The world can be a violent place. An Australian madman identified as Brenton Tarrant committed the latest atrocity when he shot dead dozens of Muslim worshippers on Friday in a mosque in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. Another mosque not far away also came under attack. In total, 49 Muslims were killed and scores of others seriously injured. New Zealand is normally a quiet, unremarkable place, and the massacre has prompted deep soul-searching in the country and elsewhere in the world.
From the word go, a sharp controversy erupted in media circles when certain Western outlets seemed hesitant to call out Tarrant for what he was – a bloody terrorist. The initial reference of him as a gunman, or a mass shooter, showed a familiar double-standard which a lot of people across the world were quick to recognise. The truth of the matter is that the white Australian Islamophobe is as much a terrorist as an Islamist extremist who likewise kills indiscriminately.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden was eloquent in her denunciation of the killer. She was unequivocal he was a terrorist. Speaking on TV, she emphasised that killers like Tarrant were not representative of New Zealanders or their values. But attitudes towards Islam in the Western world often follow a stereotype. As Ms Arden was addressing the world with her admirable words, a senator from Australia called Fraser Anning was spewing precisely the wrong kind of message which far right demagogues feed on. According to a statement he put out, such atrocities as happened in Christchurch were provoked by unchecked Muslim immigration. He had even more offensive words to say about Islam and its origins.
Within law enforcement circles, there were questions why Tarrant had not been previously tracked and placed on an Australian police watch-list.
That is despite evidence of his long-held and hate-filled views which he posted on social media. This was another indicator of how Western police departments are quick to profile Muslim radicals but neglect to do the same with white supremacists.
In fact on the day he went on the rampage, Tarrant posted online an 87-page manifesto which detailed his odious, fascist philosophy. He also live-streamed footage of the attack on Facebook, which seemed to have trouble pulling down the video immediately.
We live in a world where white supremacist ideology is fast taking root in America, Europe and places like Australia. The types of Tarrant have a grossly distorted view of the world where they believe the Caucasian race is being swamped by immigrants, especially Muslims and Blacks. They have plenty of role models they look up to. Tarrant was inspired by Anders Breivik, the terrorist who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011. They thrive on intolerance and denying others they deem different their humanity.
Their hate is not confined to Islam. They deplore multiculturalism in general. And globalisation too. Indeed, Brexit in Britain is being driven in large measure by an isolationist impulse and a desire to keep out the “pollution” of immigrants. From across the Atlantic we hear of the new cry about “America First”.
Shockingly, these inward-looking attitudes are becoming quite mainstream in the West. Unfortunately they are breeding an extremist fringe which demonises foreigners and is sometimes prone to violence. This fringe is also prey to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about non-Caucasians like Jews. On the websites where they spew their hate, it is commonplace to read screeds about “vile” Jews such as George Soros who supposedly have evil designs to dominate the world.
It may sound bizarre, but the far right fascists and the jihadists have a lot in common in the way they disseminate their ideologies, much as these ideologies are antithetical. They rely on the internet to spread their toxic messages and radicalise sympathisers. Worryingly, these white supremacists don’t really act as lone wolves. They communicate constantly with their kind on social media, though they don’t have a clear chain of command akin to what Islamist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda have. Theirs is more diffuse, but no less deadly.
Prof George Magoha is no doubt qualified to run the Education ministry, even though his ballsy manner during his parliamentary vetting may have unsettled some MPs. I first heard of his work when he was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, where he formed a very effective team with the Chancellor at the time, Joe Wanjui. He has equally been effective at his subsequent posting, the Kenya National Examination Council.
I have a sneaking feeling any of the political camps which thinks it will use him may get disabused of the notion. But first things first: The Ministry of Education needs a tough taskmaster. There are too many vested interests that must be contained. And the teachers’ unions need taming.
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.