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OYATERU: What to call Africans living in Kenya

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By BABATUNDE OYATERU
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What do Nigerians call themselves after having lived in Kenya for five years?

Nothing. Well, at least, so you think until you find that you are no longer skipping the chapati tray on the buffet line; and you may even be looking forward to it. Or you realise that the nyama choma that you swore would never taste as good as your suya is starting to grow on you.

Or it dawns on you that you are using “by the way” a lot more than you used to, or singing full-throated the lyrics of Sauti Sol’s Kuliko Jana, even though you have no idea what they are saying. You eventually give up when you start referring to anything ambiguous or arbitrary as “nini”.

So, let us try once again: What do you call a Nigerian living in Kenya after five years? Simple; you call them African.

Is this not the charm of Africa, and of being African, that the culture is pervasive and almost universal that, despite the difference in creed, language and religion, for the most part, we are all the same?

That you can go anywhere on this continent as an African and feel at home, and that even when you are separated by language or culture, there is a warmth to be expected and to be received?

A Kenyan colleague, during a recent trip to Ghana, remarked how similar a dirt road we were about to embark upon looked to one you would find in Kenya — perhaps in Syokimau, near Nairobi. I reminded him that the road existed in every African city.

There is a danger, however, in universality and homogeneity, to be sure, and Africa is often painted with the same brush and tagged with the common identifiers — war, disease, conflict, corruption and poor developmental indicators.

The danger in grouping like this is the risk of reducing complex problems, antecedents and histories to one broad stroke.

Certainly, a continent of 1.2 billion people cannot experience the social world the same way. But there is such a thing as African identity — an Africanness, if you will, that should be celebrated.

For the record, I can still be relied upon to display my traditional attire every Friday, starched to almost appear as body armour, in glorious colours, complete with the polished loafers and a matching hat. This is the Nigerian way; we dress so they must know, who they are is not important, as long they know.

Some habits will never die — like the Nigerian sense of occasion and grandeur, or our phone manners, when we talk, the conversation is between us, the person on the other end of the line and the entire world. You are welcome to be part of our dialogue.

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These habits are unlikely to disappear soon, nor should they; we should learn to celebrate the individuality in our commonness.

There is a lot to celebrate and, indeed, to learn. Living in Kenya for five years after what I had promised myself was going to be a short stint, I can still recall with glowing pride the day the Supreme Court nullified the presidential election in 2017 and ordered a new poll.

The politics of it will never be the thing that impressed me, all politics is subjective, but it was the decision itself. This kind of decision-making is not something Africans do, to decide their affairs and follow the letter of the law, without prodding or interference.

I felt a great swell of pride to be African, and to be living in Kenya. But what was more impressive was the acceptance of the judgment by all the parties involved.

I recall feeling that same sense of pride when Nigeria transitioned peacefully from the ruling party to the opposition in 2015. Kenya alone has a lot to note, if not celebrate, in the past five years. I have noticed a growth in infrastructure and development.

Any West African will inform you how remarkable it is that construction is finished here in record time; a road project begins and, in record time, the road is usable. On our side of the world, the project starts, then starts again and begins one last time before we start invoking ancestral spirits.

On the Ghana trip, my colleague mentioned how frustrated he was with the mobile phone service and how difficult it was to maximise data. I told him this is true for most of West Africa and Kenya’s digital space is leaps and bounds ahead.

Once again, there are things to celebrate and to note. Perhaps, it was in that spirit that a few of my Kenyan colleagues, after the excitement of beating Ethiopia and Ghana in football, boasted that they were ready for the Nigerian Super Eagles. Let us not get ahead of ourselves, please.

Let me try to answer the question I began with one last time, what do you call a Nigerian after living in Kenya for five years? It’s simple; you call them brother or sister. Africa is home to us all.

Mr Oyateru, author of the novel, ‘The Day the Madman Knew’, is an international relations PhD student. [email protected]



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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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