana is not opposing the co-operation between Mr Musyoka and the President, but is raising the question: What does it mean when opposition party leaders completely surrender to the ruling party?
If something were to happen such that the Odinga-Kenyatta arrangement became a nullity, or if the new recalibration fails to deliver the heaven on earth it promises, what would the leaders who have forfeited their duty to become cheerleaders resort to?
Raila may afford to risk since he may be on his way out of politics — regardless of whether he succeeds in his new calculations — but there has always been an expectation that those around him would operate with a measure of caution, remembering that they remain the official parliamentary watchdog.
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.