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EAC integration in doubt as summit aborts second time

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By The EastAfrican
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The integration within the regional bloc continued to show signs of discomfort after a second attempt to hold the Heads of States summit flopped for the second time in three weeks.

The meeting of the presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, which was scheduled for Thursday, December 27 in Arusha, was pushed to the first quarter of next year.

Three weeks ago, Burundi pulled a fast one on its East African Community partners after it pulled out of both the ministerial and Heads of State summit occasioning the last minute cancellation of the presidents’ meeting.

A memo to EAC secretariat staff, signed by Deputy Secretary General Steven Mote last week states that the Heads of State Summit was postponed because there are on-going consultations on an appropriate date.

It adds that a new date would be communicated soon. The Council of Ministers meeting scheduled for December 20 failed to take place too.

The region’s principal secretaries have already met under the technical committee and have adopted a report which was supposed to be approved by the minsters before being presented to the Heads of States for ascent.

The presidents were expected to tackle key issue amongst the member states with priority being given to resolution of long outstanding non-tariff barriers; the progress report on the adoption of Political Confederation as a Transitional Model to the East African Political Federation.

Other items on the Agenda include; the roadmap for the accelerated integration of the Republic of South Sudan into the EAC, and; the verification exercise for the admission of the Republic of Somalia into the Community.

The Heads of States are also expected to assent to key Bills including the EAC Polythene Materials Control Bill, 2018, which will now see the region have a common framework on the elimination of the use of plastic bags.

Sources tell The EastAfrican the diplomatic row between Burundi and Rwanda is straining relations of the EAC.

According to the sources, diplomatic work is necessary if the meeting is to take place, especially after presidents from the region suffered the embarrassment of going up to Arusha at the end of November, only to find out they had no quorum, because Burundi had boycotted.

Chris Magoba the Spokesperson for the Ministry of East African Community Affairs says the council of ministers meeting did not take place because they had no agenda.

“The consultations about the Heads of State Summit may impact on the agenda for the meeting,” he says.

A change of the agenda from what was up for discussion during the flopped November 30; Summit could suggest the Heads of States are still figuring out ways to discuss the Burundi Rwanda row without triggering split of the EAC.

President Yoweri Museveni had earlier confirmed in his letter to Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza that the disagreements between Burundi and Rwanda would be up for discussion on the December 27, Summit that has since been postponed.

While Rwanda has consistently insisted that it has not interfered and backed any rebels from Burundi, the government in Bujumbura says otherwise.

According to Muhamed Habib Mnyaa, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) there are fears that if Burundi and Rwanda’s situation isn’t handled delicately, it could trigger an EAC collapse like it happened in 1977.

Currently, Burundians cannot visit Rwanda. Rwandans cannot visit Burundi either and staff at the EAC who are not citizens of either countries say Bujumbura is the problem.

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As a result of the disagreement, even officials of the EAC like Martin Ngoga the Speaker of EALA cannot go to Burundi, as was exemplified during the inter-parliamentary games that took place at the beginning of December.

The Rwanda Parliament didn’t take part in the games that took place in Bujumbura. As a result the inter-parliamentary games were one partner state short.

The disagreement between Rwanda and Burundi seems to be dragging in the other EAC partners, including an incident last week where a group of 350 children from Uganda were stopped from entering Burundi for the African Zone Scout competition starting December 15 and ending December 20.

The competition usually brings together Ethiopian, Ugandan, Rwandan, Kenyan and Burundian contingents.

A source who was part of the delegation tells The EastAfrican that the Uganda Scout Association ad initially intended to travel through Rwanda and then to Burundi, but were advised against the idea because the borders between the two countries are closed.

The scouts then resolved to travel through Tanzania.

Although the EAC is supposed to allow for free movement of persons, sources tell The EastAfrican that Tanzania required that the Uganda Scouts Association gets approval from Dar es Salaam instead of the traditional immigration stamp that is the norm for ordinary travellers in the region.

When approval was finally given, it was with the requirement that the Tanzanian military provide escort up to the Burundian border.

Richard Okello the Executive Secretary Uganda Scouts Association says the Tanzanian military was intended to provided security so that the team could travel at night.

He however, goes on to admit that Uganda had provided security to accompany the children, as is the norm for cases when the scouts have to travel through what can be considered insecure situations like night or through national parks.

According to Mr Okello, the Tanzania military escorted the contingent of mostly under age scouts through what was supposed to be a short cut to the Burundian border.

The short cut however, turned out to be longer as the muddy roads led to a breakdown of some of their buses.

The contingent was then forced to push their buses out of the mud and have them repaired.

Another source who was part of the delegation told The EastAfrican that the Tanzanian military chose to take the Ugandan scouts through a dry weather road in a rainy season, as a delaying tactic.

When the scouts finally reached the Burundi border, they were told they could not go to the camp in Gitega Burundi.

According to Mr Okello, Burundian immigration had approved the cross over, but the Ugandan scouts were stopped by orders from Bujumbura.

Burundian government officials have said Ugandan scouts contingent was stopped because it had civilians carrying guns.

Mr Okello says these were Ugandan security and it is a norm to travel with them, as long as the USA feels it needs someone to protect the children.

“Even in our camp located in Queen Elizabeth where we need to protect the children against wild life, we go there with security,” he says.

Some members of USA believe the refusal to allow Ugandans into the African Zone Scout competition had to do with the bad blood that appears to be brewing between Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Pierre Nkurunziza.

The two Presidents have been exchanging letters over the EAC summit and the situation in Burundi. In one of his letters President Museveni told President Nkurunziza that the EAC had a right to ensure Burundi was peaceful.

President Nkurunziza argues that stability is the business of Burundians.

— Reported by Dicta Asiimwe and Allan Olingo

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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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