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GUYO: State-religion relationship is confusing the law and society

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By KALTUM GUYO
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That Kenyan politics has gone to bed with religion is causing much confusion as to how the society ought to be ordered, whether we need to rely on the Constitution or the Scripture.

The Constitution is, in itself, a fusion or confusion between Customary Law, Sharia Law and Legislation as enacted by Parliament and does not provide uniformity in law.

Over the years, churches, in particular, have played host to political figures on numerous occasions either for prayers or the obligatory harambee. The relationship has solidified, giving church leadership unfair advantage in determining how the rest of us can be ordered. They, of course, like any other Kenyan, have a say but their voice has become very powerful, to the point of muzzling others.

Religious groups draw the right to their opinions from the Scripture as much as the Constitution. The right to freedom of expression is theirs to enjoy, and so does the rest of the society. However, due to the close relationship between the State and religion, they have undermined the right of others to express themselves.

Two key examples are the right of women to seek abortion, which religious groups have opposed for divine reasons, and the legalisation of same-sex relationships in the country. The latter has particularly been sandwiched between objections from religious groups and Africans, who claim it is against social values. Whatever that means — when most of us are more European than ever before!

In the recent past, we have had films and performances by Kenyan artistes banned because they were deemed immoral or sinful. The objection, mostly, would be led by a person with the mandate to run a state corporation set under the Constitution.

To ban something by claiming it is sinful or immoral veers towards the realms of divine law and is a biased decision. It is a way of imposing one’s values onto others with no understanding of your belief system.

Many communities in Kenya still live their lives in a traditional way. Why should divine law so negatively impact on people who don’t follow any organised religion?

The war on corruption has been waged and the voice from organised religions, in particular, has been missing on the issue. The close relationship religion enjoys with the State undermines their responsibility to the wider society. They can cite all moral scriptures but that amounts to nothing if they cannot hold perpetrators of corruption to account. How can a church challenge a contributor of millions to it?

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No one is saying religious organisations do not deserve financial support. However, it creates the perception that ill-gotten money is welcome in churches and mosques and temples and prayers will forgive the sins of leaders who run down public hospitals — when, in actual fact, the Constitution would deem such individuals be punished right here on earth, for we can feel the pain of their criminal acts.

A religion-State relationship can defile democracy by the sheer swaying power religion has on its congregation. No wonder, churches and mosques make for good vote-hunting grounds; they take away the voter’s autonomy to elect political representatives of their free will.

The rise in questionable ‘prosperity’ churches lends credence to the close relationship churches enjoy with the State. Many disturbing claims are made against some of the independent churches but the government, its hands tied to its back by religious fanatics, is unable to rein in the rogue pastors and churches. Officials watch as the most vulnerable of citizens are exploited financially in the name of God.

There have been more prosperity churches mushrooming in Kenya than decent schools, hospitals and housing. It has become uncontrollable, untaxable and unapproachable industry that is getting away with misdemeanours that ordinary Kenyans will not even think of.

The Constitution is clear that Kenya does not have a state religion. Essentially, it is a secular state. However, through the conduct by the government in its relationship with religious groups, the nation has tacitly been turned into a religious state.

No one is saying those in government do not have the right to worship but going to bed with religious groups undermines the tenets of the Constitution and risks locking out the rights of others who do not have a similar relationship with or influence on the State.

The law can only be fair and just if it is uniform and serves the needs of all in society. The Constitution provides for a similar set of rules by which we can all be ordered. It is, therefore, against the Constitution and natural justice to only rely on the views of the select few at the expense of the masses.

The State has a duty to all Kenyans and must sever its close relationship with organised religions in the spirit of equality and justice.



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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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