The noose is tightening around the necks of several close aides of Migori Governor Okoth Obado as investigations into the gruesome murder of Rongo University student Sharon Otieno near completion.
Four of the aides are already in custody over the student’s murder while several others, among them Mr Obado’s close relations, have either been quizzed or have been identified as persons of interest.
But away from the investigations, a tightly knit group known as Sangwenya that claims allegiance to the governor has in the last few years gained notoriety in Migori County and surrounding areas.
Mr Michael Oyamo, Mr Obado’s personal assistant currently in custody over Ms Otieno’s murder, is largely viewed as the leader of the group.
Mr Oyamo, a former Navy officer, is described as a reserved but “ruthlessly efficient and trusted” lieutenant ready to go to any lengths to defend Mr Obado’s interests. Like the governor, Mr Oyamo hails from Rapogi in Uriri constituency.
Others linked to the group include one Caspal Obiero, officially enlisted as a clerk at the county government but whose job description is said to go beyond clerical duties to cover what our sources referred to as “law enforcement” duties.
Then there is Elvis Okoth Omondi, Mr Obado’s personal bodyguard who is also in police custody in relation to the death.
Also in this circle is Naphtali Odie, the governor’s brother-in- law, said to be a former police officer who quit to venture into business in Migori Town around the time Mr Obado was elected governor in 2013.
Ms Olivia Oloo and Ms Lilian Wema are also mentioned as some of the governor’s trusted lieutenants in charge of publicity.
Ms Oloo, the second wife to Caspal, has already recorded a statement with the police in connection with Ms Otieno’s murder after the Toyota Fielder vehicle said to have been used in the abduction and the eventual murder was traced to her.
She was, however, set free after she convinced detectives that the vehicle was being used by her husband at the time of the murder.
Ms Wema caught the eye of detectives investigating the murder when she was allowed to talk to Mr Oyamo during his appearance in a Homa Bay court over the case early this month.
Mr Obado’s critics accuse the Sangwenya group of being used to suppress divergent opinion across the county using whatever means.
“The gang operates like the county government’s department of defence and interior at the same time. The only difference is that some of their activities are questionable,” a victim of the group, who also alleged local police do not take action when reports are made about the group, said.
Mr Benedict Kigen, the Migori County CID boss, told the Sunday Nation that whereas he was aware of the existence of the Sangwenya squad, he was not privy to their criminal acts.
“I have heard of the name Sangwenya but I only know them as youths hooked to politicians for handouts,” Mr Kigen said.
He went on: “I am not aware of their criminal acts. If they are involved in crime, then maybe they do it elsewhere and they are not common.”
So feared is the group that in some restaurants they have reserved tables that no one dares use, said a businessman in Migori Town who requested anonymity.
But Mr Obado’s spokesman, Nicholas Anyuor, distanced the governor’s aides from the group’s operations.
“Sangwenya is a group of youths and it operates in Migori and some of its members campaigned for the governor. But it is not true that the governor’s aides are part of Sangwenya,” he said.
Sources who spoke to Sunday Nation linked the squad to the chaos at Migori stadium during an ODM rally on April 3, 2017 when Mombasa Governor and ODM deputy party leader Hassan Joho was attacked and his bodyguard shot.
On this occasion, chaos broke out after Mr Joho, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, Siaya Senator James Orengo and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed went to the county to launch the gubernatorial campaigns for former Cabinet minister Ochilo Ayacko.
The rally turned bloody when a group of youths stormed the venue and unleashed violence, forcing the guests and the crowd to scamper to safety.
“That was Sangwenya in their true colours, some of them were brandishing guns and other crude weapons,” a Migori resident who escaped death by a whisker after being attacked by the goons said.
The Sangwenya group is also accused of having been present during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tour of the county in September 2014, only for the function to be marred with chaos with shoes thrown in the direction of the President.
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.