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People and times that gave us an eventful year

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By MILLICENT MWOLOLO
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Kenya entered 2018 on the back of a challenging year, during which an extended election process and a severe drought threatened to impede investment in economic growth. Then as the year slowly begun to age, a lot has taken place. DN2 brings you sampled persons and revelations that coloured Kenya’s 2018.

Like it or hate it, the handshake was Kenya’s defining moment in 2018. Out of nowhere, like a whirlwind, the handshake threw the much needed surprise to cool the anxiety that was sweeping Kenya.

Even though Mr Odinga did not publicly recognise Mr Kenyatta as the duly elected President, only referring to him as “my brother”, the handshake that followed their joint statement on the steps of Harambee House was an indication that the closing of ranks between the then two most antagonistic political factions in Kenya’s history — the National Super Alliance (Nasa) and Jubilee — was in the offing.

The March 9, 2018 handshake thawed political tension, and rallied Kenyans together as it confirmed that there only exist two tribes in Kenya — the voters and the politicians.

The heavy taxation and other economic decisions that have followed the handshake has provided tough lessons for the Kenyan voter.

US Secretary of State Mr Rex Tillerson lauded the handshake saying that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga had shown “great leadership” in coming together to address the deep divisions caused by the 2017 electioneering.

With the handshake, Mr Kenyatta firmly embraced the opposition and many claim that he has since distanced himself from William Ruto and their bromance. It is also observed that Kenyatta has since come out as a strong leader, talking tough against corruption in his government.

Kenya entered 2018 on the back of a challenging year, during which an extended election process and a severe drought threatened to impede investment in economic growth.

Despite a modest slowdown in GDP growth from 5.8 per cent in 2016 to 4.8 per cent in 2017, Kenya’s economy has shown some welcome robustness.

According to IMF, inflation has declined to below the midpoint of the authorities’ target line, the banking system and exchange rate have remained stable.

However, Kenya’s economic growth is not trickling down to poor Kenyans, according to a World Bank report published in October 2018.

The report indicated that at least 17.3 million Kenyans still live below Sh 92.4 per day. “The moderately robust GDP growth over the past decade has not generated consummate increases in household consumption,” the report stated.

As if in agreement with the study, 2018 was reported as the toughest economic year for Kenyan households, which was occasioned by high-food and energy prices, and skyrocketing costs for common goods and medical care.

As per the study, Kenya’s poverty elasticity is lowest in the region, meaning that the country’s percentage reduction in poverty rates associated with a percentage change in mean income is lower than that of Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

That notwithstanding, Kenya’s rising public debt is exerting pressure on the state of finances. In the year, the National Treasury reported that it expected 45 per cent of the tax revenue to be directed to paying off loans.

The government has responded to these developments by undertaking efforts to reduce the fiscal deficit to 5.7 per cent of GDP in 2018/19, down from 7.2 per cent as of June 2018 and 8.8 per cent in financial year 2016/17.

According to The Report 2018, a publication of the Oxford Business Group (OBG), reducing government spending through the reduction of development expenditure in order to narrow down the fiscal deficit reduces the capital stock of the economy. This reduces government ability to foster industrialisation, create jobs and maintain the competitiveness of Kenya’s economy.

Corruption, unfortunately became a defining factor for Kenya in 2018. “If we don’t watch out, corruption will engulf us,” Edward Ouko, the Auditor — General warned in mid-June 2018, describing the level of graft as shocking.

In October 2018, Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) ranked the Interior ministry as most prone to corruption, followed by the ministries of Health and Lands.

Over the year, the Daily Nation investigations desk continued to unearth high-profile scandals in key parastatals: The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), Government Advertising Agency (GAA), National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC), Kenya Railways Corporation, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), National Youth Service (NYS) season two, and Kenya Power scandals.

The newest is the Ministry of Education irregularities in the procurement of textbooks worth Sh10 billion for public schools.

In July 2018, EACC director of field services Vincent Okong’o said that corruption had raised the cost of doing business in Kenya, and that the burden of corruption fell heavily on the poor as they cannot afford to bribe to access government services.

Kenya’s socio-economic blueprint, the Big Four Agenda was on everyone’s lips for a greater part of the year.

The Big Four Agenda seeks to ensure economic development of the country by addressing food security, affordable housing, supporting the manufacturing sector and the provision of affordable healthcare.

According to the National Housing Corporation, Kenya has a cumulative deficit of 2 million housing units growing by 200,000 units per year being driven mainly by rapid population growth of 2.6 per cent per annum, compared to the global average of 1.2 per cent.

A high urbanisation rate of 4.4 per cent against a global average of 2.1 per cent has further continued to contribute to this spiralling deficit. It is against this backdrop that the government intends to deliver 1 million homes in the next five years.

The government has also launched phase one of the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) project which targets to render quality and affordable medical services for citizens. This phase targets 3.2 million Kenyans in Kisumu, Nyeri, Machakos and Isiolo counties.

However, the state of the public healthcare system remains in focus amid concern about poor staffing levels and inadequate infrastructure and equipment.

Data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) show that the number of health facilities and workforce at the counties remain inadequate to cater for demand by a steadily rising population.

State of the youth in Kenya

Young Kenyans constitute 76 per cent of the population, estimated to be about 39 million people. Yet, a majority of this youthful population remains unemployed.

This is a demographic dividend that the country can tap into and maximise on its potential to gain a competitive advantage and hinge ahead in socio-economic development.

Unfortunately, Kenya’s youth bulge has been a marginalised lot, as both policy and legislative frameworks have not made gains to avert the unemployment situation. The numbers tell it all, as today, unemployment in Kenya stands at 40 per cent, and 70 per cent of those unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 35.

