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Noordin Haji: Eyes on the prize

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By JOHN KAMAU
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Noordin Haji is a man with a white goatee, a man who never smiles — at least not in public — and the man who everyone will watch next year as he attempts to unmask cartels and convict the masterminds.

As the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Haji knows that the collective eye of the nation is on him. It is a bit scary for him, because he likes to keep to himself.

As an intelligence officer, he was your common man on the streets, but, as the DPP, he can’t hide beneath the cloak of anonymity.

Even in his new office, Mr Haji prefers to keep himself out of the way of power brokers and influence peddlers. He only socialises with his family and is careful with whom he interacts to avoid accusations of not being impartial.

“I have made it clear that nobody comes to talk to me about work,” he says. “If you come to the office you’ll encounter a rigorous process before seeing me or my deputy.”

When he entered office some nine months ago, the Malindi-born son of Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji brought back some zeal to an office that had lost glamour over the years, thanks to a cold-war between this office and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

It was public knowledge that the former DCI Ndegwa Muhoro and the former Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko did not see eye-to-eye. At one point, Tobiko formed an independent multi-agency team to probe Mr Muhoro over the disputed Tatu City project and accused the DCI of ordering two probes that had come up with two recommendations.

At the moment, Mr Haji seems to enjoy a close working relationship with the new DCI, Mr George Kinoti. Their collaboration has seen them take on Kenya’s corruption cartels with unheralded determination. How far the two can go remains to be seen, although Mr Haji refuses to be seen as the hope to tame runaway pilferage of public money.

While Mr Kinoti thinks that the Judiciary is not giving the two offices the required support, Mr Haji is playing on the safe side, and told the Nation in an interview that “there is no friction” between his office and the Judiciary, and that they are working well with other agencies, such as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

“We believe we will work hard to fight corruption in the country,” says Mr Haji.

But early this month he lost a case at the High Court, where he had sought to block those charged with crimes from accessing their offices. In the case, Mr Haji wanted National Land Commission chairman Prof Muhammad Swazuri barred from getting back to his office.

The NLC chair had been charged in August with abuse of office for, it is alleged, using his position to facilitate Sh221 million compensations to Keibukwo Investment Limited, Dasahe Investment Limited and Olomotit Estate Limited during the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway.

While the trial magistrate had released him on a cash bail of Sh3.5 million, on condition that he cannot go back to his office pending the outcome of the case, High Court judge Hedwig Ong’udi ruled that the DPP had not provided any evidence to warrant locking out Swazuri from office, arguing that that was akin to removing the chairman through the back door.

This line of argument seems to be bothering the DPP, who still thinks that suspects charged with serious crimes should not be allowed to access their offices once they have been charged. Among those who have resumed office include Migori governor Okoth Obado, who was charged with the murder of his University of Rongo girlfriend Sharon Otieno.

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“I am frustrated that once I charge certain individuals, I can’t get them to face the law,” he says. “Some remain in office to flex their muscles, to intimidate witnesses and interfere with the investigations.”

During a recent interview with a local TV station, Mr Haji also complained that high-profile individuals charged with graft and serious crimes had been allowed to resume work.

“When we have individuals who have been charged and who happen to be ambassadors in foreign countries asking for bail so they can present their credentials in a foreign country, what message are we sending? The courts need to help us,” he said.

But it is the battle with local lawyers over his appointment of Queen’s Counsel Khawar Qureshi to prosecute the case against Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu that is his latest headache. At one point, he had to appear before the Senate’s Justice, Human Rights and Legal Affairs Committee to explain the reasons. It was not an easy session.

“Are you telling us that this country does not have qualified lawyers to take up that position? That we have to go back to England for assistance?” asked Ms Susan Kihika, the Senator for Nakuru. “The appointment makes me wonder whether you have an office of prosecutors that you don’t trust. Don’t you think you need to boost the morale of your officers?”

By striking at the heart of the Judiciary through a fraud case against Ms Mwilu, Mr Haji had started a fire that had all the elements of a thriller, and which attracted a galaxy of legal and political minds from the opposition Nasa alliance.

Mr Haji has told those who care to listen that the Mwilu case is complicated and, as such, needs an independent person who has no political links or emotional attachment to it.

The DPP hired Mr Qureshi on December 4 to pursue abuse of office, forgery and tax evasion charges against Justice Mwilu, but the DCJ has obtained temporary orders barring her prosecution until a High Court petition she filed challenging the move is determined.

A man whose background is with national intelligence, Mr Haji believes that the country has the capacity to conclude graft cases within months, just like election cases. “If we have decided that graft is a national issue that needs to be tackled, I think we need more resources to make sure graft cases are expeditiously dealt with, both by the ODPP and the Judiciary,” he says.

And this is a conversation he intends to have with the Judiciary in the coming year “to see how best we can expedite the graft cases in the shortest time possible”.

Mr Haji knows that he can only be successful by working close with the Judiciary, and told the Nation once again that he was not fighting the office of Chief Justice David Maraga.

“One thing that I want to make clear is that we all have to protect the independence of the Judiciary, and to us, as prosecutors, that is very important,” he says.

But will Noordin Haji manage to rescue the country from graft cartels the way he was rescued from Westgate after Al-Shabaab guerrillas invaded the Nairobi mall in 2013, killing 67 people and injuring many?

He was trying to help Somalia out of the crisis by collecting information on Jubaland when the raiders struck. He alerted security agencies of the attack and hid inside a washroom until he was rescued.

Additional reporting by Phillip Muyanga and Fadhili Frederick



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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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