A character in the 1990 BBC political drama The House of Cards says of wheeler-dealers, buccaneers and functionaries who infest corridors of power supplying all manner of political labour to parties and politicians: “A politician needs a wife and other people; regrettably, a man of state needs helpers to do his bidding … even unwitting pawns who don’t know who they serve …”
President Uhuru Kenyatta has no shortage of helpers, but few display the bravado, brashness and, lately, a penchant for taking a rare irreverent dig at Deputy President and Jubilee deputy party leader, Dr William Ruto, as Mr David Murathe does.
In old communist Russia, these ranks of political labourers were called the apparatchik, non-professional, non-specialist, but ever available and ready for deployment on any political assignment.
Their most valued credentials beside loyalty are that they must harbour no known or expressed aspirations for higher office.
They are never deployed to any of the top echelons of party leadership as chairmanship or secretary-general, party leader and deputy leader, the cadres reserved for potential national leaders.
Kenya’s political anthropologists and biographers are yet to study and document the role of unelected informal players in contemporary Kenya state, who seem to pack so much political heft and influence in government actions at various phases of Kenya’s post-independence political evolution than elected leaders, but are not accountable to the public.
Last Wednesday, Mr Murathe chose an opposition-organised event at Mbale Stadium, Vihiga County, hosted by his old college mate at the University of Nairobi, Musalia Mudavadi, to launch the most scathing attack on Dr Ruto’s presidential ambitions.
In what sounded like a valedictory speech, he essentially said Ruto’s days of calling the shots in the house of Jubilee was an illusion, Jubilee had its owners, and the jury was still out on their preference of Kenyatta II successor.
It was a loaded statement that seems to have taken even Ruto’s staunchest opponents by surprise.
As one of the close allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta, many will be hard put to separate Mr Murathe’s sentiments from those of the big man.
For those who know him, Mr Murathe never has illusions where his loyalties lie, and who his heroes are.
He is known to use phrases in discussions about politicians’ penchant for ambiguous utterances, but his was not ambiguous by any measure.
When, in 2016, current Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi seemed keen to assert himself inside Jubilee’s top leadership after small affiliate parties, including his Alliance Party of Kenya (APK), dissolved to join Jubilee, Mr Murathe told him with a curt retort: Jubilee is no Party of National Unity (PNU) where Kiraitu was secretary-general).
In the second term of retired President Kibaki’s term (2008-2013), an amorphous appointment was made of retired civil servant, Mr Stanley Murage, as a powerful “policy adviser” based at State House in addition to the State House Comptroller.
Mr Murathe remarked at the time: “That is the office I want when Uhuru is President.”
He may not have been appointed policy adviser, but his bravado and recent provocative statements throw broad enough hints about the latitude he enjoys.
His behind-the-scenes activities in Jubilee, its predecessor, The National Alliance (TNA), and his ability to criss-cross between political spaces at personal and political levels on errands for his buddy cuts the portrait of a trusted loyalist.
Few ask questions about who sent him when Mr Murathe shows up at funeral meetings, wedding committees or political events of entities perceived as Uhuru rivals.
Once in 2007, Kalonzo Musyoka and Dr Julia Ojiambo were holding a delegates conference at Kasarani sports stadium.
Suddenly a Kalonzo ally, Mr Gideon Ndambuki, found his way to a social joint where Murathe was and breathlessly asked: What can you do?
Apparently, Mr Kalonzo and Dr Julia had difficulties with delegates’ allowances and didn’t want a fallout in front of media cameras. Mr Ndambuki and Mr Murathe drove off together.
On President Kenyatta’s axis of politics, Mr Murathe has come to symbolise the counterweight and political checkmate to Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Jubilee Majority Leader Aden Duale, who symbolise Dr Ruto’s proxy attack dogs, especially on knotty issues.
To his credit, Mr Murathe’s steadfast loyalty to President Kenyatta long before and after he assumed power has never been in doubt, so much that few personalities are sought after by newshounds to give the President’s political pulse of things whenever they cannot get an official State House dispatch.
If they ever differed over things Murathe says on his behalf, the President, his family members and aficionados have never contradicted the former Gatanga MP for things he says on their behalf.
Once when Uhuru seemed partyless for some time after bolting out of Kanu in 2009, Mr Murathe was asked what party he supported.
Without batting an eyelid he shot back: My party is Uhuru Kenyatta.
President Kenyatta, Dr Ruto and Mr Murathe come a long way, politically, and it is significant Mr Murathe never sought an elective party office unlike his two buddies. Even the one he holds currently is interim.
As an unelected interim Jubilee Party vice-chairman, Mr Murathe is the only Jubilee office bearer who displays audacity to publicly criticise his deputy party leader and Deputy President on matters normally few Jubilee elected leaders would touch on publicly.
An unwritten rule since President Kenyatta assumed power on a Jubilee flagship in 2013 is that no elected leader from his Mt Kenya base ever mentions Dr Ruto’s name negatively in public, until the President himself invented the term “tanga tanga” in relation to Dr Ruto and his lieutenants.
Mr Murathe is the first senior Jubilee official to explicitly mention the DP’s name and brazenly tell him off on the matter of 2013 pre-election Kenyatta II succession pact, that is supposed to have obligated President Kenyatta to mobilise his Gema base in support of Ruto’s presidential ambitions in 2022.
Lately, Mr Murathe has also been keeping the company of former Jubilee bigwigs whose careers were sunk at the disputed primaries in May 2017, and who blame the Deputy President for their predicament.
In his book, Illusion of Power (2001), a long-serving parliamentarian, the late Geoffrey Gitahi Kariuki, (popularly known as GG), grimly described his party, Kanu’s pervasive disregard for rules, decorum and expectations and lack of any semblance of concern for political morality or consequences, thus:
“Those who succeed in criminally acquiring and maintaining their power, at whatever cost, are forever haunted by the fear of losing their soul-deadening harvests.
“No doubt, extreme megalomania and the desire to hold onto power regardless of consequences for millions who look up to their leaders for guidance in creating a better life, are the most crucial factors that have stifled Kenyan’s democratic development …”
Among questions that have been raised in social media reactions to Mr Murathe’s affront on the DP is if he is among entities Mt Kenya voters look up to for leadership in the current political discourse.
A strange silence has met his provocative statements, especially in Mt Kenya region, where he may have calculated to trigger a chorus of public statements against the DP as politicians normally do upon receiving the cue.
Despite repeated public jibes at the DP, the soloist is yet to inspire a chorus in response. The question is: Is the silence speaking to the message or the messenger?
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.
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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.