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KAGWANJA: Hustlers, dynasties and the new scramble for Gema nation

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By PETER KAGWANJA
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Ahead of the 2022 elections, Kenya is in the throes of a new scramble for Mount Kenya communities akin to the global surge of foreign interests in Africa.

Like the new scramble for Africa (see the Economist, March 2019: 9), the new rush for Mount Kenya aims to carve a sphere of influence as part of a larger scheme to control State power and resources.

The new scramble targets the Gema nation, a political community comprising of what the British liked lampooning as the “Mau Mau tribes” (the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru and Mbeere). Discernibly, four scrambles have shaped the future of power in one of Africa’s pivotal States.

The first occurred in late 1962, ahead of the 1963 election that ushered Kenya to independence from Britain. It was a scramble for the soul of ‘Mau Mau tribes’ and for Jomo Kenyatta—giving rise to the slogan ‘Uhuru na Kenyatta’.

1963 was a battle between two multi-ethnic coalitions: the Kenya African National Union (Kanu) camp led mainly by Luo (Oginga Odinga and Tom Mboya) and Gema elite against the Kenya National Democratic Union (Kadu) led by the éminence grise of the Kalenjin (Daniel Moi), Miji Kenda (Ronald Ngala) and Luhya (Masinde Muliro) communities. Kanu won, ushering in a short-lived Luo-Kikuyu détente.

The second scramble was a battle of wits in the protracted ‘Kenyatta Succession’ (1966-1978). It involved the Kalenjin (Moi), the Kamba (Paul Ngei) and Luo (Mboya/Odinga). Moi won, taking power after Kenyatta’s death in 1978.

The third scramble in 2002 was even more dramatic. Kanu (the Kalenjin) lost to the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), an omnibus multi-ethnic coalition of Luo (Raila Odinga), Luhya (Wamalwa Kijana) and Kamba (Kalonzo Musyoka and Charity Ngilu). This 2002 surge had a déjà vu ring to it as both coalitions settled for a Kikuyu flag-bearer, Uhuru Kenyatta (Kanu) against Mwai Kibaki (Narc). The Mboya-Odinga “Uhuru na Kenyatta” chant in the 1960s had familiar echoes in Raila Odinga’s “Kibaki Tosha” clarion call.

The fourth scramble ahead of the 2022 polls is triggered by two factors: Uhuru Kenyatta’s imminent retirement and huge vote in his home turf. The new scramble, therefore, reflects two trajectories: the scramble for the Kenyatta persona and for the soul of the Gema people. But there are some pushing for the continuity of Kikuyu power: a “third term” or the creation of an executive premier for a Gema scion.

So far, Deputy President Dr William Ruto is the front-runner in the new scramble. Between March 2018 and March 2019, Ruto made no less than 29 political forays into the Mount Kenya region. This amounts to 62 per cent of total political visits to the region compared to Raila Odinga’s six (13 per cent), Gideon Moi’s nine (9 per cent), Kalonzo Musyoka’s four (8 per cent) or Musalia Mudavadi’s four (8 per cent). Ruto’s visits targeted Murang’a (37 per cent), Kiambu (27 per cent), Meru/Tharaka-Nithi (18 per cent) and Nyeri (18 per cent).

These political forays are aligned to his three-pronged game plan. One is the ‘development-as-politics’ strategy. A key strand of this strategy involves unveiling and claiming credit for multi-billion government projects.

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However, this approach has recently suffered a setback following the appointment of Dr Fred Matiang’i as chair of the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee. The ‘development-as-politics’ strategy also involves huge contributions in fund-raisers and financial support to regional political allies. This demands a massive war chest, drawing the attention of anti-corruption troopers.

Two is a subtle campaign to call in “debts”, particularly Ruto’s and Kalenjin’s support to Uhuru and the Gema nation in 2013 and 2017. But extremists are ruining the game. In a trending tweet, one Dennis Kiptoo Mutai asked Kenyans to be prepared for another 2007/08 post-election violence if Uhuru does not support Ruto’s presidential bid in 2022!

As for now, Ruto is the favourite in the Mount Kenya grassroots. But his campaign has come against serious headwinds. Many of his regional allies are seen as political neophytes, with little or no clout and widely seen as beneficiaries of Jubilee’s flawed primaries in 2017. Alleging that they were rigged out of power, regional heavy-weights are now on the prowl to “cut him to size”.

However, the game may radically change if Ruto decides to reciprocate the deal that Uhuru and the Gema nation gave to him and the Kalenjin nation in 2013, including the deputy presidency and an inordinately high share of government positions.

However, the historic handshake between Kenyatta and Odinga, largely inspired by a quest for national unity and inclusion, has cast a dark cloud over the future of the Kalenjin-Kikuyu diarchy.

Indeed, the handshake has sparked a “new scramble for Kenyatta” and the Gema nation.

Odinga is riding the crest of a robust war on corruption while, arguably, working to dismantle Jubilee to give way to a new Narc-like rainbow coalition to steer reforms ahead of 2022.

It appears that the ensuing political order arising from the Odinga-Kenyatta détente is more likely to benefit more either Kalonzo Musyoka, Gideon Moi or Musalia Mudavadi than Dr Ruto.

But 2022 also presents two wild cards. One is Dr Fred Matiang’i, who, from a bureaucratic sense, is the third in command after the January 22, 2019 elevation to chairperson of the powerful Cabinet committee.

The other is Raphael Tuju, who, as the secretary-general of the ruling party, a Cabinet minister without portfolio and now an Odinga ally, is in a political sense the third most powerful Jubilee leader.

Response to the new scramble, increasingly cast as a straight class fight pitting the scions of ‘hustlers’ and those of ‘dynasties’ has badly divided the power elite of the Gema nation, trapped in manouvres to make financial gains and schemes to be deputy presidents. The future of power in the region looks uncertain.

Prof Peter Kagwanja is former Government Adviser and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute.



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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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