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AMUKE: Why Kofi Annan may need no introduction in Kenya

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By ISAAC OTIDI AMUKE
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On stepping down as UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan and his wife Nane borrowed a friend’s house next to a forest in Como, Italy, where they intended to stay for three months, to recharge after what had been an illustrious diplomatic career.

The plan was for them to cut off contact with the world, meaning no radio, TV or newspaper.

They would maintain a simple routine, mainly taking long walks in the forest. However, after three weeks, Annan developed the urge to read a newspaper.

He, therefore, broke his own seclusion rule, bringing with him the small group they were staying with, making their way to the nearest convenience store.

As they were walking, a man seeming to recognise Annan made for the group.

‘‘Mr Morgan Freeman,’’ the man said, ‘‘could you please sign for me an autograph?’’

Annan couldn’t believe his luck. He had panicked as the man approached, regretting that he had blown his cover.

But seeing that the man mistook him for actor Morgan Freeman – whose features remotely resembled Annan’s – the former Secretary-General gladly signed the autograph.

‘‘K. Freeman,’’ wrote Annan, possibly an inside joke for Kofi Freeman, a new moniker.

After the incident, Annan’s wife Nane remarked that indeed that was the right way to sign the autograph, since Annan was now a free man, away from his UN responsibilities.

Annan liked telling this story whenever he made public appearances – emphasising that he didn’t assume everyone knew him – urging those introducing him to audiences not to make the “here is a man who needs no introduction” presumption.

Yet in Kenya, Annan is someone who may need no introduction.

Following the 2007/2008 post-election violence, Annan midwifed talks which culminated in Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga shaking hands at Harambee House, signifying a ceasefire.

Sticking to his approach of full disclosure, Annan became a common feature on Kenyan media, thanks to his periodic press briefings as the country held its breath, hoping for a breakthrough. There was even that one time Annan was caught on camera taking an evening walk around Central Park, behind the Serena Hotel, still dressed in a suit and tie.

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Wearing sunglasses and with bodyguards in tow, Annan looked more like a lead detective in a Hollywood movie – more like his lookalike Morgan Freeman – than a member of The Elders, the global collective of eminent persons.

There is no doubt that the Annan-engineered Kibaki-Raila handshake meant a lot to Kenya. However, the success of that particular mediation process meant even more to Annan, whose past at the UN was riddled with accusations of not having done enough in instances where he’s believed to have had the power to, including in Rwanda’s case in 1994.

Working as Assistant Secretary-General heading the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the UN, Annan was accused of either not having taken seriously the initial reports originating from Rwanda, or having taken too long to act in preventing the genocide.

In his defence, Annan insisted that much as he wished the UN could have done more, critics needed to be alive to the convoluted bureaucracy within the organisation – which made decision making take longer – coupled with the eternal challenge of inadequate resources.

Annan argued that the UN’s Force Commander in Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire – Annan’s personal friend – needed 5,000 soldiers for him to make an intervention, but had only 2,500 troops.

In Annan’s words, the soldiers were ‘‘too few to act and too many to hide,’’ opining that it was risky to put the lives of the troops on the line when the UN felt ill-equipped.

Observing that member states would have withdrawn their soldiers were there to be casualties due to the UN’s unpreparedness, Annan cited the case of the US pulling out of Somalia earlier in 1993, following the killing of 19 of its soldiers in what became the Black Hawk Down movie.

So when he became Secretary-General, and in wanting to do more, one of the concepts Annan pushed for was the Responsibility to Protect, or simply R2P.

Adopted by UN member states in 2005, the facility sought to allow for the immediate overruling of a country’s claim to sovereignty – prescribing urgent external intervention – were risks of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and/or crimes against humanity to be ascertained.

In mourning Kofi Annan, Kenya should remember how much it meant to the man, and keep the peace.



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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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