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Upclose with Kennedy Kalonzo on politics, family and dreams

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By THOMAS RAJULA
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Kennedy Musyoka Kalonzo used to hate politics. It was something of an irony considering that his father, former Vice-President and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, is one of the country’s longest serving politicians.

In fact, Kennedy’s dream was to be an ambassador, even though he dreaded the bureaucratic route of rising to the top of the diplomacy ladder.

He also had aspirations of deejaying, and even saved up and bought a set of Pioneer CDJ-800 decks for this.

“A lot of friends I knew back in my high school and college years ventured into music. One friend borrowed my equipment and spoiled it. I was so heartbroken that I never went back to music”, he says.

It took a long time before he started to soften his stand on Kenyan politics.

“Before I went to study abroad, I hated Kenyan politics because I thought it was too personality-based. However, as I was studying it in Australia, I realised that what I hated was the way we practised politics at the time,” said Kennedy in an interview with Lifestyle.

His notion of local politics was largely based on Western standards where, he says, “a lot is based on party discipline and ideology”.

His view on politics appears to have changed after the 32-year-old became one of the youngest members representing Kenya in the East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala).

His choice did not come without controversy as some accused the Wiper Party of nepotism.

Many believe that his father pushed him into taking up the Eala job, but Kennedy thinks those always linking him to the former VP are “haters”.

Kennedy says he wanted the job because of the frustrations he went through when working on a regional project, which he refuses to name.

“I felt like it was taking too long yet I was working on the project pro bono (for free). I therefore thought that it would be better to bring up such issues in the regional assembly to benefit the whole of East Africa. I am my own man,” he says.

It did not help Kennedy’s cause, given that Raila Odinga’s ODM also nominated his (Raila’s) brother Oburu Oginga to another Eala slot.

Kennedy recalls the process as “a tough one”, for he had to first win nomination at the Wiper Party level, which meant applying and being picked out of the many who had also shown interest in the position.

He also spent two months talking to openly hostile parliamentary select committee members because the political environment during the 2017 General Election was toxic. The process for nominations kept stalling, but eventually he sailed through.

“An MP told me that he would vote for me but I would have to visit his constituents often. It’s one of the many promises I made while campaigning that I am trying to keep,” he says. In November 2017, he was confirmed as an Eala Member of Parliament.

Kennedy Musyoka Kalonzo

Kennedy Musyoka Kalonzo at Charter Hall in Nairobi on May 11,2017. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The firstborn in a family of three reckons that life has not always been easy. Growing up, his father was not always present.

He was told that his father was absent because he was trying to build a better country.

“I only came to understand what that meant much later,” he says.

He nevertheless recalls treasured moments when his father would be home, especially their Sunday afternoon outings after church.

The former VP would take Kennedy to eat chips at Valley Arcade shopping centre in Nairobi at the spot where Freedom Heights Mall and Residence currently stands.

Being the firstborn in his family, does he feel pressured to be the “ideal” child?

He says his parents have always been supportive of their ambitions, citing his brother’s choice of becoming a rapper as a case in point.

“From everything I’ve read, in life you are only racing against yourself. Everything will fall in place whenever the time is right.”

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He studied for his O-levels at Brookhouse, did an International Relations degree at the University of Newcastle in Australia, and then pursued a Law degree at the University of Nairobi.

“Finally, my dad came to the ceremony; my first graduation he had ever attended. When I was graduating with my first degree, he was the Vice-President, and because of his commitment to the country first, he wasn’t able to make it. However, mum represented him very well,” he says.

In reference to the recent probe by Law Society of Kenya into why only a few students who sat the bar examinations at the Kenya School of Law pass, Kennedy admits there is a problem. It was tough. “There are even times I thought about changing careers,” he says.

Political commitment is something his father takes seriously, so does Kennedy. He started considering politics seriously after coming back to Kenya from Australia in 2010.

When he came back to Kenya, he tried to practice what he had learnt and joined Wiper Party’s strategic team, where his work involved shaping the image of the party. “Being a young person in any organisation, I was also facing an uphill struggle to bring new ideas to the table. As young people, we need to stick together to bring the change we desire in our politics,” he says.

The family has undergone a tough time after Kennedy’s mother, Pauline, was admitted to hospital in Kenya and Germany. During the gruelling 2017 campaigns, the former VP spent many nights at Nairobi Hospital, where Pauline was admitted. She was later flown to Germany.

Kennedy says his mother is now in a stable condition, but does not disclose what ails her. All he says is that the family has faced tough times but also supported each other.

“Dad was away for two or three months and we went to see them frequently. Being a prayerful family, we would pray a lot and just hope for the best. The experience reminded me of advice from one of the party officials to always give back to the community. I recently went to Kenyatta Hospital and spent time with children in the wards. I have utmost respect for our nurses for the job they do.”

The reserved politician says he learnt this trait from his mother, who does not seek public attention. Kennedy also tries to keep away from social media and avoid what he terms as “negativity.”

“My focus is on doing what I need to do to get to the level of people I look up to: Jay Z, Princess Maria Torres, Cyrus the Great,” says Kennedy.

He thinks his father is a patriot to the bone. “I’m still learning from him. He is an amazing man who rose out of poverty. I don’t think I would have replicated his success had I been in his position. His success has also been due to how he relates with other leaders, always looking at the bigger picture, putting Kenya first.”

Kennedy is a huge fan of mixed martial arts and boxing. He loves watching Ultimate Fighting Championship and boxing matches. He is currently on a break from Muay Thai training because of the travelling his role requires.

“I trained a bit in Australia, but I also trained here at Colosseum Fitness Centre, as well as working with two other trainers. I want to be fit before I go back again,” he says in reference to the version of Thai boxing.

He finds pleasure in some simpler things, too. He rears goats and once when he got very broke, he sold a few.

He also travels a lot and watches documentaries to entertain himself. His advice to the youth is to focus on the positive: “Make the most of your youth and get a mentor early.”

Having been in Eala for several months now, he admits that it is more complicated than many people think.

“We are supposed to meet every two weeks and have sittings in the different member states. Due to budgetary constraints and issues between member states, we find ourselves sitting in Arusha most of the time,” he says.

He believes that having different currencies in the region has hindered doing business, noting that “a single currency would make the process easier.”

His pet project is to help young people get jobs. “We need to come up with a list of skills needed in the job market, so that universities can then teach these skills and help reduce unemployment,” says Kennedy.

He has four more years as an Eala MP to realise his dream.



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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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