The World Bank estimates that approximately 800,000 Kenyans join the labour market each year, and only 50,000 succeed in getting professional jobs.

Despite Kenya’s positive economic trajectory, a 2016 World Bank survey of Kenya’s long-term performance showed that the stagnation of manufacturing and agriculture, the mainstays of the domestic economy has meant that job creation has not kept pace with the growing working-age population.

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According to the World Bank, Kenya’s population of 44 million is growing at a rate of 2.5 per year, and 9 million more job seekers will enter the market by 2025.

The government has in its budget for 2018/2019 financial year, allocated Sh 444.1 billion towards education, with a focus on expansion of Technical and Vocation, Education and Training (TVET) infrastructure.

More synergy is needed through partnerships between academia and industry so that the transfer of skills and knowledge in universities and colleges is backed by job market dynamics.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has for two years now, partnered with the Germany Technical Cooperation (GIZ) in the TVET programme.

The programme seeks to influence the policy direction regarding technical training towards demand-driven technical education in Kenya.

Personalities that defined 2018

Raila Odinga has continued to shape and shake Kenya’s politics, rubber-stamping his authority as Kenya’s political enigma. The ‘People’s President’ lived to his word until his January 30 symbolic ‘swearing in’ ceremony at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.

Mr Odinga then went ahead and threw a historic surprise to his then “boy scouts” Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Moses Wetang’ula, when he locked them out of the peace-deal and the handshake. This caught them flat-footed.

The handshake also saw the fallout between Raila Odinga and Miguna Miguna, the self-declared NRM General who is currently exiled in Canada.

Raila Odinga

Raila Odinga. He was appointed to the African Union as the High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

In mid-October, Raila Odinga was appointed to the African Union as the High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa.

In the statement, AU said Mr Odinga brought with him a rich political experience and strong commitment to the ideals of Pan-Africanism and African integration, as well as a deep knowledge of infrastructure development.

Makueni governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana has come out as a model leader in both governance and socio-economic development.

The ‘governor of the year’, Prof Kibwana has redefined the role of devolution in Kenya, making a majority of other county bosses look like intellectual dwarfs.

At a time when some governors were launching two public toilets, culverts and one-acre farm of cabbages in the name of food security, governor Kibwana launched roads, mega water projects and the 120-bed fully-equipped Makueni Mother and Child Hospital which has come at a cost of Sh135 million.

Makueni governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana.

Makueni governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

He has previously launched a value-addition fruit processing plant, and a milk processing plant empowering the local smallholder farmer to uplift the economy in Makueni.

This raises the question as to whether other county governments should spend huge budgets on ‘bench-making trips’ abroad or they should just head to Wote, Kikumini and Kathonzweni in Makueni for localised sustainable development lessons.

George Kinoti and Noordin Haji

This was the year that both the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Hajj stood out as the brave faces in the fight against corruption in Kenya. Even numerous times when the president almost threw in the towel, asking: “Wakenya mnataka nifanye nini jamani? “(What do you Kenyans want me to do now?)” The duo went full-blast, not sparing even senior government officials.

 Noordin Haji

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

For the first time, Kenyans have seen highly influential people hauled before the courts since Kinoti took office in January and Haji in March.

The zeal with which Kinoti and Haji seized their mandates contrasts sharply with the approach of their predecessors where files gathered dust, investigations took a long time and often were shoddy. Many cases were less than watertight, leading to acquittals.

Clearly, Haji and Kinoti are men on a mission to clean up the rot in governance. The only support that they would require is from the judiciary to crack the whip on graft cases.

The Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, says the Judiciary and other agencies involved in the war on graft need to get fully on board for the country to win it. Speaking exclusively to NTV’s Mel Myendo, Kinoti said the war on graft at times appears to have been left to investigators and prosecutors.

Ekuru Aukot
Former presidential candidate and Thirdway Alliance party leader has throughout the year thrown his weight behind the collection of over one million signatures to push for a constitutional referendum.

In April 2018, Thirdway Alliance launched ‘Punguza Mizigo’, a campaign which aims at collecting one million signatures to endorse a referendum. The initiative seeks to reduce the number of MPs from the current 416 to 147.

So far, the Ekuru Aukot led-party has collected 690,000 signatures and is targeting to surpass the 1 million signatures by April 2019.

Ekuru Aukot

Thirdway Alliance of Kenya leader Ekuru Aukot has gathered 600,000 signatures, 400,000 shy of the one million needed to pass through the first stage of the planned referendum. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Under the proposed system, the 47 counties will be turned into constituencies, with each electing a male and female representative to Parliament. Each constituency will also elect a male and female representative to the Senate. Additionally, six members will be nominated to Parliament to represent special interest groups.

“Kenya is currently over-represented. A referendum will reduce the cost of running Parliament from the current Sh 36.8 billion to Sh 5 billion annually. This will save taxpayers Sh 31.8 billion annually,” noted Mr Fredrick Okango, the Secretary General at Thirdway Alliance.

The Migori governor made headlines for one-and-a-half months following the death of his alleged girlfriend Sharon Otieno. The body of Ms Otieno, who was seven months pregnant at the time she was killed, was found near Kodera forest in Homa Bay on September 4.

On September 24, Mr Obado, a key suspect in her murder case was arrested, and spent over a month shuffling between the Industrial Area Remand Prison and Milimani Law Courts.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado.

This was a high-profile murder case which drew a lot of public interest. DNA results linked the governor to the unborn child Ms Otieno was carrying, who was also killed in the murder. Other suspects in the case, Mr Obado’s personal assistant Michael Juma Oyamo and Migori County Assembly Clerk Casper Obiero, who have denied the charges are still in police custody until May 2019 when their trial will start.



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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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