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Ruto’s PhD: Political statement or strictly academic milestone?

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By OSCAR OBONYO
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On Friday, Deputy President William Ruto graduated with a PhD in plant ecology at the University of Nairobi on the same day he was celebrating his 52nd birthday and 27th wedding anniversary. Indeed this coincidence is perplexing and it can only mean that Dr Ruto is either a very lucky man or is simply a schemer par excellence.

Traditionally, UoN’s faculties of humanities and social science and health sciences conduct graduations on the first Friday of every December. However, this time round, according to a source at the university who spoke in confidence, the date was pushed to the last Friday before Christmas because of the domino effect of the prolonged lecturers’ strike that affected the academic calendar — a significant boon laden with symbolism for the deputy president.

Just like his political life, the latest achievement has attracted a lot of interest and debate among politicians and academics. Congratulating the Deputy President, Ford-Kenya’s deputy party leader Boni Khalwale sums it all by observing that Ruto’s latest academic accolades are a reflection of his never-say-die spirit of confronting and surmounting challenges and controversy.

The former Kakamega senator opines that the same resilience is reflected in the deputy president’s quest for the country’s top seat — a factor that has endeared many, including Dr Khalwale, into backing Ruto’s presidential bid. Ideally, over the last six years, the period within which Ruto enrolled for PhD studies at UoN, he has been more visible politicking across the country than undertaking his academic research work.

William Ruto

The young also congratulated Dr Ruto on his achievement. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

That Ruto has excelled in playing politics over the last six years is a fact that even President Uhuru Kenyatta has acknowledged greatly aided the Jubilee Party campaigns in 2013 and last year.

But that he has ably combined the same with PhD studies, by satisfying the high demands of the academic undertaking, has attracted more than cursory attention.

Individuals pursue PhDs for different reasons. Ordinarily, a PhD study is a passionate quest about a specific subject with intent to make important discoveries and a scholarly contribution to fill information gaps.

Other candidates have long-term career goals in the academia or seek to secure employment in specific fields requiring high analytical and research skills.

But the deputy president’s quest for a PhD in plant ecology at this point in time, when his star is shining in a different field — politics — begs a number of questions.

Political scientist, Prof Amukowa Anangwe, posits that Ruto has “a cattle complex” that inspires his approach to life. He observes that the DP wants to behave like the only bull around with a capacity to ride roughshod against anyone else with a contrary outlook.

“No wonder he has been deriding (Baringo County senator) Gideon Moi in rallies for being less educated than him. He will say the same thing against his opponents in the presidential race ahead of 2022,” says Prof Anangwe, who teaches at University of Dodoma, Tanzania.

William Ruto

Dr Vijoo Rattansi confers a PhD on Mr Ruto at the University of Nairobi on December 21, 2018. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Curiously, Ruto is not the first country’s Number Two in command to possess a PhD, yet his degree conferment has attracted controversy and heated debate on social media.

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The country’s fifth and sixth vice-presidents, Dr Josephat Karanja and Prof George Saitoti, were similarly PhD holders in history and mathematics, respectively. Unlike the two, Ruto has acquired his credentials while in office and eyeing the presidency.

Prof Anangwe maintains that Ruto’s acquisition of a PhD is more of a political statement than an academic achievement. According to the ex-Cabinet minister, the motivation of the DP “borders on sheer greed and narcissistic personality disorder where one wants everything in great measure simultaneously such as political power, wealth, education, and what not”.

But Khalwale views the deputy president’s multiple achievements as “upping the stakes” for the big seat. According to the Ford Kenya politician, those dismissing Ruto’s PhD are merely political opponents envious of his chain of achievements.

However, with or without the feather newly added to his curriculum vitae, the deputy president characteristically exhibits a patronising and belittling attitude over opponents.

Last Sunday, while addressing Catholic faithful at the ASK showground in Kitale town, for instance, he advised leaders of the Nasa opposition outfit to team up and face him in the 2022 polls.

Secretaries-general of the opposition constituent parties — Mr Edwin Sifuna (ODM), Mr Barack Muluka (ANC) and Dr Eseli Simiyu (Ford Kenya) — separately dismissed the call, terming Ruto’s advice “a display of arrogance”. Dr Simiyu said Ruto was a competitor “who had no business advising us on how best to face him”.

Earlier, while introducing guests at the Jamhuri Holiday fete at Nairobi’s Nyayo Stadium, Ruto referred to the Nasa leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula as former prime minister, former vice-president, former deputy prime minister and former Foreign Affairs minister.

William Ruto

Dr Ruto receives his PhD at the University of Nairobi during the university’s 60th graduation ceremony. PHOTO | DPPS

While to some this was a normal reference to past office holders, the preference for “former” could have been deliberate to portray the four as election losers who are out of power. Yet clearly, the four have current titles as party leaders, with Mr Wetang’ula also serving as a sitting senator for Bungoma County.

Ruto followed through this with a veiled attack on the ODM leader, barely four days after Odinga and President Kenyatta promised to unite the country during a tour of Kisumu, by stating there was no room in government for losers in last year’s General Election.

Ruto was speaking in Ikolomani constituency, Kakamega County, accompanied by Khalwale, a former MP of the area. Drumming up support for his new ally, Khalwale said Ruto had done a lot for the Luhya community compared to Mr Odinga, and former vice-presidents Mudavadi and Moody Awori, who hail from the region.

In his latest online analysis, political scientist Mutahi Ngunyi identifies Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta as the deputy president’s main impediment to his presidential bid.

According to Mr Ngunyi, the famous Kenyatta-Odinga handshake may have been conceived as a ploy to tame the presidential ambitions of Dr Ruto.

However, he predicts the ploy “will fall flat”. This is partly attributable to the deputy president’s formidable push. Ngunyi opines that Ruto’s contradiction may make him king.



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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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