My Covid-19 resilience is national resilience for national cohesion
Daily Nation MONDAY AUGUST 03 2020
As our nation struggles to level the Covid-19 statistics and to “choose between right and right” as our President rightly
stated in his recent national address, most of us also struggle to level areas that the pandemic has disrupted: Our sense
of calm, orientation, mental health, parenting, worship, income, social networks, life plans, travel,
Resilience is the ability and capability to recover quickly from difficulties and traumatic incidents that unexpectedly smash upon us, leaving some dead, others broke and many thoroughly shaken. If we break down under the burden of Covid-19, Kenya will also disintegrate. Many small cracks eventually become craters.
Just as my hustle and your hustle is Kenya’s hustle, so are my resilience and yours Kenya’s resilience. This builds up Kenya’s wellness, enhances national cohesion.
Resilience begins with determination to obey prevention modalities as set up by the government, then working hard with determination to survive the pandemic and encouraging others to do the same.
The other day, I watched several episodes of the Boston Marathon. This world-famous race attracts over 30,000 runners. Last year, there were 30,234 participants, and Kenya, a small nation ranked 48th in the world in size and 29th in population, came first with Lawrence Cherono winning and Kenneth Kipkemoi third.
Big nations were also represented. We have won that race many times and again and again, as we bring home the medals, the world keeps asking: Why Kenya?
Kenya is great, not just in athletics, but in many other areas. I focus on athletics to emphasise that, each of these winners brings personal qualities of focus, discipline, commitment, a victor mindset, devotion, persistence and belongingness — values consistently practised, step by step, one day at a time, mostly privately, with the support of family and friends and a proud community that celebrates every victory as theirs.
How does one explain this kind of persistence, for example, of Eliud Kipchoge, who won the Berlin Marathon in 2015 on bleeding blistered feet? The insoles of his shoes reportedly fell out but he chose to finish the race!
National cohesion is built on personal discipline, commitment, tenacity, focus and persistence that makes every Kenyan think “winner”. My win and my gain is my nation’s. As I obey Covid-19 guidelines, I’m protected; so is my family and nation. Somebody said: “We can rebuild the economy after Covid-19, but we cannot raise the dead.”
It’s sad to see leaders breaking the Covid-19 social distancing requirement. Besides Covid-19, it’s also sad to witness wastage or theft of national resources by entrusted caretakers.
The objective of Vision 2030 is a “newly industrialising, middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030 in a clean and secure environment.” That depends on resilience.
We dare not sacrifice Kenyan’s greatness or lose ground through careless living and lackadaisical talk. Like the mighty athletes, winning over Covid-19 and beyond needs the commitment of taking one step at a time, even on bleeding feet, with the eyes on one goal — my resilience, national resilience, national cohesion and Kenya’s greatness. A wonderful lady — @Lucythejewel — recently tweeted: “Hii Kenya, mimi sihami (I won’t leave Kenya).” My Tweet rejoinder: “Mimi pia, Kenya sihami (Me too).”
Where else? This is my Kenya!
We must now combat corona social stigma
By SAMUEL KOBIA
June 15th 2020
Stigma is a Greek word that originally referred to a type of marking or tattoo that was cut or burned into the skin of criminals, slaves or traitors in order to visibly identify them as blemished or morally polluted persons.
These individuals were to be avoided, particularly in public places. The purpose of stigmatisation then was to make the victim stand out physically in such a way as to be seen from a distance.
There are different forms of social stigmas. The most common have to do with culture, gender, race, illness and disease. Those who have been stigmatised usually feel different and devalued.
Regarding the history of stigma and disease, leprosy most readily comes to mind, as in virtually all societies, lepers were stigmatised.
In ancient Palestine and in Europe, during the Middle Ages, lepers were forced to carry a bell to warn people of their proximity, and they even walked on a particular side of the road. Similar attitudes and treatment of lepers were common in Africa as well.
In more recent times, people living with HIV have been subjected to stigma, and to its socially and psychologically devastating effects such as discrimination and profiling. It took a lot of advocacy and education to stem the stigmatisation of HIV positive people.
Today, the stigmatisation of people with Covid-19 has become disturbingly common. According to the Health Digest, stigmatisaton and fear of quarantine are hindering Kenya’s fight against the virus.
Many Kenyans who have recovered from Covid-19 are subjected to discrimination. On April 28, during the daily news briefing on Covid-19, Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Health Mercy Mwangangi expressed frustration with the trend.
“We are disturbed that reintegration has not been easy for these people,” she said.
For fear of stigma associated with being quarantined, many Kenyans avoid or hesitate to be tested. Once people get to know that one has been quarantined, the most likely assumption is that they have Covid-19 and therefore must be avoided. Worse still is when one has been hospitalised.
Cases have been reported about the way communities relate to their neighbours who return after hospitalisation. The Health ministry has shared cases such as the one of a recovered male patient who “painfully narrated his ordeal on how he was subjected to shame upon recovery by members of his community”. There is also the case of a woman in Nakuru, whose social rejection by even her family members made her contemplate suicide.
Social stigma associated with a disease usually arises from lack of awareness, lack of education and lack of correct perceptions about the nature and implications of the disease in question.
