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MATHIU: Four things we must tackle next year for rebirth of Kenya

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By MUTUMA MATHIU
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There are four things we must tackle this coming year. First, do the folks who run this economy know what they are doing, or are they pulling our leg? Because the economy is right there at the top of our collective, national New Year resolutions.

The accumulation of debt, the pile of resource-gobbling mega projects whose viability and utility is still the subject of public debate long after implementation, and apparent government unwillingness to slow down and take stock, are some of the biggest worries.

We will get to a point where we say, no more Chinese debt, not a cent more. Of course, somebody will also have to help us figure out if spending $3.2 billion on diesel rail technology was a smart thing. I hope this happens in 2019.

Tens of thousands of Kenyans hope this will be the year when the government starts to facilitate enterprise and stops being such a millstone around the neck of the private sector.

Growth and jobs come from companies. Jubilee has driven thousands of these into bankruptcy through a corrupt and malicious procurement system by which it obtains goods and services but refuses to pay up.

It looked quite progressive when sections of procurement were ring-fenced for youth, women and the disabled. A really good idea. Until it came to paying — then the claws and fangs came out. MPs must, as a priority, pass a law obliging procuring entities to settle invoices within 90 days and make it an offence to fail to do so.

The small gods in ministries, parastatals and counties, obtaining goods — and bribes — from Kenyans and then destroying them by snaking around payments must be driven out of business.

A related issue is, of course, corruption. Ours is probably not corruption; it is pan-societal kleptomania. For ordinary Kenyans such as myself, it feels as if well-heeled thugs are driving Canters to the national till and evacuating the contents to the basements of their corruption-funded palaces.

People are beginning to wonder if corruption can be fought, after all, and whether we should even try since thievery and dishonesty are quite institutionalised and entrenched.

Not only should the crackdown continue, it should be cranked up tenfold. There are many projects that are unexamined — including our Sh1 billion-a-kilometre roads. There should be some alignment between investigators, prosecutors and the Judiciary. If 10 big people are jailed for corruption, you will be surprised at how quickly graft retreats.

On October 4, 1958, the French punched the reset button, ending the chronically unstable Fourth Republic by adopting a constitution that created the Fifth Republic.

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Political instability in the post-war period forced the nation to turn to a national hero, Charles de Gaulle, to design a political system that would ensure stability. De Gaulle created a powerful president to take charge of the country, and he was probably right.

The politicians are talking about reworking the Constitution to increase the number of chairs at the dining table so that more of them can eat.

This will ensure that vicious ones who could burn the country are not locked out. No doubt the Kenyan state, as now established, is weak and wasteful.

There is some wisdom in taking advantage of the political push for constitutional change but not to create the stable, rapacious polity the politicians want to establish to rule and plunder the country in perpetuity.

The politicians want the Constitution changed for positions to be created for them. The price they must pay for it is the establishment of a system that frees politics from their stranglehold and makes it possible for a talented Kenyan without money or a big name to ascend to the apex of power.

And this time, the limited review of the government structure should not be left to NGOs or the acolytes of the politicians. It should be given to a few smart, independent-minded national heroes whose only interest will be to ensure a strong, democratic and transparent government.

And, please, let’s remember that the system is not the problem. The politicians are. It’s the same characters who have been there since the fall of Daniel Moi who squandered the Narc revolution and burnt the country in 2007, leading to the killing of Kenyans, and created the crisis last year. The solution is not to enhance but rather curtail their ability to hold the country to ransom.

Finally, this coming year, we should have a national dialogue on security. For many Kenyans, national security is a ‘Black Hole’, a space into which untold resources are poured, but we don’t quite know what happens in there. Until an officer opens fire and kills a student, or Al-Shabaab breaks through national defences and massacres children on campus, then we take to Twitter.

We should invest in a modern police academy that will admit the cream of our youth and train them to protect society. We should relook at the prosecution service and create a profession that lawyers are proud to join. We should begin an assessment of our Judiciary to put more money in it but also make it more law-abiding. Judges are the watchmen of our rights, but who is watching the watchmen?

We should look at our military and intelligence services and create an architecture that serves the needs of our future. The year 2019 should be a busy one for Kenyans. Have a great year, though, and God bless us all!



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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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