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Everyone take cover, here come Kenya’s little dictators

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By TEE NGUGI
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An assassin casually walks to a parked car and fires shots through the window. The police swiftly apprehend the hit man, but he later dies in mysterious circumstances while in custody.

Then a university female student is abducted together with a male journalist. The journalist manages to jump out of the moving car. The girl is later found dead in a forest.

No, this is not a script of the latest James Bond movie. The two incidents are actual events that have shocked Kenya to the core.

Police are yet to solve the cases. However, two governors have been questioned in connection with the assassination attempt and the murder. They are, of course, presumed innocent until proven otherwise. The government must give the police every available resource to enable them to bring their investigations to a speedy and successful conclusion.

The casualness with which the murderers treated human life has brought out the evil that now lurks in our neighbourhoods.

The national outrage is a result of the realisation that murders going unpunished over the years has given rise to a culture where human life can be disposed of in the most callous manner. We now realise we could be the next victims.

The Kenyan middle class likes to think that it is safe inside gated, privately guarded communities, but these two high profile crimes have exposed everyone’s soft underbelly.

The question of the death penalty will and should once again become part of the conversation with respect to cases of sadistic torture and murder of people.

The two crimes happened in a context where governors and MCAs operate almost as a law unto themselves. MCAs have been captured on tape many times fighting with chairs or chasing each other in the streets with stones. Some have been accused of causing grievous injury and even murder.

As to their mandate – oversight of county expenditure – MCAs have proved prodigiously incompetent. They seem to have a quid pro quo relationship with governors; “Help us get trips to benchmark, facilitate our allowances and other perks, and we will support your agenda.” It is now clear that the integrity, educational and other requirements for MCA candidates must be raised and closely policed.

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Governors on their part carry themselves like potentates, increasingly hostile to the spirit of devolution of consultation, not only with MCAs, but also with communities.

Signs of this monarchist tendency were apparent right at the outset. First, they started driving in motorcades. There was a time on our streets when there were so many black limousines with chase cars and police sirens, it seemed as if there was a VIP for every 10 Kenyans.

In fact, the number of VIPS as a percentage of our GDP and population size, makes us the country with the highest number of VIPs in the world.

Prime ministers of much richer countries, some of which give us aid, would be envious of the lifestyles of MCAs and governors. But their sense of what is of real value would prohibit them from aspiring to such lazy and lavish lifestyles.

They would ask themselves: A joy ride in Business Class or medicine in a rural hospital? Chase cars or the educational needs of children living with disability? Salary hike and allowances or better maternity care for rural mothers?

From their perspective, nothing would shout failure of leadership more loudly than having a huge salary, or as is now the fashion, a helicopter or two, when people die of famine every three years.

The governors then began having megalomaniac ambitions. They set aside millions of shillings as entertainment allowances.

Big billboards bearing the likeness of the governors were erected on county borders. TV advertisements were accompanied by the governor’s picture peering benevolently at his “subjects.” One governor even beat Kim Jong-Un to it when he had a picture of himself on mock exam papers in schools in his county. We have devolved the imperial presidency to the counties.

The governors now demand immunity from prosecution for crimes committed while in office, a privilege only accorded to a sitting president. They also want the police function to be devolved. I will leave to your imagination what would happen were governors to control the police.

If this megalomania is not checked resolutely and quickly, we will soon have fully fledged dictatorships at the county level.

Tee Ngugi is a social and political commentator based in Nairobi.

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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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