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As Cameroon heads to the polls, will they elect a new leader?

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By NDI EUGENE NDI
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Some six million Cameroonians are expected to head to the polls on Sunday October 7 to elect their president.

According to Elections Cameroon (Elecam), the country’s elections and referenda management agency 6,598,553 Cameroonians have registered to take part in the vote nationwide, while 19,301 others will vote in the diaspora.

The voters will be choosing from nine candidates; among them is incumbent President Paul Biya who has ruled the Central African state since 1982 and is running on the ticket of the ruling party — Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM).

President Biya is counting on his experience to secure a seventh mandate that would see him extend his 36year stay at Unity Palace (the state house) in Yaoundé to 2025, totalling 43 years at the helm. He served as prime minister for seven years before becoming Cameroon’s second president in 1982.

In a rare campaign outing in Cameroon’s Boko Haram-prone northern city of Maroua last Saturday, President Biya pledged to foster a “modern, democratic, united and peaceful Cameroon.”

Critics describe President Biya, 85 and one of Africa’s longest serving strongmen, as a president who is always holidaying in Europe while his citizens wallow in abject poverty in a country marred by corruption.

A consortium of investigative journalists, under the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), said in a report in February this year that the incumbent spent “at least four-and-a-half years of his 35 years in power on private visits abroad.”

Yet President Biya, who has “ruled from afar” for over three-and-half decades, is still tipped as the favourite in Sunday’s vote.

His core supporters, mainly senior state functionaries and business magnates believed to benefit from tax exemptions, have been canvassing for the man they describe as their “natural candidate.” The president is also backed by over 20 other political parties and celebrities such as soccer legends Samuel Eto’o and Rigobert Song.

Among President Biya’s challengers at Sunday’s election are Joshua Osih, flagbearer for the leading opposition party, Social Democratic Front (SDF), Prof Maurice Kamto of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement, and former Transparency International vice president Akere Muna of the Popular Front for Development.

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An entrepreneur in the civil aviation and tourism industry, Mr Osih says he will reintroduce the federal system of government that was practised in the country between 1961 and 1972, and allowed special status for Anglophones. This is his proposed solution to the separatist crisis rocking Cameroon.

He also says that through the system, local governments will be empowered and made more autonomous.

“I strongly believe in the virtues of local government, one that values regional diversity and makes it the centre of its actions,” said the presidential aspirant, who has also pledged to increase the minimum wage.

But observers say the SDF candidate’s chances have been jeopardised by a two-year conflict in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions — Northwest and Southwest — that have been a source of votes for the opposition party.

The two English-speaking regions have been rocked by escalating violence since 2016, with separatists calling for the independence of the area and the creation of a new state called Ambazonia. Separatists have vowed to disrupt elections in the region.

Mr Muna says he will wipe out corruption. He also pledged to solve the ongoing crisis in the Anglophone regions within his first 100 days in office.

“I will lead the charge to weed out corruption at every level of our government. We do not have time or tolerance for corruption, wherever it resides. I will actively work with civil society to improve the way our government operates, and ensure our policies align with the needs of our people,” he said.

The 65-year-old lawyer, who has headed various missions of the AU, currently serves as the sanctions commissioner at the African Development Bank and has been a vocal anti-corruption activist.

Prof Kamto, also a lawyer, says he is the best bet among the nine. The 64-year old former member of the International Law Commission of the UN says he wants to put in place a state of law that respects the rights of everyone.

A former ally of President Biya, Prof Kamto left CPDM and resigned from his post as junior minister in the Ministry of Justice in 2011 on grounds of “deep-rooted tribalism in government.

“Current governance has broken the prosperous co-operative societies of the 1970s-80s and destroyed the social, industrial and banking fabric inherited from the beginning of the construction of a modern Cameroonian state, to set up a system of rent-seeking enjoyed by the members of a small circle who take control of everything,” he said.

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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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