It has been a year where one is tempted to invoke the “always something new out of Africa” theory.
It is not every day you have a prime minister leading a group of soldiers into doing press-ups, particularly not when the armed soldiers had tried to force their way into the compound of the prime minister to protest against unpaid wages.
It is the type of scenario that used to end up in coups in the old days.
But Abiy Ahmed has been doing the seemingly impossible ever since he unexpectedly became prime minister of Ethiopia in April.
He is 42-years-old, and currently Africa’s youngest leader.
There is nothing predictable about the man and how he has set about doing his job.
Ethiopia had been seen by critics as an authoritarian state that brushed off criticism and remained an implacable foe to neighbour Eritrea.
But within a few months of taking office, Abiy had lifted the state of emergency, released thousands of political prisoners, allowed dissidents to return home and unblocked hundreds of websites and TV channels.
Peace with long-time foe
Just as people were digesting the dizzying changes on the domestic front, the prime minister, in the sphere of diplomatic relations, did the equivalent of making the sun rise from the west.
He ended the state of war with Eritrea by agreeing to give up disputed border territory thereby normalising relations with the long-time foe.
This came in an unexpected visit to the Eritrean capital, Asmara, and publicly holding hands with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to declare the end of the two-decade old war.
Women in power
Flights and telephone communications have been restored and there has been an outbreak of love between the two nations that has stunned the world.
And if anyone thought there had been enough surprises, in October, Abiy appointed women to half of all cabinet posts.
If that does not sound impressive enough, there were other changes. Ethiopia now has a female president (Sahle-Work Zewde), a female head of the Supreme Court (Meaza Ashenafi), a female head of the electoral commission (Birtukan Mideksa), and the official spokesperson of the government is a woman (Billene Aster Seyoum).
South Africa was another country which saw a major change of leadership, but the optimism that came with the accession of Cyril Ramaphosa to the presidency has fizzled out.
He took over after the scandal-hit President Jacob Zuma was forced to resign in February.
Ramaphosa was not doing press-ups but he did start with a lot of enthusiastic jogging that attracted a lot of attention from his compatriots.
When he started the hashtag “the tummy must fall”, many South Africans felt the time for smiles had returned to their country.
But the brooding shadow of Zuma looms large as Ramaphosa tries to tackle the alleged corruption which came to define his his predecessor’s time in office.
Zuma maintains his innocence, and has asked the courts to throw out 16 corruption charges brought against him over a notorious arms deal.
For a brief period this year, all 54 countries on the continent appeared united in outrage in January when US President Donald Trump was reported as not wanting migrants from Africa coming to the US because their countries were “sh**holes”.
Later in the year, his wife Melania undertook a four-nation African tour when she visited Ghana, Malawi, Egypt and Kenya. Whilst she was still on the continent, President Trump was tweeting that Africans loved his wife.
Indeed, Melania cut a swathe with her pith helmet, even though it does not seem to have started a new fashion trend yet.
Whilst some people were still debating Trump’s reported insult against migrants, a young man from Mali held Paris spellbound as he scrambled up the wall of a high-rise apartment block to save a dangling child.
He earned himself the title of Spiderman, and was granted French citizenship by President Emmanuel Macron.
Weah honours Wenger
If the Parisian Spiderman temporarily forced the French to look at migrants in a different light, President Macron himself was forced to listen to an eight-minute exposition on how Africa does not want the generosity of the world by the Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo when he visited the West African state.
That video went viral and many Africans cheered that a leader had articulated their feelings.
But other things went viral which did not make too many people proud.
Bobi Wine, the Ugandan pop star-turned-MP, shook Uganda for a few weeks in August and attracted the attention of the world when he was arrested by the police and charged with treason.
After leaving the country for medical treatment for injuries that he alleged were sustained during his arrest, he is now back in Uganda and his first performance as a singer in November showed his popularity remained solid.
A good man was recognised for his good deeds when Denis Mukwege, the Congolese doctor, shared the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize with Yazidi activist Nadia Murad.
Dr Mukwege has been described as “the world’s leading expert on repairing injuries of rape”, and is known to grateful patients as “Doctor Miracle” for his work in his homeland of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where unfortunately his skills are always needed because of the continuing unrest.
George Weah became president of Liberia in January and demonstrated his gratitude to those who helped him at the start of his football career as later in the year he gave his former coach, Arsene Wenger, the country’s highest award.
If Nelson Mandela had been alive, he would have been 100 years old this year and to mark the anniversary of his birth, lots of activities were organised around the world.
Former US President Barack Obama went to South Africa to give a lecture and there were concerts to celebrate Madiba, as the anti-apartheid icon is affectionately known.
Hugh Masekela, the famous South African trumpet player and anti-apartheid campaigner, died earlier in the year and was widely mourned.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela and the much-loved and sometimes controversial anti-apartheid leader, also died this year and was given a befittingly rousing send-off.
Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, celebrated his 80th birthday and continued with his peacemaking activities when he led a delegation to Zimbabwe ahead of July’s elections.
He died unexpectedly in Bern, Switzerland, in August.
His remains were brought to his homeland of Ghana where he was given a state burial and a grand funeral in true Ghanaian style.
The love affair between China and Africa continued and at a conference in Beijing this year, President Xi Jinping announced an extra $60 billion of financing for the continent.
Meanwhile, the Americans went public with their scepticism about China’s intentions and accused China of predatory loan arrangements.
But the infrastructure deficit on the continent is huge, and the view of African governments seems to be that money should be taken from anywhere and anyone to build roads, bridges, railways, airports, schools, hospitals and universities.
Their citizens will not complain, provided they can see the results with their own eyes.
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.
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.
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.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
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.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
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.