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Is the music finally over for our admirable political neophyte?

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By FREDRICK GOLOOBA-MUTEBI
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Supporters and fans of one of Uganda’s most talented musicians, Bobi Wine, must count among some of the angriest people in the country as we enter 2019. At the time of writing, riots had broken out in at least one suburb of Kampala.

His plans to stage concerts in the capital over the Christmas holiday had been sabotaged by the police and sister agencies.

That followed the cancellation of another concert in Uganda’s second largest city, Jinja just over a week ago, which was the subject of this column last week.

Given his popularity, which has soared since he joined politics and the struggle to oust President Yoweri Museveni, the concerts had been expected to draw large crowds of revellers and to further drag down his already heavy pockets.

On December 26, elements of the police and sister outfits were out in force to ensure that both he and his fans, who had planned to flock to his entertainment facility on the shores of Lake Victoria, stayed home.

A few hotheads did, however, make it to One Love Beach, in defiance of instructions from the police to not go there. For their troubles they tasted the power of anti-riot water cannons.

In the aftermath of what many onlookers would agree is unjustifiable behaviour by the Museveni government, some social media platforms are smouldering hot with angry comments from people who would rather not join the rioting but who are incensed enough to want to throw a few swear words at President Museveni, the security agencies and whoever else they believe merits the insults.

Predictably, some commentators are urging the musician-turned-politician to remain steadfast in his desire to continue making money from his God-given talent and in his determination to spearhead efforts to bring about the change they want.

In video clips circulating on social media, Bobi Wine is heard assuring whoever cares to listen that he remains unfazed and that he will continue to pursue Museveni’s removal from “entebe eyo” (that chair).

It is an admirable response from a political neophyte who nonetheless has dared take on a role that, for all intents and purposes, is tough, dangerous, costly, and thankless.

More than a few seasoned politicians have walked down that road, made enormous personal sacrifices and retired having achieved few if any of the great ambitions they had for the country.

A good debate could be had about whether being a popular opposition politician in Museveni’s Uganda is more or less hazardous than it was before he seized power 33 years ago. What is difficult to dispute, however, is that it isn’t anyone’s idea of “healthy living.”

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From the way things look, Museveni has now moved into gloves-off mode, the same approach he has invariably used to see off opponents who in and outside Uganda have touted as “the greatest threat to his hold on power.”

One need not look for proof any farther than the recent declaration by parliament that blocking Bobi Wine’s concerts is unconstitutional.

In countries where the idea of checks and balances means what it should mean, the declaration would have been enough to protect the musician-turned-Member of Parliament from this kind of harassment. In Uganda, it has made no difference.

Here, respect for parliament by the executive is optional. When push comes to shove, large numbers of MPs can be cajoled, bought, or intimidated into doing as they are told. Which is why Bobi Wine should expect no relief from his appeals to parliament.

And, if history is anything to go by, cancellation of his concerts is only the initial step in a series of measures that will be deployed to neutralise him.

Of course, concerts are not the only avenue for raising money. Other opposition figures have always managed to raise significant amounts through other means, which are just as open to Bobi Wine.

The second step, which may not be long in coming, however, will be to curtail his movements using different stratagems.

That would cripple his ability to mobilise his supporters around the country and win over those who may still be sitting on the fence, still unable to decide whether, given the situation, supporting anyone and going out to vote is worth their time and effort.

This particular constraint can, however, be overcome. Teams of volunteers could fill the gap created by the curtailment of his movements.

There are measures to deal with that too. As a political party, the National Resistance Movement is not that organised. However, no rival political organisation comes anywhere close in as far as having people on the ground is concerned.

Local leaders, the vast majority of whom were elected under its banner, can ably take care of the volunteer opposition mobilisers, working hand in glove with resident district commissioners and other public servants who disregard the law requiring them to be neutral and engage in blatantly partisan behaviour on behalf of the ruling party.

So, is it already game up for Bobi Wine? Past experience suggests it is. To change that, he and the broad opposition must be more cohesive and more creative than has been the case in the past. The question is whether they have the desire, the capacity and the drive to do so.

Frederick Golooba-Mutebi is a Kampala- and Kigali-based researcher and writer on politics and public affairs. E-mail: [email protected]

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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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