Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo is one of the main opposition candidates vying for votes in Sunday’s presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but Louise Dewast considers if he can escape his father’s shadow.
The 55-year-old father of five is mostly known for being the son of the late veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, but he insists he is not trying to compete with his father’s reputation.
Felix Tshisekedi’s father founded the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (known by its French initials UDPS) in 1982, and was a feared rival of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who died months after being ousted in 1997, and later of Presidents Laurent and Joseph Kabila.
Under his leadership, the UDPS became the country’s largest opposition party, but he never succeeded in winning office.
His legal challenge to the official results of the 2011 presidential election, which showed he won 32 percent of the vote to Joseph Kabila’s 49 percent, failed.
The veteran opposition leader died in 2017 leaving a big question over who would succeed him.
His former chief of staff Albert Moleka told the BBC that his son was not necessarily the obvious choice: “Etienne Tshisekedi was very vocal about his scepticism towards his son’s abilities. He was very demanding of his son.
“He was someone who fought for the people and so he wasn’t going to give his son a free pass.”
Mr Moleka said it was the presidential hopeful’s mother, Ms Marthe Kasalu, who pushed for the son to become the leader.
In March this year, he was voted in as the party’s new head and became its de facto candidate for the presidential elections.
But Mr Tshisekedi did not simply cash in on his name. He has been immersed in politics from a very young age, and the aspiring president had to work his way through the party.
He also had to suffer the consequences of his father’s political activism.
When the UDPS was created, the Tshisekedi family was forced into internal exile to their home town in the central Kasai Province.
They stayed there until 1985, when President Mobutu allowed the mother and children to leave.
Felix Tshisekedi then went to the Belgian capital, Brussels. After completing his studies there he took up politics, working his way through his father’s party to become national secretary for external affairs for the UDPS, based in Brussels.
“He made powerful friends and allies among the diaspora there, but he was sometimes overlooked – and so it wasn’t easy for him,” said Mr Moleka.
“Felix has always shown a lot of willingness. He’s courageous but his problem is that he needs to figure out what his ultimate goal is.”
For now, the presidential hopeful is attempting to represent change for DR Congo, which has not known a peaceful transition of power since independence in 1960.
“I don’t have any ambition to rival my father. He is my master, and you don’t rival the master,” Felix Tshiskedi said.
“But I’m going to try my best to perpetuate his dream, his dream of a country of rule of law, of a better Congo, where our sons and daughters can flourish, that’s what I am pursuing.”
If elected on Sunday, Mr Tshisekedi has said he will make the fight against poverty a “great national cause”.
He aims, for example, to increase the average per person income to $11.75 a day, compared to $1.25 today.
“It’s really the minimum we can do I think, and the minimum people expect from us,” the candidate told the BBC in an interview in the capital, Kinshasa.
He says his programme can be accomplished over two presidential terms – a period of 10 years – and will cost an estimated $86 billion.
Mr Moleka also detected another force motivating the UDPS leader.
“The Tshisekedis had a difficult life and so for Felix Tshisekedi, these elections are a bit of a revenge, for his family,” he said.
When presenting his programme during a press conference, the candidate was pressed about his lack of experience.
“It’s true I don’t have experience in bad governance or in the pillaging of my country,” he responded, “but I do have experience in the respect of human rights and civil liberties.”
In recent months, opposition parties in the DR Congo, including the UDPS, had said that they would pick a joint candidate for the election to increase their chances of defeating the governing party.
There is only one round of voting and the candidate with the largest share of the vote wins, therefore a split in the opposition vote could prove disastrous for them.
But after the opposition parties made the decision to pick Martin Fayulu as the unity candidate, Mr Tshisekedi backed out and decided to run.
He was supported by Union for the Congolese Nation leader Vital Kamerhe, who is his running mate.
Although Mr Tshisekedi argued he was simply following the wishes of the party base, many in the country have criticised his decision not to support Mr Fayulu.
“The context of these elections isn’t a normal one,” Mr Tshisekedi told the BBC.
“We are living in dangerous and unstable times but at the same time there is a strong desire of the population to have these elections, because people are really fed up with this regime, installed since 1997, that has brought its load of violence, incredible violence.”
In order to become president, something his father never managed to do, Mr Tshisekedi must convince opposition supporters that he is the candidate best placed to capitalise on that feeling as well as overcome the power of the governing party.
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.