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Warmer ties ahead as France drops probe into Rwanda plane shooting

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By EDMUND KAGIRE
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The decision by French judges to definitively close the investigation into the shooting down of a plane carrying former Rwanda president Juvénal Habyarimana is likely to usher in a new era of relations between France and Rwanda.

Paris and Kigali have maintained shaky relations over the past 25 years, mainly over differing accounts of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi and the investigations that started over 21 years ago.

The investigation into the shooting down of the plane carrying president Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira on April 6, 1994 while en route from Arusha — which, according to most accounts, sparked off the genocide — targeted senior Rwanda Patriotic Front officials.

On December 21, French judges Jean-Marc Herbaut and Nathalie Poux, the last ones to handle the investigation, announced that there was “no evidence to continue pursuing the case as is” against the senior Rwandan officials and closed the case definitively as recommended by the Prosecutor’s Office on October 10.

Rwanda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and government spokesperson Richard Sezibera said on Christmas Eve that the country agreed with the closure.

“We welcome this decision, which brings to an end to a brazen attempt over two decades to obstruct justice for the Genocide against the Tutsi, and prevent accountability for both the perpetrators and their willful accomplices,” Dr Sezibera said in a statement.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe said that it took 20 years of manipulation of an investigation, only for it to end up without evidence.

The case had been a point of contention between Rwanda and France. Relations between Kigali and Paris took a downward spiral in 2006 after French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, who was the first to handle the probe, issued indictments against nine officials, all senior commanders under President Paul Kagame in the RPF hierarchy.

In 2006, following the indictments by Judge Bruguière, Rwanda expelled French ambassador Dominique Decherf and cut ties with Paris.

The situation worsened in 2008, after Lt-Col (Rtd) Rose Kabuye, Rwanda’s then director of state protocol, was arrested in Germany on warrants issued by France.

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The arrest of Lt-Col Kabuye, and her subsequent transfer to Paris, pushed relations between Rwanda and France further downhill, leading to Kigali’s expulsion of the German ambassador.

However, from 2010, under the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy, relations between the two countries started to thaw and the two presidents vowed to usher in a “forward looking era.” After president Sarkozy’s visit to Kigali in February 2010, diplomatic missions in both capitals were restored.

Meanwhile, judges Marc Trévidic and Poux took over the investigation from Judge Bruguière, who was retiring.

In January 2012, the two judges issued a report that seemed to exonerate the senior RPF officials after it identified Kanombe Military Barracks as the launch site of the missile that brought down Habyarimana’s plane as it prepared to land at Kigali International Airport on the way from Arusha.

The development was key since Kanombe Military Barracks was under government forces. It was previously believed that the missiles were launched from Masaka, which at the time was under the RPF’s control.

The French judges however did not close the probe definitively even after Judge Trévidic handed the case over to judges Marc Herbaut and Poux. In 2017, there were reports that the probe would be reopened to hear new witnesses, a move that Rwanda rejected.

According to the AFP, lawyers for Habyarimana’s widow, Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana, said they would appeal the decision.

“We have to interpret this decision by French judges as a form of resignation faced with a political context that prosecutors did not know how to fight,” said lawyer Philippe Meilhac. “Rwandan authorities have never sought help to bring the truth to light.”

Kigali hopes that the probe will be closed for good under President Emmanuel Macron’s government, which is seemingly keen on restoring ties between the two former allies.

President Macron has invited President Kagame to Paris several times and backed Rwanda’s former foreign affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo win the position of Secretary General of Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

But for some, like genocide scholar Tom Ndahiro, the closure of the probe should lead to a discussion on the involvement of the French in the genocide.

Kigali maintains that senior French officials in government and the military played a role in the 1994 killings. In November 2016, Rwanda said it would investigate 20 French officials, mainly members of the military, over their role in the genocide.

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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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