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Lusaka: From parliamentary greenhorn to budding Senate speaker

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When Jubilee Party fronted him to be its Senate speaker candidate prior to August 2017, most people believed Kenneth Lusaka’s prospects were weak.

He was considered a greenhorn in Parliamentary affairs, having neither served as an MP nor a Speaker.

It was viewed he could not beat his main competitor Farah Maalim (Nasa candidate) and immediate former Speaker Ekwee Ethuro.

During that heated election, Ethuro got 2 votes, Rameshchandra Gorassia got 0, Lusaka got 40 while Maalim got 23.

Others who sought to be Senate speakers were former West Mugirango MP James Gesami who got 0 and Paul Gichuke Ribathi who had 1.

Standing Order No.7 (1) provides that: “A person shall not be elected as Speaker unless supported in a ballot by the votes of two-thirds of all the Senators”.

That is, unless supported by the votes of 45 Senators, none of the candidates met the threshold.

During the second round that required only a candidate to get simple majority to be declared the winner, Lusaka had 42 while Maalim had 25.

Soon after Senate Clerk Jeremiah Nyegeye declared him the winner on the afternoon of August 31 2017, the former District Officer and a former Livestock PS in the grand coalition caused a stir when he majestically walked into the House.

“You may take your seats, Hon Senators,” these were his first words to be captured in the Hansard. 

In his victory speech, he assured senators that he was up to the task and that he will rally the legislators to protect Senate and devolution as well as ending the supremacy wars that had been witnessed between the National Assembly and the Senate.

“We will speak on out on any subject under the sun so long as it affects Kenyans. We will adopt a proactive approach and strive to make the Senate to be a friend of all Kenyans and let the Senate be their sanctuary in times of distress. Let the Senate be a beacon of sobriety and hope for Kenyans of all ages,” he said in his remarks.

He added: “Let me say that the Second Senate is no longer nyumba ya wazee. The second Senate under the Constitution of Kenya 2010 will strive to reach out and harmoniously work with the national Government. The so-called supremacy wars must be a thing of the past. That is how tangible and progressive milestones will be realised by our bicameral Parliament.”

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In the past one year and five months, under his leadership, the Senate has published 47 Bills, three of which were passed and assented to.

A total of 13 Bills have been referred to the National Assembly for consideration and are yet to be concluded while one has been amended by the National Assembly and is before the Senate for consideration of the amendments.

Lusaka told the Star in an interview at his office that 28 Bills are at various stages of consideration by the House while two are in the National Assembly for concurrence.

A total of 90 Motions were filed in the Senate, 62 of which were passed without amendments and five others with amendments.

At the closure of House business three weeks ago, three motions had been conclusively debated and are awaiting senators to vote on them while 19 motions are pending debate.

The Senate speaker said a total of 42 petitions  were filed 12 were considered by the relevant Standing Committees, reports tabled in the House and copies of responses sent to the respective petitioners. 

He noted that 30 petitions are pending conclusion by respective Standing Committees.

“The Senate has had marked successes, solid and well thought out rulings. Whereas the Senate and National Assembly of the 11th Parliament were embroiled in turf wars to the extent of going to the Supreme Court, the 12th Parliament has better relations,” he said.

Lusaka also led the Senate in inaugural sitting of the House outside Nairobi (held in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu county in September). 

Read: Senate holds first sitting out of Nairobi, Sh9bn budget cuts focus of talks

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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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