The state of the economy, against the backdrop of newly introduced levies, is the biggest challenge that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration and Kenyans will have to contend with next year.
This, coupled with the confusion that surrounds adoption of the 2-6-3-3 education system from January, population census scheduled for August 24, and the ongoing President Kenyatta and Chief Justice David Maraga’s succession battles, will be some of the key highlights of 2019.
The low moments will, however, be punctuated by two high-profile visits of French President Emmanuel Macron in March and Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella in February, not to mention a moment of pride for the soccer national side, Harambee Stars, which will take part in the continent’s soccer bonanza — Africa Cup of Nations — in June for the first time since 2004.
However, it is debt that is bound to prove the biggest headache for Kenyans in the coming year.
In particular, the China debt, whose loan repayment for the standard gauge railway (SGR) kicks off in July at the end of a five-year grace period, is yet another disturbing economic constraint on the common mwananchi.
In efforts to address the debt situation, the government has rolled out several avenues of raising revenue and taxation, which are expected to take effect immediately in January.
There is, for instance, a 15 percent levy imposed on small-sized businesses, which have an annual turnover of less than Sh5 million.
Repayments to the first Sh202 billion Eurobond, which matures in June next year, will cost taxpayers more than Sh97.71 billion.
Economist David Ndii warned that the turbulent global economy would hurt Kenya on the repayment of maturing bonds.
“The financial crisis will come to a head at some point. How the government will respond to it will determine how we fair,” Dr Ndii said.
On the other hand, University of Nairobi business professor Bitange Ndemo noted that it is increasingly getting clearer that there will be a global recession next year, which would affect Kenya’s economy.
“The slowdown in China, the shutdown in the US, the weakening in Germany … the signs are there. And this will affect us when people go for priority items and give our produce like flowers a wide berth.”
He said the situation will be worsened by the new taxation regime. “People will be hit hard. The only saving grace is that rains are predicted to increase. This will ensure food and money if we handle the market problem.”
The government is expected to execute the 1.5 percent salary deductions with effect from January to go towards financing the housing project under Jubilee’s Big Four Agenda.
The levy has attracted a lot of resistance from Kenyans and the Employment and Labour Relations Court accordingly slammed brakes on its execution on December 20. The case is to be heard on January 21.
Succession politics is also expected to dominate the 2019 calendar.
Already, the vice-chairman of Jubilee Party, Mr David Murathe, has set the political tempo for 2019, following his remarks on December 26 that members of the President’s Kikuyu community do not owe a political debt to Deputy President William Ruto.
Murathe, a close ally of Mr Kenyatta’s, has even asked the DP to retire from elective politics alongside the President in 2022.
And, as expected, a political storm has erupted in Jubilee owing to the former Gatanga MP’s pronouncement.
Led by National Assembly and Senate Majority leaders, Aden Duale and Kipchumba Murkomen, the politicians, who are mainly allied to the DP, have dismissed Mr Murathe’s views as personal.
But Nominated MP Maina Kamanda maintains Mr Murathe has spoken for the silent majority in the party “and should not be condemned for stating the truth”.
“When the right time comes, we will say the same things Mr Murathe has said; but for now let us just focus on unity of the country,” Mr Kamanda told the Nation on Thursday.
Pointing out that Mr Murathe’s views are personal, Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri observed that expecting Dr Ruto to quit politics is nonetheless unrealistic “because he is still young and ambitious and has invested a lot in wanting to become President”.
In essence, Mr Ngunjiri envisages a tough succession battle ahead because “Ruto wants to make himself President; by himself, and owe no one for getting there. He wants to use his immense energy and resources, tactical mind, will and sheer grit, to become the fifth President.”
And while he would do with the help of the President, Mr Ngunjiri claims Dr Ruto would rather demonstrate he can achieve this on his own.
However, Dr Ruto will not let go easily. He is expected to fight out on this one to the wire — which makes for blistering political fireworks in 2019.
And Jubilee deputy secretary-general Caleb Kositany aptly captures the scenario: “While there was no explicit agreement on the DP’s 2022 presidential candidacy, President Kenyatta assured him of support and we all look forward to this”.
But the situation has further been complicated by Mr Kenyatta’s loud silence on the succession politics.
During an interview in Mombasa on Friday, the President evaded the succession question and instead pointed out that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) would be part of his administration’s priority areas of focus in 2019.
“We have never engaged in 2022 politics with Raila (Odinga, the Opposition leader). Kenyans want peace, prosperity and good health. That has formed the basis of our collaboration,” the President said.
The ODM leader has similarly kept opponents and allies guessing over his political standing. In a recent televised interview with a local station, Mr Odinga said he was not going to plunge the country into a campaign mode so soon after last year’s elections.
“If I was to run for President I would say it but I have not said it. If I start campaigning now then this country will be in a campaign mode straight away … tomorrow … and nobody will be talking about the Big Four agenda,” he said.
Also on the calendar next year is the constitutional review push, which has already caused divisions among the political class. Mr Ngunjiri argues that a referendum is inevitable:
“Uhuru wants it, Raila wants it and Kenyans need it. In my opinion a referendum will deal with how to create a governance structure that has more communities included in the executive.”
Also on the cards in August is the 2019 population census. While the census captures other demographic factors, like housing, health facilities, the political interest in the exercise cannot be overstated.
The population figures captured in the exercise will inform the boundaries delimitation exercise to be undertaken by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
And coming just three years to the next General Election, the exercise is bound to attract a lot of political interest and interference, considering that population figures also inform political campaigns along ethnic lines.
On the judicial front, the main highlights are the Maraga succession manoeuvres ahead of the next polls, and the ongoing fight against graft.
Since his appointment as Director of Public Prosecutions nine months ago, Mr Noordin Haji has been very active and fast in investigating and prosecuting cases, particularly of high-profile individuals involved in graft. More zeal and action is expected from the DPP.
However, human rights’ lawyer Mr Harun Ndubi envisions more attacks on the Chief Justice.
“The pretext would be the pretentious war on corruption. There are those who would like to believe that Uhuru is serious and the DPP plus DCI are doing their bit but the judiciary is the stumbling block. Far from the truth, the dramatisation of the anti-corruption cases will be the Achilles heel in the very fight.”
The Executive, Mr Ndubi says, is likely to intensify its fight with the Judiciary through the battle to control the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
The lawyer also believes the Executive is deeply involved in the Maraga succession manoeuvres which he fears “will intensify and get really ugly next year”.
“Actually all these shenanigans around the weaponisation of corruption law is about Maraga succession and the political perception on the Supreme Court. That is why I think the DCJ (Philomena Mwilu) is collateral damage in that war of succession. The establishment wouldn’t want a court that will in the future nullify a presidential election.”
Officially, Mr Maraga will be leaving the Judiciary in 2021, having attained the mandatory retirement age for judges, which is 70 years.
On the electoral body, Mr Ndubi believes the same logic applies. The Executive will push for a composition of commissioners that are favourable to sing to its tune.
But again, this will depend on the political realignments in the country, particularly within Jubilee.
Away from the big fights on the political scene and within the Judiciary, 2019 holds some interesting developments for Kenyans on the security front.
The police, who have been kitted in new colours of navy blue, will — under a new policy — start living among the civilian population.
The notion behind the move, according to police authorities, is to bring service closer to the people and also promote warm relations with civilians.
Separately, 2019 will witness intense lobbying for replacement of Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet.
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.