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Why Rwanda is confident its minister will clinch Francophonie post

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By EDMUND KAGIRE
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French President Emmanuel Macron has affirmed his country’s support for Rwanda’s candidate for the post of Secretary General for the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the body of French-speaking countries.

During a meeting with President Paul Kagame in New York, President Macron said France would continue to back Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo in the elections, set to be held when OIF members convene in Yerevan, Armenia from October 11-12.

President Macron’s backing of Ms Mushikiwabo is significant since it is a tradition for the candidate backed by France to secure the position.

In addition, the Rwandan candidate is going into the election with the full backing of the African Union, effectively guaranteeing her 29 of the 58 votes.

Out of the 84 members of OIF, 58 have voting rights while 26 are observers. Mushikiwabo has been endorsed by the AU which has 29 members with voting rights. She has also visited almost all voting countries.

Ms Mushikiwabo will be running against incumbent Canadian Michelle Jean, who held the post for the past four years.

Rwandan Foreign Affairs minister and government spokesperson Louise Mushikiwabo.

Rwandan Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo submits her bid to seek the secretary-general post for the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) to Madagascar’s President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, the OIF acting president. PHOTO | RIVONALA RAZAFISON | NMG

The Rwandan candidate has outlined four pillars of her Francophone agenda’ for the next four years as: Increasing the influence of the French language; tackling youth unemployment; exchange of good practices and increasing the relevance of la Francophonie on a global stage.

According to Rwanda’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, “President Macron reiterated his support to Louise Mushikiwabo during the meeting in New York.”

The French leader has backed the Rwandan despite criticism back home mainly by French opposition politicians and media outlets claiming that the usage of French as a language declined in Rwanda over the past 24 years despite it remaining one of the three official languages.

Since coming into office in May 2017, President Macron has initiated rapprochement between Kigali and Paris, holding talks with President Kagame on at least two occasions and inviting him over to Paris in May.

Mr Nduhungirehe said that while relations with France remain work-in-progress, there is goodwill on both sides to improve the shaky bilateral ties.

Since September 2015, France has not had an ambassador in Kigali.

Paris refused to nominate a new envoy after Rwanda refused to approve the ambassador-designate, Fred Constant, to replace Mr Michel Flesch, in Rwanda since 2012, following the defrosting of ties.

When Rwanda rejected Mr Constant, France refused to name a new envoy, maintaining the first counsellor, Xavier Verjus-Renard, in charge of its diplomatic mission in Kigali.

Before Mr Flesch was nominated in 2012, Rwanda had also rejected the envoy-designate Helene Le Gal who Kigali said had links to French politicians accused of abetting the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Despite the diplomatic hurdles, Kigali remains hopeful that the two countries which have had a love-hate relationship for the past 24 years, will start a new chapter.

“As for the relationships with France, we will continue working on improving them,” Minister Nduhungirehe told The EastAfrican.

President Macron backing Rwanda’s candidate for OIF at the time when Rwanda was named the host of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2020 is seen as a strong sign of the two countries making good.

Ms Mushikiwabo is optimistic that the support will propel her to the leadership of the OIF post.

“I have a lot of support for this position, not only on the African continent but also across the globe,” the Rwandan diplomat told the French television TV5 Monde last week.

“I will go to Yerevan with a smile … I am confident,” Mushikiwabo said.

Ms Mushikiwabo, who has traversed the world over the past two months canvassing for support said she will overcome her competitor.

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The Canadian diplomat and former Governor General was also in New York canvassing for votes to retain her position but political observers say that with France siding with the African candidate, the deal is as good as done.

French media reported that there was first a tête-à-tête, on September 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, between President Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau concerning the OIF election, there was no consensus.

In May this year, Mrs Jean defended herself against allegations of misuse of funds, including allocating benefits to her husband who is not an employee of La Francophonie but termed it “a smear campaign aimed at tainting my track record.”

Reports in Canadian press indicate that Mrs Jean has received ‘lukewarm’ support in her bid to retain her position.

Mr Nduhungirehe says that Rwanda has been able to woo African countries under the African Union to support Ms Mushikiwabo’s bid while members outside Africa have also backed Rwanda to take over OIF leadership.

“The chances are good. Rwanda has the endorsement of the African Union, which includes 29 member states, the biggest contributor France, as well as many other countries, the last one being Vanuatu,” Nduhungirehe told The EastAfrican.

“Our candidate has nine years experience as Rwanda Minister of Foreign Affairs and has an ambitious programme for the Francophonie,” Nduhungirehe added.

While the OIF largely remains a big organisation whose influence and might have dwindled over the years compared to the Commonwealth for instance, Rwanda views the leadership of the organisation as a big opportunity and a big score at the international and diplomatic level.

Kigali maintains that the La Francophonie is a vital organ and offers many benefits. Ms Mushikiwabo has vowed to revitalise the body beyond just promoting the French language but rather a bloc that offers economic and trade opportunities.

“Both OIF and Commonwealth are relevant in the international arena and Rwanda is happy to contribute to the promotion of both communities,” Nduhungirehe said.

Rwanda targets benefits that will come with leading the 84-member bloc but observers say the motives “are political” in nature and could boost Rwanda’s status globally.

In March and May, President Macron laid out a plan to revitalise the OIF.

On March 20, he released 33 proposals to make La Francophonie a more pluralistic and proactive organisation. He mentioned increased funding to education and investment in what he described as “a new La Francophonie.”

Opponents of Ms Mushikiwabo’s bid have accused Rwanda of clamping down on freedom of speech and expression while others argue that Kigali must open up political space and free political prisoners.

Ms Mushikiwabo while speaking on the French TV dismissed the allegations and denied reports in French media that the recent pardon of 2,140 convicts, including opposition politician Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire, and singer Kizito Mihigo, had something to do with her vying for the OIF top job.

President Kagame, who is the current AU chairman, also reiterated that Rwanda did not act out of pressure but it is a routine practice in Rwanda for the last 24 years to pardon reformed convicts, including even those who were involved in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

In New York, Ms Mushikiwabo continued the campaign, meeting several heads of State from OIF members and Ministers of Foreign Affairs from Moldova, Vanuatu, Albania, among others.

On Wednesday, the AU hosted a reception of Foreign Affairs Ministers from French speaking African countries in honour of the African candidate for the post of SG of La Francophonie.

Observers say that Ms Mushikiwabo’s ascent to Francophonie leadership will open a new chapter of relations between Rwanda and France.

The love-hate affair between the two countries mainly is due to differing narratives on the Genocide against the Tutsi, with Kigali maintaining that Paris needs to come clean on the role of French politicians and military in the killings.

If Ms Mushikiwabo’s bid succeeds, it will pave the way for France and Rwanda to mend relations but observers say, until the two countries agree on the history of the Genocide against the Tutsi, disagreements will remain.

“It is a sign that ties between the two countries are defrosting though there are many things that need to change. President Macron has showed that he can change a lot during his time in office,” says scholar Tom Ndahiro.

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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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