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Mystery of Russian plane at Wilson, Nairobi

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By WALTER MENYA
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On the evening of December 17, some 30 minutes before Wilson Airport was due to close for the day, a private twin-engine jet with foreign registration touched down from Khartoum, Sudan.

Five people were on board the British-manufactured Hawker 800XP registration M-VITO, according to the Director General of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, Gilbert Kibe.

“The aircraft arrived at Wilson from Khartoum on December 17, 2018 at 1956hrs with a total of five on board. It departed for JKIA on December 20, 2018 at 1635hrs and later the same day at 1750hrs, it departed JKIA for Ndjamena- Chad with a total of seven on board,” the KCAA boss told the Nation.

Wilson Airport closes at 8.30pm meaning the aircraft arrived, just 34 minutes before the closing time.

Three days later on December 20, the aircraft left Wilson Airport for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) at 4.35pm.

Slightly more than an hour later, the plane took off for Ndjamena, the capital of the Republic of Chad.

Nothing strange about the plane’s movement except that the particular aircraft is reportedly owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, 57, a shadowy Russian and Kremlin insider with close links to President Vladmir Putin and whose name has prominently featured in the ongoing investigations into the 2016 US election meddling by agents of Moscow.

Mr Prigozhin, a secretive businessman known as Putin’s cook/chef for his Kremlin catering work, was sanctioned by the US in 2016 and indicted in 2018 by Special Counsel Robert Muller who is investigating the Russian interference in the 2016 US elections.

According to a European Union monitoring site for aircraft operators, M-VITO is Mr Prigozhin’s private plane but owned by Beratex Group Ltd, a Russian company.

While there is still no confirmation that Mr Prigozhin was aboard the aircraft, the fact that a plane reportedly linked to a person who has been sanctioned by the US landed on Kenyan soil and did so shortly after the US opened their airspace to Kenyan flag carrier, Kenya Airways, has caused anxiety among airport operators and among some individuals working with the security agencies.

“The plane was expected. Most likely it was on the invitation of a security agency in Kenya or some powerful individuals in the country, and which explains why there has been no word from our security agencies. If it had happened without their knowledge I can bet this place (Wilson and JKIA) would have been turned upside down and a few people sent home or arrested,” an operator at Wilson Airport told the Nation.

When contacted, Mr Kibe said that upon landing, the aircraft was directed to customs and immigration “where they positioned and switched off the engines. Later they taxied out and parked in Apron 4 until yesterday (December 20).”

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According to the KCAA boss, as the sector regulator, that is all they know about the aircraft.

But Nation has also established that the logistics of M-VITO’s landing at Wilson Airport and later at JKIA were being handled by a ground handling and logistics firm located in Cargo Village, JKIA.

With regard to the time when the plane landed and departed, our source added that “the person seems to prefer travelling at night. Maybe he doesn’t like to be spotted.”

Given the notoriety of the reported owner of the plane, its flight was being tracked. On December 12, the plane had reportedly flown from Berlin, Germany to Beirut, Lebanon, then on to Cairo.

“M-VITO disappeared from the tracker near Cairo at 39,000ft, headed south,” a twitter user, Juha Keskinen, who was tracking the plane said.

Speculation is rife that Mr Prigozhin, who is also behind Wagner Group, a controversial Kremlin-linked private military contractor, which is active in the Central African Republic, may have been in the country to seal some security deals.

His company Wagner Group was linked to the killing of three Russian journalists in July.

The journalist had travelled to investigate the company which has been very active on the ground in the Central African Republic.

Mr Prigozhin is among 13 Russians charged by the US Justice Department with trying to sway the 2016 election.

He has been accused of being behind the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian troll factory that spearheaded the efforts to meddle in the 2016 US elections.

In November, Bloomberg reported that Mr Prigozhin has become President Putin’s point man in efforts to reach across Africa by “offering security, arms training and electioneering services in exchange for mining rights and other opportunities.”

“He’s already active in or moving into 10 countries that Russia’s military already has relationships with: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Libya, Madagascar, Angola, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Central African Republic,” the Bloomberg report said.

According to the Bloomberg report, Kenya and Russia are already co-operating in development of nuclear power technology.

“After the Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse, Russia’s presence in Africa dwindled dramatically; now the region is a focus for Kremlin efforts to reassert its geopolitical prowess and open new markets for domestic companies hamstrung by Western sanctions,” reported Bloomberg.



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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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