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The hostage president: Uhuru’s new headache

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By OSCAR OBONYO
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Unusual direct attacks on President Uhuru Kenyatta by Jubilee leaders allied to his deputy have laid bare his dilemma as he tries to balance competing interests in his last and final term.

First, there has been a push from Deputy President William Ruto and his backers for President Kenyatta to be clear about the 2022 succession.

This is to take care of the various interests in the Jubilee Party political patchwork to avoid disintegration.

Then there is a commitment to Opposition leader Raila Odinga to make Kenya politically and ethnically cohesive through the loose March 9, 2018 handshake. This also meshes with various reforms, some of which could require a referendum.

Then there is the President’s legacy that includes his ‘Big Four Agenda’ and the renewed fight against corruption that has in recent weeks been caught up in political battles that threaten to tear apart the ruling party.

The options Mr Kenyatta chooses could change the political landscape and define his legacy.

So far, there is little bliss in Jubilee. The murmurs from Dr Ruto’s corner, for instance, have graduated to open protests and now to outright reproach.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen summed it up by slamming the President and Mr Odinga, describing the handshake pact between the two as “deceitful”, “shameful” and “the worst political fraud ever witnessed” in Kenya.

Three days later, on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo appeared to pour oil on the already burning fire when he suggested that Mr Odinga’s ODM was teaming up with the President to grab power in 2022.

Although he explained, during a TV interview, that Mr Odinga was not necessarily angling for presidency, the alleged “coalition” angle to the handshake deal is headache enough for the President, held hostage by these competing forces. ODM and Mr Orengo have since downplayed the comments.

But senators Orengo and Murkomen are not your ordinary politicians. They hold leadership positions in the Senate, courtesy of their influence and authority in their parties and closeness to Mr Odinga and Dr Ruto, respectively.

It is accordingly assumed by many that the two speak for their respective political leaders — a factor that further confirms the President’s political quandary.

The antagonistic positions presented by Mr Murkomen and Mr Orengo present a Catch-22 situation to President Kenyatta who has to ably manoeuvre between the Ruto and Odinga political camps to unite Kenyans, fight corruption and ethnicity while at the same time secure his own legacy.

It is a scenario that demands of him to be the referee in the Ruto-Odinga duels while remaining a key player.

And for playing the referee in the increasing volatile political game, the President has occasionally emerged with some bruises.

Describing Mr Kenyatta’s “middleman role” as dangerous, political commentator Edward Kisiang’ani observes it is a near impossibility for the Ruto-Odinga battles to go on without hurting the President.

The Kenyatta University lecturer says when the Ruto team unleashes salvos aimed at Mr Odinga on the handshake, it is also an attack on President Kenyatta.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, an anti-Ruto politician, concurs.

He says that recent outbursts by Dr Ruto and his allies over the supposed political fraud and conmanship of the handshake are an indication of disrespect to the President whose judgement is questioned for striking a deal with the ODM boss.

“This is a calculative message geared at portraying the President as one who doesn’t know what he’s doing. It is meant to undermine Uhuru (Mr Kenyatta) as a President and cause him disfavour among his supporters in Central Kenya and across the country.”

The President has lately been personally responding to those critical of his war against graft as well as those ridiculing his handshake deal with Mr Odinga.

Speaking during the opening of the Sixth Annual Devolution Conference at Kirinyaga University on March 5, a furious Kenyatta warned politicians he did not name of using funerals and weddings to make reckless remarks aimed at slowing down the war on corruption and discrediting the handshake pact.

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Earlier that week, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi, an ally of Dr Ruto, claimed Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga were pretending to be “clean” in the fight against corruption.

He separately dared the President to categorically confirm whether or not he was supporting the DP’s presidential bid, “instead of hiding behind this handshake thing”.

The situation for the President has not been made any easier by the apparent silence from his political backers, including within his Central Kenya backyard.

Except for occasional support and shielding by Nominated MP Maina Kamanda and Mr Wambugu, the President has largely been left exposed.

Mr Kenyatta however enjoys occasional support from Mr Odinga’s supporters, including from ODM chairman John Mbadi.

The National Assembly’s Minority Leader however maintains that he and members of the Orange party occasionally step in defence of the President, “not out of personal interests to politically protect the President but because he has a pact with our party leader to unite this country, and which is generally for the good of every Kenyan”.

And reacting to sentiments attributed to Mr Orengo to the effect that ODM is working with Mr Kenyatta with a view to ascending to power in 2022, Mr Mbadi maintained that was the Siaya senator’s opinion.

He says Mr Odinga is too engrossed in efforts to unite the country in accordance with his handshake pact with the President.

But Mr Murkomen thinks otherwise. The Elgeyo Marakwet senator argues that the handshake “is nothing but politics to stop one’s presidential ambition and I have evidence to that effect”.

Mr Murkomen cites ODM deputy leader Hassan Joho’s recent “confession” in Butula, Busia County, that they had instructions from Mr Odinga to thwart Dr Ruto’s presidential ambition and the move to kick out Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa from the party for associating with the DP.

“If this handshake is about uniting all of us, wacha watu wasalimiane kila mahali (let the people exchange handshakes all over), without excluding the DP,” Mr Murkomen says.

President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga have however categorically reiterated that the handshake has nothing to do with the 2022 succession plan.

The perception that Dr Ruto is excluded in the handshake, Mr Mbadi offers, is because he is deeply immersed in the 2022 succession game, something the Kenyatta-Odinga pair are keeping at bay.

Nonetheless, Dr Kisiang’ani says one cannot rule out the hidden political agenda of the handshake.

In fact, he says, the pact is a clear ploy to clear Dr Ruto out of the 2022 succession.

He explains that the President may not be keen on endorsing his deputy, but neither will he openly back another candidate over Dr Ruto — not just yet.

Dr Kisiang’ani believes that the President has set the stage for his deputy to fall and that he has taken a back seat and let scenarios pan out on their own.

He gives the instance of war on corruption and Dr Ruto’s premature campaigns as some of the things that “will greatly harm” Ruto’s ambitions.

That the political heat in the Jubilee kitchen is too much is not in doubt.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for the Kenyatta-Ruto Jubilee Party pair, the boss cannot kick out his deputy from the kitchen — thanks to the current constitutional arrangement. Neither can Mr Kenyatta bring on board, to his government, his new ally, Mr Odinga.

But well aware of these impediments, the President — in the parlance of Kenyans — anapambana na hali yake (he is dealing with his own challenges).

And that is why he, for instance, recently elevated his Interior Secretary Fred Matiang’i to the role of “chief minister”, which according to some analysts was meant to address the leadership impasse with his deputy.

It remains unclear, though, for how long Mr President’s panya route (shortcut) approach will hold.



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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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