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Graft fight: Judiciary on the chopping block

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By SAM KIPLAGAT
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The spotlight has turned on the Judiciary after President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji accused courts of slowing down the fight against corruption.

Both accuse the Judiciary of giving suspects orders that derail the fight and undermine the resolve to stem the vice.

Speaking last Friday in a roundtable meeting with journalists in Mombasa, President Kenyatta complained that graft cases are taking unnecessarily long to be concluded.

Further, he accused fraud suspects of using the Judiciary to defeat the cause of justice.

And in his New Year message to Kenyans, the President said he will enhance the work of Asset Recovery Agency to ensure that they use court orders to freeze and confiscate assets and accounts of fraud suspects.

“Individuals charged with corruption offences will not be allowed to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth as court proceedings are ongoing.

“Once the suspects are convicted, the assets will be transferred to the Criminal Asset Recovery Fund, ready for use to finance projects and programmes that will improve the lives of Kenyans,” he said.

On the other hand, Mr Haji has sought the intervention of Chief Justice David Maraga, arguing that conservatory orders granted are exploited by suspects to evade justice.

This was after the high court barred the State from prosecuting lawyer Tom Ojienda over alleged falsely obtaining money from Mumias Sugar Company.

Mr Haji also complains that suspects are routinely released on lenient bond terms as well as allowing constitutional office holders facing graft charges to access their offices.

This was after National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri was allowed to access his office after he was charged.

Other than Prof Ojienda, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu obtained orders stopping her prosecution over alleged abuse of office and failure to pay taxes.

In a tweet, lawyer Donald Kipkorir suggested that graft suspects should be held up to six months.

“In the New Year, President Uhuru Kenyatta, DPP Noordin Haji and DCI George Kinoti should invoke Article 25 of the Constitution to fight corruption.

“To hold suspects as in Japan for up to six months isn’t violating the Constitution. Rights of accused persons aren’t absolute,” he said.

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More than six months after nearly 50 suspects were charged over the loss of Sh468 million at the National Youth Service (NYS), only one witness has testified in the matter that has been dogged by several adjournments.

So far, more than 200 people, among them senior government officials, principal secretaries and CEOs of state agencies, have been arraigned and charged with various criminal offences in line with President Kenyatta’s renewed graft war.

Lawyer Assa Nyakundi, one of the advocates representing people charged in the NYS scam, said Mr Haji should expect such roadblocks especially after going for “high-profile individuals”.

“ … But he cannot accuse the courts of derailing him. There is no way you can get into the water and not expect to get wet,” he said.

The lawyer said judges have wide discretion and grant orders depending on the weight of the matters being raised.

Lawyer Lempaa Suiyanka says public perception is that anyone with money can use the courts to defeat the course of justice.

“Our national anthem says justice be our shield and defender , but to some it is money be our shield and defender. This public perception is a big-indictment on the rule of law,” he said.

The lawyer said the fact that some people can rush to court and obtain orders barring the criminal justice system from being applied against them is not a good strategy, and advises that if one strongly feels that the DPP is wrong, the best thing to do is to confront such cases during the trial.

“My strategy would be to confront the evidence presented by the DPP during the trial and cross-examination of the witness with a view to shaming the prosecution and not stopping the charges.

“This is because Kenyans tempt to think that by stopping the trial, there is something one is trying to hide,” he said.

Speaking in June last year during the swearing-in of Court of Appeal president William Ouko, Justice Maraga said courts will not be used as a scapegoat in the fight against corruption.

“Therefore, the drill and discipline in this game is simple; present to the court a case that meets the criminal threshold and expect a conviction. Anything else is misguided, illusory and an exercise aimed at passing the blame to the courts,” he said.



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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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