This week marks 46 years since Ronald Ngala, the Power and Communication minister, succumbed to his injuries following a road accident in 1972.
The December 12 crash that happened just three years after the assassination of his close political ally Tom Mboya, set off a flurry of speculation.
Keen to clear any suspicion, the government assembled a team of 17 medical professionals — led by Dr Eric Mngola and Dr William Frindall, a Canadian brain specialist — to care for Ngala.
Unfortunately, he died on Christmas Day, sparking off another round of rumours about a shadowy group of influential individuals out to eliminate political rivals.
After immense pressure, the Jomo Kenyatta administration finally held an inquest into Ngala’s death.
Leading the inquest was Kumar Sachdeva, who was the judge in the pre-trial of Nahashon Njenga, the main suspect in the murder of Mboya.
As the inquest began on February 10, 1973, James Karugu, the Deputy Public Prosecutor, expressed the government’s misgivings: “We are getting to the stage in this country where a person cannot die of an accident or of natural causes without speculation creating mystery as the cause of his death.”
The inquest was told that Ngala had been expected to attend Jamhuri Day celebrations on December 12 but changed his mind and decided to travel by road to Mombasa.
Although no one really knew the reason behind the Coast political kingpin’s sudden change of plan, there were allegations that he was annoyed by his 22-year-old second wife for failing to fly to Nairobi as agreed.
Thirty-five miles from Nairobi, his driver lost control and the car overturned three times.
The driver told the inquest that he had swerved to avoid hitting an animal but his account was doubted by other witnesses who claimed that he had initially told them that he lost control after bees flew into the car.
Nevertheless, a Good Samaritan recognised Ngala and drove him to Machakos Hospital.
An Israeli doctor, upon examining the politician, referred him to Kenyatta Hospital for treatment of his head injuries.
In Nairobi, Ngala, who was known to suffer from diabetes, slipped into a coma but gained consciousness the same day.
It was later discovered he was bleeding from the brain, which later led to multiple organ failure and eventually caused his death.
While giving evidence, Dr Mngola assured the inquest that “everything under the sun was done to save the minister’s life and no stone was left unturned.”
At one point, the inquest seemed more concerned about the rumours surrounding the death with Karugu admonishing anybody who suspected the government’s involvement. Among those he dragged to testify were two MPs who had expressed doubts about the circumstances of the death by calling for an inquest.
He also asked them whether they knew that inquests were a normal part of the legal process and could have been held even without the appeal from the politicians.
The media was not spared either.
The Ministry of Information was put to task for announcing in dispatches released by the Kenya News Agency and the Voice of Kenya that the accident happened while Ngala was on his way to Nairobi from Mombasa and not the other way round.
The ministry’s PS James Ithau began trembling and became confused as Karugu questioned him harshly over the error.
Magistrate Sachdeva had to intervene: “Don’t beat around the bush, Mr Ithau”
Karugu concluded: “I hope that the rumour will die a natural death in this court without new rumours arising as to why they died a natural death.”
The magistrate concurred and warned, “In future, when such a thing happens, God forbid, people should wait before rushing to the press.”
The conclusion was that Ngala’s death was accidental.
A son of a carpenter, Ngala first served as a teacher after graduating from Makerere University in Uganda in 1945. But in the 1950s, he turned to politics and was elected to the Legislative Council in 1957.
In 1960, he founded the Kenya African Democratic Union (Kadu) alongside other leaders from minority tribes to rival Kenya African National Union (Kanu), which was perceived to be made up of bigger tribes.
In 1961, after joining other leaders in declaring that Africans wouldn’t co-operate with the colonial administration lest Kenyatta was released from detention, he backtracked on the resolution and formed a minority government in which he became the chief minister.
This attracted criticism from Kanu leaders with Mboya describing Ngala as “inconsistent”.
But it later emerged, according to a British intelligence report of 1961, that during Ngala’s visit to Lodwar prison, Kenyatta had advised that Africans should co-operate with the colonial government to ensure peace and racial harmony.
In 1962, together with Kenyatta, they became chief ministers in a caretaker government formed after the second Lancaster Conference.
The two were strange bedfellows because of their opposing views on the system of government.
The coalition government ended following Kanu’s victory in the 1963 elections and Kenyatta became the Prime Minister while Ngala became the Leader of Opposition.
The rivalry between Kenyatta and Ngala over the system of government would again play out during the 3rd Lancaster Conference.
When the talks slipped into a stalemate, Kanu delegates led by Kenyatta refused to attend further sessions.
To salvage the situation, the colonial secretary, after meeting Kenyatta, came up with new proposals which favoured Kanu and ambushed Ngala with them.
As the talks ended, an angry Ngala wrote to the colonial secretary warning him to be prepared to take responsibility for any violence that will follow the “unpopular constitution” imposed on Kenyans after conspiring with Kanu.
However, in 1964 Ngala and other leaders dissolved Kadu and joined Kanu, effectively making Kenya a one party state.
“This is one of the times when we must be prepared to sacrifice our political dignity for the peace and harmony of Kenya,” he said.
In a country where one’s political clout is determined by ethnic voting blocs, Ngala was never considered a front-runner in the race to succeed Kenyatta but was always viewed as an influential political figure — until death cut short his career.
The writer is a journalist and researcher based in London.
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.