French far-right leader Marine Le Pen expressed outrage Thursday after being ordered to undergo psychiatric tests for tweeting pictures of atrocities committed by the Islamic State group.
Le Pen shared the gruesome images in December 2015, a few weeks after IS jihadists killed 130 people in attacks in Paris, sparking widespread condemnation in France.
The 50-year-old leader of the National Rally (formerly the National Front), who lost to Emmanuel Macron in last year’s presidential vote, was stripped of her parliamentary immunity over the pictures and charged with circulating violent messages that can be viewed by minors.
On Thursday, she tweeted copies of a court order requiring her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Dated September 11, it calls for the tests to be carried out “as soon as possible” to establish whether Le Pen “is capable of understanding remarks and answering questions”.
“It’s crazy,” fumed Le Pen, herself a trained lawyer.
“I thought I had been through it all: well, no! For having condemned Daesh (IS) horrors in tweets, the ‘justice system’ is putting me through psychiatric tests! Just how far will they go?” she asked, repeating her view that it was part of a government plot to discredit her.
Speaking to reporters in the halls of the National Assembly, Le Pen said she felt “persecuted” by the state and would defy the order.
“Of course I won’t go and submit myself to this psychiatric evaluation,” she declared, daring the investigating magistrate to “force” her.
Under French law there is no legal mechanism for forcing a person to comply with such an order.
The prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where the court is located, said such tests were routine in cases involving the dissemination of violent messages.
But there were howls of indignation from Le Pen’s supporters and allies.
Italy’s powerful far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted his sympathy for Le Pen.
“A prosecutor has ordered psychiatric tests on Marine Le Pen. There are no words. Solidarity with her and those French people who love liberty,” wrote Salvini, whose League party is in an alliance with Le Pen’s faction.
Her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front before being pushed out by his daughter as she sought to marginalise his more inflammatory style, came to her support.
“The insolence of some magistrates has no limits,” he said of the ruling.
Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon, who wants to form a pan-European right-wing movement, said in a statement: “I’ve said for years that when the elites can’t beat your ideas, they try to beat you down as a person — to call into question your trustworthiness or intelligence or stability.”
“The psychiatrisation of political opposition was a common tactic in the USSR, reflecting more on the sickness of the regime than its target,” he added.
Even some of Le Pen’s fiercest opponents also expressed misgivings about the tests.
Her leftist nemesis Jean-Luc Melenchon, the France Unbowed leader who once called Le Pen “half-demented”, tweeted his “total disagreement” with the court order.
“It’s not these kind of methods that will drive back the far right,” wrote Melenchon.
Le Pen shared the IS images in response to a French journalist who drew a comparison between the jihadist group and her party.
One of the pictures showed the body of James Foley, an American journalist beheaded by the Sunni extremists.
Another showed a man in an orange jumpsuit being run over by a tank and the third showed a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.
“Daesh is this!” Le Pen wrote in a caption, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
She later deleted the picture of Foley after a request from his family, saying she had been unaware of his identity, but she has denounced the case against her as a violation of her freedom of expression.
If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($87,000).
Another National Rally lawmaker, lawyer Gilbert Collard, has also been charged for tweeting pictures of IS atrocities.
The furore over the psychiatric tests comes as Le Pen attempts to rally support for her cash-strapped party ahead of European elections next spring, in which she is hoping to rebound from her presidential defeat.
Last week, she repeated warnings that her party’s existence was at stake if it didn’t manage to win back two million euros in subsidies seized as part of an inquiry into claims it misused millions’ worth of European Parliament funds.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
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.
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Drastic life changes affecting mental health
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.
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.
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.