While bemoaning the apparent determination of our government to do away with plural politics and a free media (alongside free thinking), one is compelled to consider what is likely to happen when this quest for total government control is fully realised.
Our current government has consistently demonstrated an inordinate desire to muzzle independent media, and this it has done in a variety of ways. It has set itself up, especially through its Directorate of Information, aided by other state agents, as chief censor and arbiter of what is and what is not proper in journalism.
To effect this, it has arrogated to itself the power to decide who will be, and who will not be a journalist; what may or may not be put out as news, views or commentary; who may and who may not do research and publish data from such research, et cetera et cetera.
As all this goes on in the realm of journalism, the extant political organisations, otherwise known as parties, have been told that there is no room for them to practise politics, and, strangely enough, they have acquiesced in this interdiction that is based in neither law nor simple, old-style common sense.
So the political parties have desisted from doing what political parties do, and they now go about their muted business like lost souls wandering in a misty cobweb.
This combination is deadly, to say the least, and augers very badly for our body politic. We are beginning to look like the famous Japanese Three Wise Monkeys –Mizaru, covering the eyes, Kikazau, covering the ears, and Iwazaru, covering the mouth: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. For Evil, substitute Nothing, and you will get my drift.
A society deprived of the most basic rights for its people to organise and express themselves will not prosper, however much its rulers go round proclaiming that they are working for rapid economic transformation. Development, for it to be development, has to be people-centred; it cannot be imposed from above.
The free flow of information is an integral part of the process leading to true development, and that has to happen in an atmosphere in which an independent media thrives as a platform for social intercourse and fecund deliberation. Free political organisations are germane to permanent conversations about issues that affect the whole polity.
Scrapping any one of these freedoms – in this case, both – opens any polity such as ours to attacks from the faceless and sinister forces that thrive in opacity, rather than transparency.
Our government has rammed down our throats a spate of laws seriously constricting freedom of information, communication and research. It has created a monster called Director of Information who is a caricature of George Orwell’s Squealer in Animal Farm.
Now it is in the process of shoving through parliament a Bill creating another monster called Registrar of Political Parties, who will become the boss of all parties, because he will determine who can, and who cannot run for party leadership, as well as having the right of access to any information he may require of any party, however confidential.
Very soon, we shall revert to being a one-party state, something we thought we had outgrown back in the 1990s. It looks like there is no end to our adolescence, and we may actually be called upon to revisit our childhood, if current trends persist, and I do not see how they can be stopped.
Still, this will launch us on the thorny path of lawlessness and clandestine engagement. People used to interacting freely will not be easily cowed into non-interaction; rather they will craft devious ways to enable them to get across to fellow members of society, and some of these ways may not be catholic.
The steep rise of fake news does not come as a surprise to me, especially in this age of social media, which has made a journalist of whoever happens to hold a mobile device.
Plus, in a progressively complex world, it may be dangerous vainglory for anyone to think they can hold a big section of their population beholden to their half-baked thinking, shorn of any philosophical undergirding.
In a fast changing world with sometimes confusing phenomena, even for the initiated, it is imperative to pause and think before taking precipitate action that may come back to bite its author.
Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]
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.
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.
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.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
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.