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Key events that shaped 2018

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By MILLICENT MWOLOLO
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Kenya entered the year 2018 against the backdrop of crucial events, some that posed a great threat to national peace and economic growth while others aimed at promoting progress. We have outlined them below.

UHURU-RAILA HANDSHAKE
Hate it or love it, the peace deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga became the defining moment.

The truce reached on March 9 ended the political tension that was caused by the contentious August 8 General Election, which saw tens of people killed and property destroyed in various parts of the country.

The ‘handshake’ helped rally Kenyans as it received acclamation from citizens and leaders. Nevertheless, it has put a strain on the President’s Jubilee Party – because Deputy President William Ruto’s supporters believe Mr Odinga wants to sabotage his presidential ambitions.

ECONOMY
Despite a slump in GDP growth – from 5.8 percent in 2016 to 4.8 percent in 2017 – Kenya’s economy still has a bright future.

According to a 2018 World Bank data on poverty rates, at least 17.3 million Kenyans still live on less than Sh92.4 per day. “The moderately robust GDP growth over the past decade has not generated consummate increases in household consumption,” the report says.

This year has been occasioned by high food, medical and energy costs.

As per the Kenya Economic update, the country’s poverty incidence is amongst the lowest in East Africa and is lower than the Sub-Saharan African regional average.

Also, the public debt is soaring, forcing the government to roll back development expenditure. The debt now stands at Sh4.8 trillion as unemployment continues to nag the national government.

Auditor–General Edward Ouko warned in June: “If we don’t watch out, corruption will engulf us.” As major scandals persist, Mr Kenyatta is waging a war on the scam.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Directorate of Criminal Investigations have prosecuted individuals accused of corruption.

They include staff from the National Cereals and Produce Board, Government Advertising Agency, National Hospital Insurance Fund, Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Railways Corporation, Kenya Ports Authority, National Youth Service and Kenya Power.

In July 2018, EACC director of field services Vincent Okong’o said corruption had raised the cost of doing business in Kenya.

BIG FOUR AGENDA
Kenya’s socio-economic blueprint launched by Mr Kenyatta has bought Kenyans hope as it seeks to improve food insecurity, housing, manufacturing sector and healthcare.

The National Housing Corporation says the cumulative housing deficit has been caused by rapid population growth. To cater to the bulging number, the government is planning to build one million homes in the next five years.

It has already launched the pilot project of the Universal Healthcare Coverage that aims to provide quality and affordable services to citizens. The pilot project that targets residents of Kisumu, Nyeri, Machakos and Isiolo counties was rolled out this month.

Patients have been complaining of high cost of services that have caused the death of some.

YOUTH
About 75 percent of Kenyans are under 30 years of age, with a majority being unemployed. Experts have advised the government to tap into the potential of this group to shore up socio-economic growth.

The World Bank estimates that approximately 800,000 Kenyans join the labour market each year, and only 50,000 succeed in getting jobs in the formal sector.

Nonetheless, the government has made attempts to improve the youths’ financial stability by establishing schemes such as Uwezo Fund, through which they can get loans to start businesses.

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The government has in the 2018/2019 budget allocated Sh444.1 billion towards education, with a focus on expansion of Technical and Vocation, Education and Training (TVET) infrastructure.

More synergy is needed through partnerships between learning institutions and employers so that the transfer of skills and knowledge is backed by job-market dynamics.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers partnered with Germany Technical Cooperation to promote demand-driven education.

PERSONALITIES
Raila Odinga
Raila Odinga has continued to shape and shake Kenya’s politics. After the 2017 elections which he termed a sham, he swore himself in as the ‘president’ at Uhuru Park in January. This caused tension in the National Super Alliance, which he co-leads with Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula; after they failed to take part in the occasion.

Then came the falling-out with lawyer Miguna Miguna, who is living in Canada following his deportation.

After the peace deal, he was appointed African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development.

In the statement, the AU said Mr Odinga brought with him a rich political experience and strong commitment to the ideals of Pan-Africanism and African integration, as well as deep knowledge of infrastructure development.

Prof Kivutha Kibwana
The Makueni governor has come out as a model leader in both governance and socio-economic development.

The ‘governor of the year’ has redefined the role of devolution in Kenya, as his colleagues try to emulate his leadership style that places public participation at the pinnacle of governance.

He has promoted road infrastructure, manufacturing sector and healthcare. For example, he set up fruit and milk processing plants to empower smallholder farmers.

George Kinoti and Noordin Haji
This was the year that both Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji stood out as the champions in the fight against corruption.

The have prosecuted influential individuals such as MPs and former ministers accused of graft. Some of the casualties are National Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri, Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe, NHIF CEO Geoffrey Mwangi and Joe Sang, former Kenya Power managing-director.

Their zeal contrasts with that of their predecessors. To ensure success of the war, they have urged the Judiciary to not to compromise.

Ekuru Aukot
The Thirdway Alliance party leader and former presidential contender is still grabbing headlines. Mr Aukot is calling for constitutional referendum though the ‘Punguza Mizigo’ campaign. They intend to reduce the number of MPs from 416 to 147.

So far, the party has collected 690,000 signatures and is targeting to surpass the one million mark by April 2019.

Under the proposed system, the 47 counties will be turned into constituencies, with each electing a male and female representative to Parliament.

Each constituency will also elect a male and female representative to the Senate. Additionally, six members will be nominated to Parliament to represent special interest groups.

“Kenya is currently overrepresented. A referendum will reduce the cost of running Parliament from Sh36.8 billion to Sh5 billion annually,” the party’s Secretary-General, Mr Fredrick Okango, said.

Okoth Obado
The Migori governor made headlines for one-and-a-half months following the brutal murder of his girlfriend Sharon Otieno.

The body of Ms Otieno, who was seven months pregnant, was found near Kodera forest in Homa Bay on September 4.

Mr Obado, his personal assistant Michael Oyamo and Migori County Assembly Clerk Casper Obiero were later arrested and charged with the crime. The governor spent most of the time shuttling to and fro Industrial Area Remand Prison and Milimani Law Courts.

Mr Oyamo and Mr Obiero are still in police custody. They all denied the charge.



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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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