The ragtag Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militia remains a security threat, with active cells in Kenya’s northeastern counties although its capacity to stage regular attacks has been diminished, the Nation can reveal.
The organisation has in the past few weeks focused on targets in the border regions of Mandera, Wajir and Garissa where it has killed police officers and soldiers with home-made bombs.
The militants’ areas of operation include Sheikh Barrow, Arabia, Fino, Damasa in Lafey, Alungo, Warankara, Falama, Elrhamu and Garsesala in Mandera County.
And in Wajir County they are active in Kotulo, Mansa, Boji, Diif, Konton and Khorof Harar. In Garissa, areas prone to terror attacks include Liboi, Kulan, Hulugho, Bodhai, Boni forest, Galmagala, Amuma and Hamey.
The Yumbis Border Patrol base in Garissa was the latest to be attacked, last Friday. Police, with the help of special forces, killed three of the attackers and repulsed the terrorists.
“Security agencies remain on high alert to suppress and counter Al-Shabaab’s heightened activity along our common border with Somalia,” said National Police Service Director of Communication Charles Wahong’o in a statement.
A security alert seen by the Nation had warned of impending attacks in parts of Mandera and Wajir towns.
In a separate incident on the same day, an unidentified man was shot dead after he attempted to snatch a rifle from a soldier keeping guard at the Wajir army base. No documents were found on him.
“That is not a problem in Wajir alone but along the entire border from Mandera down to Lamu, but we are very much aware and doing what is expected of us,” said Wajir County Police Commander Stephen Ngetich.
A senior security officer said Al-Shabaab could be retreating due to heightened operations in their perceived territories.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), a UN-endorsed force of 22,000 soldiers, has succeeded in restricting Al-Shabaab’s operations in Somalia, forcing them to change tack and use local cells instead of crossing borders to stage attacks.
Amisom troops-contributing countries — Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia — are said to be vulnerable to Al-Shabaab attacks.
Recently, suspected Al-Shabaab militants abducted Cuban doctors Assel Herera Correa and Landy Rodriguez, who were working in Mandera.
The two are yet to be found, with the government only indicating that everything will be done to secure their freedom.
The Nation has also learnt that clan rivalry, politics and infighting within Al-Shabaab in Somalia are fuelling unrest, tension and attacks in the northeastern region.
The conflict, pitting the Marehan against other clans based in Somalia and along the Kenyan border, has led to an increase in Al-Shabaab activities in the area. The conflict has played out specifically in the Gedo region in Somalia.
Further, there has been a rise in the number of kidnappings of herders in the northeastern region in a bid to arm-twist the other clans into submission in an ongoing supremacy battle.
“The militant group has capitalised on clan dynamics and the porosity of the border to run numerous illegal businesses dealing in contraband goods, trade in weapons and human smuggling. The Kenyan government is continuing its plan to build the border wall and Al-Shabaab has seen this as putting an end to their business,” a source said.
Confidential government dispatches reported that on June 19, at least 18 Al-Shabaab militants were reported hiding between Bojigarsa and Mansa in Wajir County with the intention of attacking security postings in Kutulo, Mansa and Bojigarsa.
Their main target was said to be National Police Reservists (NPR) personnel patrolling the area.
The terrorists were said to be under the leadership of Abdirashid Ibrahim Osman, from Kutulo in Wajir. Last week terrorists raided Konton centre in Wajir East, targeting NPRs.
“The NPRs fought their attackers as locals fled the town. The NPRs ran away after running out of ammunition,” a filed security report seen by the Nation shows.
Last Tuesday northeastern regional Commissioner Mohamed Birik warned locals that they will be severely punished for helping Al-Shabaab.
“I urge residents to desist from these acts and instead be patriotic. You are the ones who suffer the most since all economic activities stall in times of insecurity,” Mr Birik told residents of Khorof Harar in Wajir County.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.