Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko and his co-accused Anthony Ombok (left) and Fredrick Odhiambo at a Milimani anti-corruption court where they pleaded not guilty to corruption charges. [George Njunge, Standard]
For a man who rode a populist wave to power, used strong arm tactics to maintain an iron grip while displaying opulence to showcase his office of governor, Mike Sonko seemed to have played the script well.
The Nairobi governor gained notoriety for publicly revealing private conversations to embarrass rivals, gestapo-style snooping to enforce a code of fear to discourage critics, and at one point put a conversation with the president on speaker phone as a demonstration of connections to high office to thrill a crowd as he stopped a demolition.
And for two years, Sonko has run the county without a deputy with critics suggesting it was a strategy to discourage his ouster but that vacuum could haunt him given his current predicament.
A Member of the County Assembly claimed Sonko dithered to name a deputy governor as insurance against a plot to impeach him because of the legal crisis it would create as the Constitution contemplates in such an eventuality the deputy takes over for the remainder of the term.
SEE ALSO :Four months of toil, but no sign of pay for city workersBut with yesterday’s prosecution of the governor over multiple counts of graft following day-long proceedings that turned his trial into a national spectacle, coming days after his dramatic arrest, Sonko, who was remanded in Industrial Area prison until Wednesday when his application for bail will be decided, may have unwittingly played into the hands of his rivals.
Should he be slapped with harsh bail conditions barring him from office, his efforts to preserve a vacuum in the office of Deputy Governor could turn into his worst nightmare with possible impeachment as rivals could resort to the extreme option to force a vacancy in the office of Governor in order to precipitate an election to unlock the leadership crisis expected to engulf the capital city.
Man without deputy
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Unlike the case with Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu and Samburu’s Moses Lenolkulal, where a substantial deputy ensured continuity, Sonko’s case will place the city on auto pilot, presenting a powerful spring board for his enemies to set in motion a plot that would lead to an election.
Its perhaps the apprehension that the county could slide into an abyss of the unknown should the court slap Sonko with harsh bail terms that the Council of Governors has requested a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta to address the matter.
SEE ALSO :Uhuru launches construction of JKIA-Westlands ExpresswaySome have proposed a legal solution to the vacuum through an amendment to the County Governments Act to allow a member of his Cabinet to act as governor, but his rivals would not hesitate to capitalise on the crisis to fix him politically.
To succeed in the plot against the governor who is facing eight charges relating to loss of Sh357 million from county coffers, Sonko’s opponents must trigger a vacancy as contemplated in Article 182 of the constitution.
An impeachment motion, supported by the Senate would allow Speaker Beatrice Elachi to act for 60 days, leading to a by –election.
This is the risk facing Sonko, a man who for almost two years failed to appoint his principal assistant, befuddling his critics, who had no recourse as the law does not compel a governor to appoint one.
Polycarp Igathe resigned from the position in January 2018, barely six months after taking office following differences with the flamboyant governor.
SEE ALSO :Sonko challenges investors to take advantage of county incentivesHe cited ‘trust’ in his resignation letter.
“I regret I have failed to earn the trust of the Governor to enable me to drive Admin & Management of the county,” he wrote.
From that point on, Sonko made it his singular mission to keep the vacuum alive for as long as possible.
At one point, Sonko told Nairobi residents to choose from a lineup of several women to take up the position, a maneuver that set social media abuzz for days.
Those he shortlisted were Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru, gender activist and insurance executive Agnes Kagure as well as lawyers Karen Nyamu and Jane Weru.
SEE ALSO :City Hall to spend over Sh120m on city askarisIn case of impeachment, Sonko will face off with a group of MCAs known for shifting alliances in high-stakes scenarios.
The governor has already fallen out with a section of the ward representatives led by former Majority leader, Abdi Guyo.
He and speaker Elachi did not see eye to eye until recently when political interests brought them together.
To avoid the impeachment route, President Uhuru Kenyatta could be asked to suspend the county. Article 192 allows the president to suspend a devolved unit in an emergency arising out of internal conflict or war; or ‘in any other exceptional circumstances.’
This would, however, require commission of inquiry to investigate allegations against the county government and a nod by the Senate. Constitutional lawyer, Kibe Mungai, however, argued that the easiest route to deal with the possible crisis is to appoint a member of the executive to act as governor.
“The leadership crisis has been made worse by the fact that there is no deputy governor. If we get to the Kiambu situation, what could be done quickest is to emend the county government Act to enable any member of the county executive committee to act as governor,” said Kibe.
Lawyer Nelson Havi also agreed that there would be a crisis ‘should the court create a bigger problem than we already experienced.’
“Consider a situation where the Cabinet is to meet in absence of president, who will preside? That is the conundrum that is likely to face the cabinet of Nairobi County,” argued Havi.
Interviews with current MCAs painted a picture of a man scared of the unknown who felt comfortable working without the deputy governor.
Embakasi MCA Michael Ogada said the governor resisted numerous attempts to have him appoint a deputy.
“We urged the governor to appoint a deputy and he refused maybe because he had the fear of the unknown. He thought that if he had a deputy governor then he would be ‘pushed’ a bit faster but he failed to understand that pushing is pushing whether it comes early or late,” said Ogada, suggesting that the governor was afraid of being replaced by his deputy in case of any eventuality.
South B MCA, Waithera Chege said that trust issues have made it difficult for the governor to appoint a deputy.
“For you to work with the governor you really must understand him. You must understand his way of working with people, his likes and his dislikes. If you don’t do this you will not be best suited to work with him,” she said.
ODM party chief whip at the Nairobi County Assembly, Peter Imwatok said the county was now caught up in a unique situation.
“The ball now rests with the president, the legal experts and if it goes to the worst, the people can move to the Supreme Court to seek another legal interpretation on this unique situation,” stated Imwatok
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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.