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AMUKE: Why Parliament must stand up to the Executive without fear

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By ISAAC AMUKE
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Like the three legs of the traditional African stool, the arms of government — the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary — should ideally function independently, much as they work jointly in holding the State, or the stool, together.

Naturally, there may arise instances where one leg of the stool — or one arm of government — gets shaky or goes rogue, but that won’t lead to a collapse despite the resultant wobbliness.

However, when two legs of the stool or arms of government get rickety, then there’s certainly a high risk that the remaining steady one may find it near impossible to hold things together.

In the worst-case scenario, if all three fail, then the result will be a Banana Republic, with the stool rendered useless.

In Kenya’s case — especially after the adoption of the 2010 constitution — the Judiciary can be said to have continuously worked overtime in cultivating an air of independence, murmurs of bribery and intimidation notwithstanding.

In any event, the dispensers of justice, like Caesar’s wife, should be beyond reproach.

On the other hand, the executive — as is the practice the world over — will forever and rightfully so be viewed suspiciously, seen as needing perpetual scrutiny.

This is because in running government, politicians and their surrogates — entrusted with immense power — may from time to time pursue self-serving partisan interests, making them prone to either breaking the law, bending it or going around it, thereby betraying public trust.

Therefore any executive worth its salt finds itself continuously walking on egg shells, keen not to violate the social contract between itself and its electorate — cognisant of the fact that the mandate to govern is donated by the people and isn’t absolute.

Yet the reality is that often times, the executive inverts the “government of the people, for the people and by the people” dictum, where instead of being cautious not to violate the will of the people, it is in fact the people who get bizarrely subdued to an extent where they are afraid to rub government the wrong way.

Instead of government serving the people, the people become its servants.

It is, therefore, reasonable to say that in most scenarios, of the three legs of the stool or arms of government, it is the executive that almost always gets shaky first, drunk with power.

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As such, the independence of the legislature and the judiciary becomes of absolute significance.

Unfortunately, a rogue executive tends to make it near impossible for these two to function to their full potential, due to collusion, coercion and obstruction.

It is imperative that any country seeking to put its citizenry first must have a judiciary and legislature that are willing to fight tooth and nail to maintain considerable independence — for either of the two not to become the next shaky leg of the three legged stool.

The judiciary may find it easier to stand its ground, seeing that judges have security of tenure and need not play to any public gallery in carrying out its functions.

Regrettably, the same cannot be said of the legislature, where elected representatives are known to yield to one or the other tactic deployed by the executive.

Bribery and compulsion to tow unpopular party lines are antics deployed by governments in shoving down the people’s throats repressive legislative agendas, effectively reducing the legislature into a mere rubber stamping appendage of the executive.

This implies that as if by design — if not careful — the legislature is highly susceptible to becoming the second faulty leg of the three legged stool, thereby making the stool structurally unsound.

It is, therefore, a matter of great necessity that for a country to avoid slipping down the road of its government becoming structurally unsound — by the executive and the legislature getting cosy and consequently dysfunctional — legislators must develop a healthy appetite for defiance.

This defiance must not be for its own sake in the rebel without a cause sense, but ought to be philosophically grounded in the idea that to the everyday toiling hoi polloi, the legislature stands as their last line of legislative and other defences against the executive’s excesses, such that if the legislature absconds, then the executive will overrun the masses.

From their recent defiance in opposing the tax increase on petroleum products, one wonders whether a majority of Kenyan legislators have finally experienced their Damascene moment — of Saul transforming to Paul on his way to Damascus — since until this moment they had not been famous for standing up to the executive and their party leaders in the vehement manner they did.

One hopes that such defiance becomes the rule rather than the exception, for Wanjiku’s sake.



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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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