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How handshake dealt a blow to the opposition

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Kenya’s main opposition coalition Nasa crosses into 2019 badly splintered after President Uhuru Kenyatta dealt it a potentially fatal blow that may lead to its natural death.

Political analysts argue that the net effect is that the government can now easily pile more taxes on Kenyans with President Kenyatta, who is likely to have an easy ride in his second term.

Kenyans are on their own, burdenedby skyrocketing commodity prices and a high cost of living. the new year 2019 is likely to bring about more hardships with Nasa deflated and defanged.

The appointment of ODM leader and Nasa chief Raila Odinga as AU Special Envoy for Infrastructure Development and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka as South Sudan peace envoy was a political masterstroke by the President.

Both out of the way, sort of.

However, for many Kenyans, the appointments drove the last nail into Nasa’s wobbling coffin.

Raila and Kalonzo had been the Jubilee administration’s fiercest critics during Uhuru’s first term but the post-handshake events between the rivals, the Building Bridges initiative, and the recent continental appointments have drastically altered the terrain.

While Raila’s appointment had already spelled trouble for the opposition, Kalonzo sealed it when he accepted Uhuru’s appointment as the new head of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) on peace in South Sudan.

The duo’s appointments have thrown the opposition movement into disarray and shifted the political landscape ahead of the 2022 General Election.

Nasa — which consists of Raila Odinga’s ODM party, Kalonzo’s Wiper, Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya and Amani National Congress of Musalia Mudavadi — formed the main opposition movement.

With Raila’s and Kalonzo’s continental activities requiring frequent travels, the two will be missing from the ‘early campaigns’ already being witnessed in the country.

Read: How handshake shocker changed political terrain

As the face of opposition politics for decades, Raila had been the heartbeat of the opposition, constantly and consistently keeping the ruling party on its toes through vigilance, criticism of its policies and programmes as well as frequent street action.

The former Prime Minister in President Mwai Kibaki’s 2008-2013 Grand Coalition government has been the cornerstone of the opposition and his vibrancy and acumen have provided its inspiration.

Raila had hammered home the Eurobond questions, the NYS scandal, land grabbing sagas and has exposed mega corruption in the Jubilee administration.

Thus, the one-time ‘People’s President’ has until recently always been considered the ‘People’s Watchdog’.

Raila was charged with treason and imprisoned without trial for six years; he was arrested several times for opposition despotism under the one-party rule.

Since he agreed to cohabit with the government, many Kenyans have raised concerns that the man known as the opposition ‘enigma’ no longer speaks out about the ills in government, including the imposition of the VAT levy on petroleum products and the maize and fertiliser scandals.

The huge vacuum caused by Raila and Kalonzo’s absence has been viewed as a dangerous loophole in the development of Kenya’s fledgling democracy.

“The opposition in Kenya is clinically dead,” governance expert Javas Bigambo said.

He says that while ANC’s Mudavadi now claims to be the face of the opposition, it would be of no use to have the face when you are ‘brain-dead’.

“While some vital organs in the body of the opposition could be alive and functioning, it is brain-dead,” he said.

Bigambo said Raila’s extending his hand of brotherhood to Uhuru hadsounded the death knell to all opposition politics.

Ndung’u Wainaina, executive director of the International Center for Policy and Conflict, said that without a vibrant opposition voice, civil society may find it difficult to operate in an environment in which government continues to trample on their rights.

“Civil society groups have been facing increasing infringement on their freedom of association, assembly, and expression. It is becoming dangerous to challenge power, sometimes doing so results in reprisals. This has limited the work of civil society groups,” he told the Star.

Raila and Kalonzo’s appointments have shaken the core of the opposition outfit, leaving it exposed and unable to maintain a thorough oversight of the Jubilee administration.

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Mudavadi, a former vice president in President Daniel Moi’s Kanu government, has come out guns blazing, trying to position himself as the country’s main opposition leader.

Read: Gains and fears from handshake year after hotly contested polls

However, many argue that the void left by Raila is too vast to be filled by the man seeking a second stab at the presidency in 2022.

Positioning himself as the alternative voice for ‘deserted’ opposition supporters, Mudavadi has accused Raila and Kalonzo of abandoning their followers in their greatest hour of need by agreeing to cohabit with the establishment.

“I don’t believe the opposition must cease to exist. You cannot be in government and in opposition at the same time. It’s deceitful and unconvincing,” Musalia said after Raila’s and Kalonzo’s recent appointments.

He has vowed not to join the government and will continue to defend Kenyans.

“Being in opposition is the legitimate and constitutional assignment of Nasa. Our job is to help keep a balance of power, provide checks and balances, sustain democracy and maintain the constitutional requirement of Kenya as a multiparty state,” he said in an interview with a local newspaper.

“To abdicate that honourable responsibility is to betray the millions who voted for Nasa. It would be difficult to convince them that you can achieve what you told them that you stand for by joining to serve your erstwhile opponent.”

Mudavadi said despite the moves by Kalonzo and Raila, the remaining leaders in Nasa must continue to monitor and check the government.

However, Wetangula has been hobnobbing with Deputy president William Ruto casting doubt on his impact in holding the executive to account.

The numbers in Parliament also don’t work in favour of them.

The Orange Democratic Movement is Kenya’s second-largest party, with 76 MPs after the ruling Jubilee Party which has 171 lawmakers in the 349-member National Assembly.

The Wiper Party has 23 MPs, making it the second-largest opposition outfit after ODM, while Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya has 13 MPs with Mudavadi’s ANC having 14 MPs.

A strong opposition Parliament had given Jubilee sleepless nights. The Nasa alliance had a combined strength of at least 127 MPs – well above the one-third threshold required to table impeachment motions against Cabinet Secretaries

Raila has vehemently dismissed suggestions that his handshake and appointment mean that he has joined the government

“This whole hullabaloo that the opposition is dead is a media creation,” Raila said after recently meeting Embu political leaders.

“I have not joined the government. There is nothing stopping me from criticising the government. We only have a working arrangement.”

The opposition chief explained that his appointment should be viewed within the larger context of Kenya’s efforts to broker nationwide healing and reconciliation, and not through a narrow political prism.

Also Read: Uhuru wins as NASA, Jubilee resolve to support VAT cut

“We all agreed we were coming from a very difficult situation which required mediation and that’s what we have done with the Building Bridges Initiative. There is nothing saying that I have joined the government,” the ex-PM said.

Political analysts and governance experts say the opposition has been dealt a fatal blow.

The March 9 handshake marvel agreed on an elaborate work-plan to address the historical issues that bedevil the nation since independence.

Uhuru and Raila had struck a deal to deal with ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution, safety, security and corruption.

They formed a 14-member task force that would work out the practical steps to be taken to implement the eight-point agenda and publicly, in a rare show of camaraderie, after a year of antagonism, pledged to “stand together” to pursue the country’s shared prosperity.

Kenyans will look up to the team in the New Year to see what practical solutions they will offer to solve the historical issues.

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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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