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Kivu, the forgotten war in the heart of Africa

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By AFP
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When asked to name a long-running war somewhere the world, many people are likely to point to notorious hotspots such as Afghanistan or Syria.

How many would name Kivu?

Yet this conflict in the heart of Africa ranks among the longest, bloodiest and potentially most dangerous wars in recent history.

Fighting in Kivu, a region in the east of the vast powder-keg state of the Democratic Republic of Congo, first flared a generation ago.

It developed into two full-fledged wars that sucked in countries around eastern and southern Africa, claiming millions of lives.

Today, the fighting continues at a lower intensity and without direct foreign involvement.

But it still reaps a near-daily harvest of killings, rape, maimings and torched villages, coinciding with an ongoing outbreak of Ebola — a mix that adds perilously to the DRC’s instability.

“The conflict is deliberately being forgotten or played down by the international community, which is showing a kind of willful blindness,” said Omar Kavota, head of the Centre of Studies for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights (CEPADHO), a not-for-profit group based in the province of North Kivu.

The bloodshed is mainly blamed on militias derived from ethnic groups, many of which fight over Kivu’s natural resources — a traffic in so-called “blood minerals” that include coltan, a metallic ore vital for mobile phones and electric cars.

According to the Congo Research Group, a study project at New York University, 134 armed groups are active in North and South Kivu, the region’s two provinces.

In August alone, it counted 49 violent deaths, 103 kidnappings and 32 clashes.

On Saturday, 21 people were killed in the centre of the city of Beni by assailants wielding guns and machetes, prompting aid workers to suspend efforts to roll back an outbreak of deadly Ebola. Two days later, one person was killed and 17 kidnapped in Oicha, a town 30 kilometres (18 miles) to the south.

The authorities say the attack was the work of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group rooted in Ugandan Islamism that has killed hundreds of Kivu civilians since its creation in 1995. The ADF is under UN sanctions.

Kivu, a region bigger than Portugal that borders Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, spiralled into catastrophe in 1994.

Hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus streamed across the border, fearing reprisals after hardline Hutus were ousted from power following a genocide of Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

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Two years later, the first Congo war flared. Rwanda’s new strongman, Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, backed a campaign by rebel Laurent-Desire Kabila to overthrow dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Kagame’s forces entered the DRC to settle scores with Hutus who had taken part in the genocide.

But civilian refugees — “between 200,000 and 300,000,” according to Belgian writer David Van Reybrouck — were the main victims.

Once in power, Kabila turned against his Rwandan and Ugandan allies, expelling their forces from the country and the second Congo war ensued.

Nine African countries and more than two dozen armed groups became embroiled in the conflict, which by some estimates caused more than five million deaths from violence, disease and starvation.

Some historians have dubbed the conflict “the Great War of Africa.”

The war formally ended in 2003, but its embers still glow brightly, stirring fears that they could be easily fanned back into greedy flames.

The UN has devoted its biggest peacekeeping mission to the DRC, providing some 17,000 personnel and an annual budget of $1.153 billion.

It issued a warning about instability in Kivu ahead of presidential, legislative and provincial elections on December 23, saying government forces faced “multiple” attacks.

The constellation of assailants includes the Liberation Forces of Rwanda, a Rwandan Hutu group, as well as militia derived from Congolese ethnic groups.

The latest attacks have stoked dismay at the apparent powerlessness of the army and the UN, and the perceived silence of the authorities.

“Enough is enough,” said Beni’s bishop, Sikuli Paluku.

“How is it that even with the presence and large-scale deployment in the region of Democratic Republic of Congo’s armed forces and with the massive presence of the UN mission in Congo… we cannot end this curse?”

“We have to question our methods, we have to fine-tune our strategies,” North Kivu Governor Julien Paluku said on Radio Okapi, which was created by the UN’s Congo mission.

And Anselme Mwaka, an opposition MP from the Union for the Congolese Nation said it posed “a real danger” for the holding of safe elections on December 23.



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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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