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The elusive peace in Marsabit

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By MUCHEMI WACHIRA
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By JUSTUS WANGA
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On Saturday last week, Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani made a triumphant entry into Marsabit town to preside the handing over of a code to a ‘new’ tribe called Wayu.

He declared they are now an independent tribe recognised in the country.

That same day, violence broke out on the outskirts of the town, leading to the killing of two Borana people.

The following day, Mr George Biqa, the chief of Drib Gombo location who attended the Wayu tribe launch, was attacked and killed at the burial of one of the people murdered the previous day.

He was accused of betraying the community by attending the launch. At the function, a hard-hitting statement that can likely fuel animosity was issued by speakers.

Wayu had decided to shed off the name Watta, which they said was disparaging and meant to portray them as wanderers or beggars. In their effort to seek their own identity as a distinct ethnic group, Mr Yattani had stood with them while he served as governor.

In return, the Wayu council of elders decided to support him in his re-election bid against the current Governor Mohamud Ali of Jubilee.

Mr Ali is a Borana and a political rival of Mr Yattani.

“We all decided to support Ukur (Mr Yattani) and the chief was always on our side,” one of the Wayu leaders Nuria Gollo told Nation.

Some residents have faulted Mr Yattani, a Gabra, for choosing to hold such an event that has served to raise political temperatures and suspicion among communities at a time when elders and leaders are promoting peace initiatives.

However, Mr Yattani says he has a right to attend any functions in his county. “As a bone-fide resident of Marsabit I have a right to go home, attend functions in the county any time and anywhere,” he said.

The former governor added that the Wayu also have a right to celebrate their culture like other Kenyans.

“There are 14 different communities in Marsabit County. What’s wrong with the minority Wayu celebrating their culture. I am not a Wayu but a firm believer in standing with minorities in this country wherever they live,” Mr Yattani said.

But interviews with people who understand local political intrigues show that the process that culminated in the launch of the Wayu tribe had been carefully planned over the last five years, aided by Mr Yattani during his tenure as Marsabit governor.

Until Mr Yattani came to power, Wayu was known as Watta living mostly in Marsabit and Tana River counties.

His effort to rebrand the tribe was seen as politically-motivated to reduce the numerical strength of the Borana community, from where his political nemesis Mohamud Ali hails from.

The launch was a political theatre, with speakers led by Mr Yattani tearing into the county government.

Critics accuse Mr Yattani of using State resources not only to build his support base but also engage in events that are sowing discord.

When contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Yattani neither picked our calls nor replied to our text messages.

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In January 2014, war broke out between Borana and Gabra communities in Moyale, leading to Deputy President William Ruto threatening that the county will be suspended unless Mr Yattani takes responsibility for the insecurity in his area.

But Mr Raila Odinga accused Mr Ruto and Jubilee of targeting Mr Yattani for being an Orange Democratic Movement governor.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter in its November 23 issue reported that Governor Ali is appealing to Nairobi over Mr Yattani’s role in escalating conflict between Gabra and Borana communities.

The paper claimed Mr Yattani’s influence had led to the government stopping the issuance of national identity cards to members of the Borana community.

After every electioneering year, a cycle of ethnic violence is always witnessed in Marsabit. And the question of what causes the ethnic conflicts remains indistinct as many, particularly the media, attribute it to a fight over resources.

Borana and Gabra are the main ethnic groups inhabiting Marsabit County. Their rivalry dates back to the late 1990s but it escalated in July 2005 when they fought bloody wars that culminated in the infamous Turbi Massacre in which more than 60 people, majority being school children, were killed.

Raiders from the Borana community had attacked Turbi trading centre — a Gabra settlement along Marsabit-Moyale border — targeting school children. They were ostensibly on a revenge mission following killings of their people, including the chief of Qilta location, Waqo Boru. He had been shot in one of the conflicts between the two communities.

Ever since, peace in Marsabit has remained elusive. However, the killing of the chief in the latest incident has left many wondering if the Borana/Gabra conflict is stoked by competition for pasture and water or is fuelled by politics.

Marsabit County Commissioner, Gilbert Kitio said three people, one of them a woman, have been arrested in connection with the gruesome murder of the chief.

Ms Nuria Gollo, the founder of Marsabit Women Advocacy and Development Organisation, attributes the lynching to politics. “The murder of the chief is purely political,” she said.

Through her organisation, Ms Gollo insists they had invited all leaders in the county to the Wayu celebrations.

Mr Yattani is accused of rewarding his allies who lost in past elections with State appointments.

On September 7, 2018, Mr Yattani appointed Ms Nuria Gollo as a member of the National Council for Children Services.

Ms Gollo vied for Saku parliamentary seat on Mr Yattani’s Frontier Alliance Party and lost. She hails from the ‘new’ Wayu community.

On June 6, 2018, barely four months after assuming office, Mr Yattani appointed former Laisamis MP Joseph Lekuton as a board member of the National Social Security Fund.

Mr Yattani’s running mate in last year’s polls Hassan Marsa Sarbo is now a National Council for Persons with Disabilities board member.

However, the CS dismissed the claims that he has been rewarding his cronies.

“Not true but I wish I could because there’s nothing wrong with that as long as they are qualified. Aren’t they Kenyans?”



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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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