December 10 was the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Coincidentally, Jamhuri Day, Kenya’s independence day, was celebrated on December 12, two days after the annual International Human Rights Day, whose theme was “Stand up for human rights”.
The UDHR was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.
The document set out for the first time fundamental human rights to be universally protected.
As we celebrate the three key occasions, Kenyans should revisit both inhumane and colonial laws that do not reflect the spirit and intention of the designers of the UDHR and our independence heroes.
Although Kenya has shown commitment to its international human rights obligation, it still has laws that violate human rights.
Fifty-five years later, it holds onto inhumane colonial laws.
Despite making huge strides towards socio-economic and political independence, it seems not to have done so in developing laws that conform to a modern nation.
These laws do not serve any purpose in a post-colonial Kenya and their existence is just an element of neo-colonialism and breach of human rights.
Most of them are contained in the Penal Code, which is traced to India. It was introduced in Kenya in 1930 during the struggle for independence as a mechanism to criminalise the African uprising.
One such law is the death penalty. It goes without saying that execution of a human being is an inhumane punishment, whatever the circumstances.
According to the UDHR, everybody has the right to life and to live free from torture.
Since 1987, there has been no death row convict has been executed in Kenya, eliciting the question: “Why not abolish the death penalty?”
The significance of human rights is precisely that some means may never be used to protect society because their use violates the very values which make society worth protecting.
Although the court, in some instances, has said that the death penalty is not a cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment, I differ and submit that this is a misreading of Article 26 of the Constitution.
The second offensive law is criminalisation of consensual same-sex adult relationships sanctioned by Section 162 of the Penal Code.
Ironically, we continue holding onto this law to protect our African morals yet it wasn’t introduced in our books by Africans.
This law has been an impediment to attainment of health rights by a section of our community. It has also been used to extort, persecute and discriminate against sexual and gender minority (or, maybe, majority) in Kenya.
Unfortunately, we cling on a law that, in itself, promotes commission or omission of other offences — such as rape, cyber bullying, denial of medical attention and assault.
BRITISH DID AWAY WITH LAW
Even more ironical, the British, whose colonial government gave us this law, did away with it in 1967!
Loitering with intent to commit a crime or with intent to engage in prostitution is another absurd crime that keeps our courts busy on Mondays and hugely contributes to police harassment and bribery. It was meant to protect the colonial government offices and residences and contain freedom fighters in concentration camps and also bar them from accessing the city.
Today, the Constitution allows for freedom of movement and association.
Also, a Kenyan will be worried for not carrying his or her identification card. We have been “programmed” to believe that walking without an ID is an offence; it is not!
This concept, used by some police officers to harass their fellow citizens, is founded on the famous Kipande system used by the colonial master to alienate Africans from their fertile highland lands and contain them in the underproductive camps.
It was also used to oppress the Africans through forced labour and keep an eye on the Kenya African Union members.
Lastly, the Penal Code style of communication is uncouth.
The laws refer to people with mental distress as lunatics and/or imbeciles.
The Act also fails to appreciate the use of non-custodial sentences as prescribed in recent policy developments.
Several sections of the Penal Code have been declared unconstitutional and inhumane. We should scrap it off our books and develop a Criminal Code that is aligned to the modern challenges and adheres to international standards of human rights.
Although Kenya is not a post-conflict nation, it can borrow a lot from the “Model Codes for Post-Conflict Criminal Justice”, a simple and clear document designed to enable countries from conflict to move towards re-establishment of the rule of law and fair criminal justice.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.