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DR Congo election panel ‘may postpone vote for a week’

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By AFP
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Elections in Democratic Republic of Congo — due to take place on Sunday — may be postponed for a week, a senior electoral official has told AFP, after electronic voting machines were destroyed in a suspected arson attack on a warehouse last week.

The official, from the Independent National Election Commission (CENI), speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that both the presidential and legislative polls could be delayed.

President Joseph Kabila is scheduled to step down after nearly 18 years in power following the elections — which are already two years overdue.

Nearly 8,000 of some 10,000 voting terminals for the capital Kinshasa were destroyed in the warehouse blaze last Wednesday, according to CENI.

Around 11 percent of the country’s 44 million registered voters live in the city.

Opposition candidates last week suggested the government could have been behind the fire, to use as a pretext to again delay the vote.

A “seven-day postponement” is being discussed, the CENI official said on Wednesday, as efforts are made to obtain replacement machines.

“We are not going to ask for anyone’s opinion, even that of the head of state,” the source insisted, adding that a formal decision may be announced on Thursday.

CENI head Corneille Nangaa is considering that matter and will hold a press conference on Thursday in Kinshasa, a spokesman for the election commission said.

The possible election postponement comes as problems have piled up ahead of the December 23 vote, with violence at electoral rallies, inter-ethnic conflict, militia attacks in the east and an Ebola outbreak.

Electoral campaigning began on November 22, since when at least six people have died in violence, according to Congolese rights NGO Acaj.

The authorities deny that there have been any deaths linked to the campaign.

The governor of Kinshasa on Wednesday announced a ban on all public rallies due to security concerns — as opposition hopeful Martin Fayulu said he had been blocked from entering the city.

“Extremists are prepared and are preparing for confrontations in the streets of the city of Kinshasa during election campaigning,” governor Andre Kimbuta said in a statement.

The ban applies to “all presidential candidates, without exception,” Kimbuta said, giving no details as to how long the measure would last.

Fayulu had been due to hold a meeting in the city.

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The opposition candidate said on Twitter that the government had “prevented (him) from returning” to Kinshasa and that his motorcade had been attacked in Masinimba, east of the capital.

“What are they are afraid of?” he asked.

Police blocked the N1 highway on the city’s outskirts, which Fayulu’s motorcade would have used, and fired teargas to disperse several hundred supporters who had come to greet him, an AFP reporter saw.

Fayulu has repeatedly accused the authorities of trying to thwart regional campaign appearances in the sprawling country.

More than 40 million people are eligible to cast their vote on Sunday.

The elections are a huge challenge for DRC, which has never known a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Kabila, 47, came to power after his father was assassinated in 2001.

He is at the helm of a government that critics say is notorious for corruption, incompetence and rights abuse.

Kabila should have stepped down as president at the end of 2016 when he reached a two-term limit.

He stayed on, invoking a caretaker clause in the constitution, but at the cost of protests that were bloodily repressed.

Twenty-one candidates are vying to replace him.

The pack is led by Kabila’s hand-picked successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hard line former interior minister linked to the crackdown, and opposition leaders Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.

Fayulu, 62, was a little-known legislator from a minority party who was thrust into the limelight on November 11 when opposition leaders named him their choice as a consensus candidate.

His nomination was initially backed by six other opposition leaders, including two political heavyweights — ex-warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and businessman Moise Katumbi, an exiled former provincial governor, both of whom were blocked from running.

But the deal swiftly fell apart as Tshisekedi, who heads the UDPS — the country’s oldest and biggest opposition party — insisted he would take his own tilt at the presidency.

Adding to political tensions is the logistical hurdle of organising the elections.

Parts of eastern DRC are in the grip of militia violence and an Ebola epidemic, raising many questions about whether an orderly ballot can take place there.



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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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