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Violence cripples innovation in Cameroon – Kenyan Tribune
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Violence cripples innovation in Cameroon

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By NDI EUGENE NDI
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Protracted violence in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon has forced start-ups to ship their businesses. The Cameroon tech industry is one of the fastest growing in Africa, with Buea the former capital of Southern Cameroon termed the “Silicon Mountain” as it hosts a cluster of flourishing tech start-ups.

As violence increases between armed separatists and government troops, displacing thousands and forcing others into neighbouring Nigeria, IT start-ups have been forced to escape as well.

At just 27, Cedric Yengo, inspired by the Silicon Valley success stories, amongst others, has been forced to ship his business Rydz2Go overseas. Rydz2Go plans to shake up the transport technology, currently dominated by Uber and Lyft.

Engineering for Rydz2Go began in Buea, but later moved to the US, after authorities shut down the Internet for several months, crippling the operations of most start-ups.

The Cameroonian government suspended Internet services to the Northwest and Southwest in January last year in what activists described as “human right violation”.

Though Internet access was later restored in April after international pressure from, among others, the United Nations and Pope Francis; the nearly 100 days blockade remains the longest period of Internet disruption by an African government.

According to the Paris-based Internet Without Borders, Egypt and Ethiopia were also among nine countries globally that experienced Internet blockades between January and June 2017.

The initial threat to the start-ups in Cameroon was the offline status of their bases but with increasing violence, the major threat now is safety. Young entrepreneurs like Yengo were at the highest risk of arbitrary arrests and stray bullets. Many civilians have been killed by stray bullets in the regions, including a Roman Catholic priest, the Rev Father Alexander Nougi Sob, who was killed in the Southwestern town of Muyuka.

“It is no longer just our businesses suffering, we as individuals are not safe at all,” said Yengo.

While Rydz2Go and many others were forced to relocate abroad, other young entrepreneurs like Fritz Ekogwe, Founder and CEO of the file transfer app (Feem.io) and a fast secure crypto wallet (intersteller.exchange) was forced to move internally to Yaoundé, Cameroon’s political capital.

Churchill Mambe, founder and CEO of Njorku, an employment and hotel services company, keeps building his business in Southern Cameroons amidst the turmoil.

“Rydz2Go’s goal is to break onto the global market and our move to New York is the best location to achieve that,” Yengo added.

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Ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft offer pick up from point A and drop off at point B, but Rydz2Go is different because its offer is time bundles, Yengo explained. He said the latter guarantees maximum flexibility and permits users to have a ride waiting while they do their errands.

Cameroon's president Paul Biya.

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“We offer users more control with their perfect service for business appointments, city tours and date nights. Have you ever been to a new city and not know how to get around? Rydz2Go strives to ensure that you have not only a local ride but a local guide as well,” Yengo said of the app which was currently being tested.

Up to 400 civilians have been killed by both the security forces and the armed separatists in the trouble-hit regions, according to Amnesty International. The group said in a new report on September 17 that it had also documented the deaths of more than 160 members of the security forces at the hands of armed separatists since late 2016. It noted, however, that the toll could be much higher as some attacks went unreported.

“The situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon is becoming increasingly desperate with no one spared from the violence which is spiralling out of control,” said Ms Samira Daoud, the Amnesty International Deputy Director for West and Central Africa.

Armed separatists are accused by Amnesty of kidnapping students and teachers and attacking dozens of schools between February 2017 and May 2018 in a bid to “strike fear amongst the population”.

“We have reasons to believe many other lives of ordinary people are now at risk with the violence carried out by some members of the armed separatists groups. This must immediately stop,” Ms Daoud said further.

The almost two-year long violence that has gripped the English-speaking regions of Cameroon started as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers, but morphed into an internal armed conflict with fears the Central African country could slide into a civil war, if the violence persists.

“We see the situation degenerating from a crisis to a conflict,” said Mr Gaby Ambo, the Executive Director of the Finders Group Initiative, a human rights group in Cameroon.

“And if nothing is done soon, it will turn into a civil war with grave consequences.”

The recurrent deadly confrontations have led to a mass movement of people seeking safety. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates some 160,000 people have fled their homes in the strife-hit regions into the bushes, while more than 21,000 have crossed to next door Nigeria as refugees.

Many countries and groups have prescribed dialogue as a way out of the crisis, but the path was yet to be seriously pursued. The opposition thinks that President Paul Biya who has ruled Cameroon since 1982 and will be seeking reelection in October was not interested in pursuing dialogue.

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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.

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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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