Kenya says it is agreeing to normalise relations with Somalia as the “first step” of addressing their differences over the maritime borderline, which is already before the International Court of Justice.
The change of tune for Nairobi emerged Wednesday evening after Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma met with the Somali Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ahmed Isse Awad.
The meeting was a first between high-ranking officials of the two countries in almost a month, as Nairobi seeks to soothe Mogadishu over an alternative means to resolve the dispute.
It also came after high-ranking Kenyan diplomats held a series of meetings at the UN and key western allies seen to have an influence on Mogadishu.
In the weeks that followed, Kenya also incidentally turned screws on the security front, pulling its troops from the interior of Somalia, where they are part of Amisom, and towards the shared land border, which may well leave villages exposed to Al-Shabaab takeover.
Dr Juma Wednesday said Kenya’s Ambassador to Somalia Lucas Tumbo and his Somali counterpart to Nairobi Mohamoud Ahmed Nur will be returning to their work stations although she did not give timelines.
“We reaffirmed our strong desire to normalise relations and agreed, as a first step, to have our ambassadors return to station,” Dr Juma wrote on her Twitter page after meeting Mr Awad in Nairobi.
The meeting with the Somali top diplomat, a former envoy to the US, was said to be on “outstanding issues between Kenya and Somalia, in particular concerns arising out of the London conference of 7th February 2019,” a reference to the event where Somalia was accused of auctioning oil blocks in an area contested by Kenya.
Since the public spat, Kenyan officials have increased their ante, meeting with global leaders and publicly accusing Somalia of violating the need to a wait for the dispute to be determined by the International Court of Justice.
The announcement of “normalised” relations by Nairobi came nearly a month after Mogadishu announced the same after a brief meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Somalia’s Mohammed Farmaajo and with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Nairobi.
President Farmajo’s spokesman Abdinur Mohamed Ahmed said then that the leaders agreed to allow back their respective envoys.
“Their Excellences President Mohammed Farmaajo and President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed on strengthening diplomatic ties between the two countries.
“They also agreed to have their respective ambassadors return to each country’s mission to resume their important duties, cooperation and partnership,” he indicated on Wednesday afternoon.
That meeting on March 7, an initiative of Dr Ahmed as Igad chairman, was never formally commented on by Nairobi and diplomatic sources then indicated it had not unlocked any solutions on the maritime border row.
In fact, at the time, both Dr Juma and Foreign Affairs PS Macharia Kamau were out of the country on other official duties.
In 2014, Somalia sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice, seeking to claim an area about 100km2 in the Indian Ocean by redrawing the boundary as an extension of the land border.
And despite Kenya’s contest that an alternative means to resolve the dispute existed, the ICJ ruled it had jurisdiction and will be hearing the case from September this year.
Despite the case being in the ICJ, Kenyan diplomats have been putting pressure on Mogadishu to accept an out-of-court settlement which Nairobi sees as cheaper to implement.
As ICJ decisions are binding between state parties involved, it means a verdict in Somalia’s favour will see Kenya lose the oil blocks.
As it stands, an alternative means to the dispute can only be legit if Somalia pulls the case out of the ICJ.
However, both sides have continued to do battle out of the courts.
In February this year, Somalia had a conference in London, where it presented data obtained by consultancy firm Spectrum Geo, and offered potential investors lucrative deals should they take up the bid by September.
Kenya protested the move, arguing that Mogadishu had auctioned oil in its territory.
PS Kamau announced he had summoned the Kenyan ambassador to Somalia back home “for consultations” and ordered Mr Nur to head back to Mogadishu.
Somalia, through Mr Awad, denied auctioning oil, vowing to wait for the ICJ decision, even though it did not deny offering the data to investors at the London conference.
The Ethiopian PM had proposed that Nairobi and Mogadishu isolate the maritime boundary issue so that they can continue cooperating on other issues.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.