Nuclear-armed North Korea wants good relations with the US but could consider a change of approach if Washington maintains its sanctions, leader Kim Jong Un warned in his New Year speech Tuesday after 12 months of diplomatic rapprochement.
At a summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June the two signed a vaguely worded pledge on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
But progress has since stalled with Pyongyang and Washington arguing over what that means.
“If the United States does not keep the promise it made in the eyes of the world… and persists in imposing sanctions and pressure against our Republic,” Kim said Tuesday, “we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state”.
He was willing to meet Trump again at any time, he added, and would seek “to obtain without fail results which can be welcomed by the international community”.
The North is demanding sanctions relief — it is subject to multiple measures over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes — and has condemned US insistence on its nuclear disarmament as “gangster-like”.
Washington is pushing to maintain the measures against the North until its “final, fully verified denuclearisation”.
Kim’s speech “expressed his frustration with the lack of progress in negotiations so far”, said former South Korean vice unification minister Kim Hyung-seok.
The North Korean leader “obviously had certain expectations that the US would take certain steps — however rudimentary they are — after the North blew up a nuclear test site and took other steps. But none of them materialised.
“He is faced with this urgent task to improve his ‘socialist economy’ — which is impossible to achieve without lifting of the sanctions.”
In marked contrast with January 1, 2018, when he ordered mass production of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, Kim said the North had “declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them”, calling for the US to take “corresponding practical actions”.
The production pledge was a “significant evolution in leadership intent, if true”, Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists said on Twitter, but credibility was an issue.
“All this might offer is a temporary cap on warhead production as long as talks are on with the US — to be withdrawn when sanctions relief doesn’t arrive,” he added.
Kim spoke sitting in a dark leather armchair, in a large office lined with packed bookshelves and paintings of his predecessors, father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung.
As he began speaking — in a deep, gravelly voice and wearing a dark suit and blue tie — a clock behind him read at moments after 12.
But at times during the address it was blurred out and towards the end of the half-hour broadcast it was close to 1, suggesting the speech was recorded in several takes.
The leader’s New Year speech is a key moment in the North Korean political calendar, reviewing the past and setting out goals for the future.
The 2018 address was a crucial catalyst for the developments that followed.
It came after a year of high tensions when the North made rapid progress with its weapons development, carrying out its sixth nuclear test — by far its most powerful to date — and launching rockets capable of reaching the entire US mainland.
The two leaders had traded personal insults — Trump mocked Kim as “Little Rocket Man”, who in turn called him a “mentally deranged US dotard” — and threats of war as fears of conflict rose.
In last year’s speech Kim warned “the nuclear button is on my office desk all the time”, but also offered to send a team to the forthcoming Winter Olympics in the South.
That opened the way for the South’s dovish President Moon Jae-in to play the role of peace broker.
Seoul and Washington are in a security alliance and the US stations 28,500 troops in the South to protect it against its neighbour.
A rapid sequence of developments followed, with athletes and a senior delegation led by Kim’s powerful sister going to the Pyeongchang Games in February, before Kim met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing ahead of the Singapore summit with Trump.
Kim also met Moon three times in 2018 — twice at the border truce village of Panmunjom and once in the North’s capital — and at the weekend vowed to meet Moon “frequently” this year.
South Korea on Tuesday reacted positively to Kim’s speech, which came after Seoul and Pyongyang have pursued several reconciliation initiatives in recent months.
These include projects to upgrade the North’s outdated rail infrastructure and reconnect it with the South.
“We welcome Kim’s reaffirmation… for complete denuclearisation and permanent peace of the Korean peninsula as well as the improvement in North-South ties,” Seoul’s unification ministry said in a statement.
Much of Kim’s speech Tuesday focused on North Korea’s moribund economy, saying that improving people’s lives was his top priority and tackling energy shortages was an urgent task.
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.