Connect with us


Is the opposition in peril across East Africa?





More by this Author

A split in Uganda’s main opposition party; a release from prison with a stern warning of Rwanda’s main opposition figure; a handshake that has rattled the wider opposition in Kenya; President John Magufuli’s deployment of the hardest tactics against opponents.

These sum up the state of the political opposition in East Africa: The space for opposition is shrinking as entrenched incumbents tightening their grip.

Over the last two weeks, Maj General Mugisha Muntu, who reigned supreme at the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) for five years, quit to start a new outfit named New Formation, to galvanise the masses that have been at best despondent with regard to politics.

The question is: Does creation of a new political vehicle expand or shrink the chances of mounting a meaningful challenge against President Yoweri Museveni who will have been in power for 33 years come January next year at the next election?

Immediate comments from the FDC betrayed panic as the party proclaimed a “plan to fight Muntu.”

Meanwhile, Gen Muntu’s efforts to leave bridges to his old party intact have been seen as too little too late at best and naive at worst given the animosity he endured as the party’s President, when he was accused of being a mole, which finally drove him to quit.

So far, both Gen Muntu and Dr Kizza Besigye, the man he replaced at the helm of FDC in 2012 have been careful in their comments, with the latter making every effort to avoid the subject altogether.

Dr Besigye has been accused of failing Gen Muntu after he exited the party leadership in 2012.

Ugandan political watchers have long hoped to copy Kenya’s agility in crafting alliances that help wrest power from strong incumbents as seen in the change of leadership from President Daniel arap Moi to Mwai Kibaki and the rise of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

However, the dynamics are fundamentally different as Kenyan politicians pursue short-term objectives. This may not work when facing an entrenched leader like President Museveni.

But Kenya’s deal making especially among opposition ranks is facing its biggest test since the surprise March handshake between arch-rivals President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The deal has paralysed the opposition and left the ruling Jubilee Alliance in turmoil.

The handshake has thrown up more questions than answers on the political playing field during the next elections as it seems to upset an earlier succession plan between President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

Accusations of betrayal have since rung out from both Jubilee and the opposition coalition, the National Super Alliance.

Academicians have largely sighed with relief, expressing optimism that the handshake may have helped avert a return to 2007-style post-election violence.


Writing in the Daily Nation in May, Peter Ndege, a professor of history at Moi University noted: “In the context of Kenya’s neo-liberal ethos and practice, politicians struggle for power through unfair and predetermined electoral processes which invariably threaten to tear the fragile country apart.”

Mr Ndege, however, welcomed the thawing of relations, arguing that it could be explained as politics of nation building. Like many other observers, he argues that the mere fact of the two titans of Kenyan politics shaking of hands was critical in ensuring stability.

What Mr Ndege did not say outright, however, is the handshake left the opposition in a state of confusion.

Meanwhile, it is in Tanzania, hailed as a beacon of stability in the region, that ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi continues to entrench itself, especially with the ascent to the presidency of John Pombe Magufuli in November 2015.

Under his leadership, the elbow room for the opposition, civil society and the media has continued to shrink.

A wave of optimism about “politics unusual” has quickly ebbed into persistent harassment of the opposition and media.

But President Magufuli attracts masses of followers who are bowled over by his tough stance against corruption and wasteful spending. Such zeal has assured him of widespread support for his hard tackling against political opponents.

In Rwanda, elections were held in August to elect a new parliament but while that shows a healthy sharing between the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front and friendly parties, other elements of the opposition who have opposed President Paul Kagame, who has been in power since 2000, fare a different reality.

Two women stand out: Victoire Ingabire and Diane Rwigara.

Ms Ingabire of the United Democratic Forces Party was freed on a presidential pardon recently after serving six years of a 15-year jail sentence.

She has been warned to steer clear of politics in order to guarantee her freedom although she had threatened to continue from where she had left off before her incarceration.

Ms Rwigara, who tried unsuccessfully to contest against President Kagame in the last elections, was released on bail alongside her mother from prison on Friday.

Elsewhere, the newest members of the EAC, Burundi and South Sudan present what observers see as the most worrying situations for political opposition.

Burundi has been locked in a civil conflict since President Pierre Nkurunziza laid claim to an extra term which critics say violated the provisions of the Arusha Accord that ended that country’s protracted civil conflict signed in 2000.

President Nkurunziza has been president since 2005.

South Sudan has also just signed a series of peace accords mainly aimed at bringing harmony between arch rivals President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.

Dr Machar has been living in exile in South Africa after fleeing the country in 2015, he has since relocated to Sudan.


Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading


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

Continue Reading


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.

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.

Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153

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.

Continue Reading