“We used to be scared,” said Josephine Katumba, a 30-year-old hairdresser in Kamwokya, a poor suburb of Uganda’s capital Kampala. “We don’t have fear anymore.”
President Yoweri Museveni has long had police beat the defiance out of his opponents, but a 36-year-old slumboy singer turned MP has energised and emboldened Uganda’s youth, worrying the government.
Black scorch marks on the potholed road outside Katumba’s tiny salon mark where residents have routinely burnt tyres to protest the arrest of Bobi Wine, a local boy done good, charismatic pop star and unlikely opposition firebrand.
There is “Free Bobi Wine” graffiti everywhere.
“People have wanted change for a long time,” said Katumba, nimbly braiding a customer’s hair. “The difference now is that Bobi is young and he speaks for the youth.”
As a pop star Bobi Wine blended lyrics on social justice and poverty with catchy Afrobeat rhythms, earning him committed fans among Uganda’s often poor urban youth.
He took on the nickname of “His Excellency the Ghetto President”.
Under his real name Robert Kyagulanyi he won a by-election in 2017 and entered parliament, where his popularity and outspoken opposition to Uganda’s long-time leader shook up the country’s “Groundhog Day” politics.
In power since 1986, the 74-year-old Museveni is the only president most Ugandans have known: the country’s median age is less than 16.
Museveni has had the constitution amended twice, to remove term and then age limits, clearing him to run for a sixth term in 2021.
The opposition has for two decades been similarly dominated by 62-year-old Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s former friend and personal physician, who has lost four successive elections.
Besigye “has become part of an entrenched political system in which change feels impossible without fresh leadership,” said Kampala-based independent analyst Anna Reuss.
Kyagulanyi has swiped the opposition mantel from Besigye and provided a voice for a youthful population fed up with old men telling them what to do.
“Besigye is there to help, but he’s not from the ghetto. Bobi can come and talk to us on the streets,” said Katumba.
The combination of “his age, his background and his story” make Kyagulanyi a challenge unlike any Museveni has faced during his 32-year rule, said Ugandan writer and political analyst Rosebell Kagumire.
She described him as “an outsider who is trying to shake things up”.
But in Uganda, shaking things up is risky.
Kyagulanyi rode into parliament on a wave of urban, youthful support. He quickly spearheaded resistance to the ruling party initiative removing age limits that cleared the way for Museveni to rule for life, and led protests earlier this year against a new social media tax.
The image of Kyagulanyi, in his signature red beret, leading a crowd of supporters through the streets became ubiquitous.
And as candidates he backed won a string of by-elections, Kyagulanyi was even harder to ignore.
He and Museveni went head-to-head in August. Both men travelled to the northwestern town of Arua to canvass for rival candidates on the eve of a by-election and a proxy confrontation ensued.
An opposition crowd allegedly stoned Museveni’s motorcade, breaking a car window. Police responded with bullets and Kyagulanyi’s driver was shot dead.
The MP himself was arrested — he claims he was tortured and badly beaten while in custody — and charged with treason, as were dozens of others.
Kyagulanyi’s candidate, Kassiano Wadri, won the election.
The torture allegations resonated, riling up Kyagulanyi’s supporters.
“We were angry and wanted to see that Bobi was fine,” Katumba said, recalling the eruption of street protests that followed.
Granted bail, Kyagulanyi has travelled to the US to seek medical treatment and has ramped up his criticism of Museveni’s regime from afar.
For his part, the president seems unable to adapt to the shifting challenge.
The arbitrary arrest and beating of opposition leaders is an old tactic that was deployed against Besigye for years, but young Ugandans are less cowed by such brutal displays of state strength.
Even Museveni’s trademark rhetoric, a form of didactic bonhomie mixed with folksy metaphor, is increasingly tone-deaf: in a recent speech on the state of the nation he patronised much of his audience by addressing them as “bazukulu”, meaning grandchildren.
Kyagulanyi’s expected return to Uganda will test Museveni further.
Reuss said that while he is “unlikely to unseat Museveni”, the continual use of force “further delegitimises Museveni and opposition grows further”.
Back in Kamwokya, the slum Kyagulanyi still calls home, one of Katumba’s employees looks south for a solution to his country’s tenacious old leader: “We want Museveni to be like Robert Mugabe: accept and go,” he said.
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.