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ICGLR has done well fighting armed groups and Rwanda knows it

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By FRED OLUOCH
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Rwanda announced recently that it could withdraw from the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region over its failure to stop insecurity. Fred Oluoch spoke with ICGLR’s executive secretary about members’ concerns.

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Has the ICGLR Secretariat received communication from Rwanda about its intention to withdraw?

We have not received any official communication from Rwanda. The procedures of withdrawal are clear.

According to Article 35, a member state that has ratified the ICGLR pact may withdraw from it after 10 years from the date it entered into force in relation to the member state, by giving written notification to the depositary.

Withdrawal shall take effect one year from the date of receipt by the depositary.

Rwanda’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe said that ICGLR has failed to achieve its mandate of promoting security…

That statement does not reflect the reality. The ICGLR was started 12 years ago in December 2006 when the pact was signed in Nairobi.

The region was then in turmoil, with total anarchy experienced in eastern DRC after the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel group settled in the two Kivu provinces.

Negative forces created an atmosphere of suspicion, mistrust and animosity between the DRC and Rwanda for many years — a situation that was eventually resolved after many ICGLR Heads of State Summits.

The Kampala Summit in 2012 proposed the creation of the Intervention Force Brigade which has worked with the DRC army to render FDLR an insignificant force.

The heads of state summits have helped to boost bilateral relations between countries.

The ICGLR continues to convene ministerial, Chiefs of Defence Staff and Chiefs of Intelligence meetings regularly where security matters are discussed.

The Rwandan Minister is entitled to his opinion, but the truth is, ICGLR has achieved a great deal.

Rwanda is particularly unhappy that FDLR still operates in eastern Congo despite promises to eject it.

These issues have been discussed at various fora of the ICGLR organs, including the Heads of State and government Summits, since 2015.

All the decisions taken by the ICGLR have had the blessings of Rwanda.

Rwanda has consistently and actively participated in all the summits and is therefore well briefed on the FDLR situation. The ICGLR continues to prepare the disarmed FDLR in transit camps in the DRC to be repatriated to Rwanda.

The ICGLR established the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism in which Rwanda is represented.

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These military experts regularly conduct on-the-spot verifications and submit their reports to the ICGLR Committee of Ministers of Defence through the chiefs of defence staff. This has created confidence among the member states.

The ICGLR also established a Joint Intelligence Fusion Centre, where intelligence on negative forces is shared. Again, Rwanda is represented in this specialised organ.

Still, the Allied Democratic Forces and M23 continue to operate in eastern Congo with ICGLR appearing helpless…

Yes, the ADF still operates in the Ruwenzori area in Beni territory. It has morphed into a terrorist group.

We have consistently condemned their terrorist acts against civilians and the UN troops.

The ICGLR established a joint follow-up mechanism comprising four member states — DRC, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda — to curtail the recruitment of the ADF.

On M23, the ICGLR successfully mediated the conflict to conclusion leading to the Nairobi Declaration in December 2013.

Although some ex-combatants are still cantoned in Rwanda and Uganda, the ICGLR continues to facilitate their repatriation to the DRC.

The last repatriation of 13 from Uganda took place in July this year. However, fighting an established rebel force that has mastered that rugged and forested terrain cannot be a one-day event. The M23 presence in the eastern DRC is still under verification.

With elections in DRC expected in December, has the ICGLR put in place measures to ensure that armed groups do not interfere?

The ICGLR plays a supportive role in the Addis Ababa Framework of Co-operation for eastern DRC and the Great Lakes Region as a guarantor.

Together with SADC, we are supporting the concerted efforts by the DRC government and peacekeepers to pacify eastern Congo in readiness for the elections.

I need to emphasise that we are not an enforcement mechanism but a political organisation of member states with a specific mandate.

There have been concerns that the ICGLR concentrates on the DRC, neglecting the security challenges in other members states?

There is no evidence to support these claims. The perception probably emanates from the fact that the ICGLR has held many extraordinary summits to pacify the eastern DRC which was the epicentre of conflict in the region for a long time.

DRC shares borders with eight member states and its stability is crucial for the region.

The ICGLR is also present in the Central African Republic as part of the African Union reconciliation efforts, and supports the Igad-led peace process in South Sudan.

The organisation is also developing a counter terrorism strategy that will entail more collaboration with member states.

The disarmament and fight against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan is another example of ICGLR’s involvement with its members.

We have a number of projects in different member states, but, because they are not conflict-oriented, they can easily be overlooked.

For example, we have established the Levy Mwanawasa Regional Centre based in Lusaka, a think tank that provides evidence-based solutions on major peace and security challenges in the region. through research and analysis.

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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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