President Uhuru Kenyatta and ‘former’ opposition leader Raila Odinga achieved a great advertisement for the Building Bridges Initiative during the joint tour of the latter’s Nyanza political strongholds last week.
Mr Odinga engineered an enthusiastic reception for an erstwhile political foe, who in other circumstances would more likely have been greeted with heckling and showers of stones.
Insofar as selling the handshake in Mr Odinga’s fiefdoms and projecting President Kenyatta as a friend and partner rather than a sworn enemy, the tour was a great success.
Also worth noting was Deputy President William Ruto’s presence, and his gracefully making all the right noises in support of a pact he generally holds in suspicion.
However, the razzmatazz does not disguise the fact that Building Bridges still has a large number of sceptics.
The Kisumu tour largely put on display the new Uhuru-Raila bromance rather than the serious business needed towards a sustainable democracy not forever under the threat of primitive duels for ethnic supremacy.
Beyond the PR spin, the success of the tour can reap great dividends if exploited to build broad support for a pact whose meaning and intentions remain a mystery to many.
Time is ripe to bring activities of the Building Bridges Secretariat and Task Force out of cloistered confines and out into an open and transparent quest for a just society.
So far, what the public has seen of Building Bridges is Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga burying the hatchet on a dynastic feud that began with their fathers — founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga — and snowballed into a perpetual ethnic schism between their respective Kikuyu and Luo communities.
Kisumu brought this out clearly but the problems that afflict Kenya cannot be cured by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga agreeing to sup together, the Kenyatta and Odinga families reaching a ceasefire or the Kikuyu and Luo putting aside decades of mutual hatred and suspicion.
Building Bridges surely must transcend individuals, families and communities and address the much wider and deeper divides that all too often drive Kenya down the dark and dangerous path of bloody ethnic conflict every other electoral cycle.
Those at the Kisumu parley who suggested that the President should make good on a half-century-old political debt and support Mr Odinga’s long presidential quest come 2022 were out of line.
In the first instance, the presidency is not personal property that President Kenyatta can bequeath Mr Odinga or anyone else. Not even to his Deputy President.
If the President has made any promises to Mr Odinga out of their handshake or to Mr Ruto out of the Jubilee Party power-sharing and transfer agreement, both claimants would be naive and foolish to expect the through pass to State House.
The President may have his preference but he holds only one vote and cannot use it to bind his extended family, clan or wider ethnic and regional constituency.
In any case, political promises are completely empty where an outgoing president shorn of the bully pulpit, State administrative and security machinery and public money, retains no clout to swing any significant vote. Ask former Presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki.
It may also have been lost on the organisers that the more Building Bridges is billed as a Kenyatta-Odinga or Kikuyu-Luo pact, the more other political aspirants or groups will feel sidelined.
Mr Ruto may have put on a brave face in Kisumu but he was playing possum and, surely, will raise his head at the right time. Also keenly watching were Mr Odinga’s co-principals in the increasingly irrelevant Nasa coalition — Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula.
They, too, will be demanding equal billing for their respective following.
There’s another matter that can’t be ignored. The destructive Kikuyu-Luo political rivalry dates back to the early years of Independence but a much more deadly and bloody variant of ethnic political conflict has taken root since the clamour for democracy begun in the early 1990s. Call it the Kalenjin question.
It would be foolhardy for one to see a deal between the Kikuyu and Luo as the answer to Kenya’s history of ethnic-political conflicts while elbowing aside Mr Ruto’s Kalenjin, who have been at the epicentre of all such violence against a large array of neighbouring communities.
That is why Building Bridges must grow beyond Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga. Only an inclusive and open national dialogue incorporating all interest groups and seeking solutions beyond temporary political alliances and power-sharing deals will save Kenya.
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.
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.
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.