A novel disease such as Covid-19 is the subject of conspiracy theories and disinformation to the extent that the WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus has called it an “infodemic”. In the age of social media, self-appointed pundits are busy peddling information on Covid-19 that is forwarded across the globe, and wrongly consumed by many as gospel truth.
While information might at face value appear innocent, it can nevertheless be devastating when it becomes a basis for stigmatisation. It takes very long for a stigmatised person to overcome memories of hurt, rejection, humiliation and indignation. This is because the hurt suffered hits at the very core of the being of the victim. It affects their identity and self-image, even leading to self-rejection and self-hate. And when stigma is internalised, the victim takes in the negative ideas and stereotypes and starts to apply them to themselves.
The greatness of a cohesive society, such as Kenya wishes to become, is judged by the way it treats the most vulnerable of its citizens – including those stigmatised over Covid-19.
There are at least three ways of intervening to alleviate the situation. First is awareness-building for the general public, which should be carried out in a concerted manner under the leadership and coordination of the Ministry of Health.
Second is to prepare communities and families for the reintegration of recovered Covid-19 patients. Community leaders, including Nyumba Kumi, religious leaders and community-based organisations, are best placed to do that. They may also constitute a community of support and accompany the recovered patients as well as individuals returning from quarantine.
Third, is the provision of psychological support to the victims of social stigma. This is the “soft” side of the war on Covid-19. For us to win the war, all citizens must contribute. Those harmed during the process need to be treated, and then to return so as to continue the fight once they are whole again.
Rev Kobia is the Chairman of NCIC
Let us safeguard human dignity even when fighting coronavirus
All human beings come with their own worth; that is why it is vital to recognise and safeguard the dignity of all human beings, especially the weaker ones. It is unacceptable to treat them as instruments for furthering selfish interests.
Affirming the dignity of others has nothing to do with their qualities or accomplishments, which also means their dignity cannot be taken away. But it can — and often is — compromised, violated and undermined.
Longing for dignity remains a basic feeling in all of us. And when our dignity is trampled upon, the basic instinct is to re-assert and reclaim it.
That is what the African people have done in their struggles against slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism, apartheid and other forms of racism.
At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela told the judge he cherished the ideal of living “in dignity and freedom”, an ideal he hoped to live and to achieve, “but if need be, my Lord, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.
Those words of Mandela, the icon of modern struggles for freedom, peace and human rights, best capture the power of dignity and courage.
The freedom fighters who liberated Kenya from the yoke of British colonialism would identify with Mandela’s aspirations.
They were prepared to lay down their lives for the sake of freedom, justice and prosperity. In a word, to reclaim their — and all Kenyans’ — dignity. And they were so committed to that ideal that many paid the ultimate price.
The champions of the ‘Second Liberation’ picked up that mantle in the 1970s and ’80s, when the one-party dictatorship trampled upon Kenyans’ dignity.
Human dignity is violated and undermined not only by human beings and their unjust structures and systems, social phenomena, such as the coronavirus, too, and poverty.
But it is not these phenomena that are morally repugnant but rather the abhorrent treatment ordinary people are subjected to by the authorities.
What happened on the first evening of the curfew, on March 27, will for a long time remain a defining moment in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya.
The police brutality that left at least six people dead during the first 10 days of the dusk-to-dawn curfew is simply unacceptable.
Scenes in Mombasa showing the kicking and clubbing of women and men who were already lying on the ground is more the behaviour of sadists than trained security personnel entrusted with authority over the people.
We saw similar behaviour on Thika Superhighway, where a police officer continued clubbing a driver who had surrendered.
UNITY OF PURPOSE
But on the same night we also witnessed a policewoman carrying the bag of a mother who had a baby as she escorted them home. That was a rare deed deserving of an award.
Covid-19 has presented us with a rare opportunity to invoke the much-talked about (but little-practised) unity of purpose. Kenyans of all walks of life ought to come together in respecting the safety guidelines.
Social cohesion is an imperative if we are to triumph over Covid-19. Mutual trust, respect, caring, empathy, honesty and commitment are key elements that hold a society together.
But condescending attitudes towards the less fortunate by the high and mighty erode the social fabric, creating social divisions.
When the lowly are subjected to assault by the police or talked down to by state officers, mutual trust is undermined and dignity violated. Socioeconomic division in the common struggle is the last thing Kenya needs.
We need what President Uhuru Kenyatta said in his 2016 Jamhuri Day speech: “Our fathers and mothers faced an empire that could import soldiers by the thousands and guns by the tonne. And yet because our fathers and mothers were united, not even the might of this empire could keep them in bondage.”
“We know all too well what happened the last time we failed to treat each other as one family ... Come, and let us be our brother’s keeper.”
That is what safeguarding the dignity of all means when a people are at war — with a pandemic is no respecter of class, gender, race or ethnicity.
Social cohesion critical in these perilous times
By MIKE ELDON
Amani clubs give students tips on peaceful coexistence
Three issues dominated the Kwale County Amani Clubs Forum last Friday: Reducing youth’s involvement in violence by teaching them skills, their role in peace-building, and in combating violent extremism.
Other issues discussed, included bullying in school, indiscipline, drug abuse and how students can participate in community service. The students’ conference provided a forum for honest and open debate on diverse issues in order to build trust and dispel stereotypes.
They used debates, tree planting, and drama to convey topical peace messages during the event organised at Kwale High School by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC). The peace clubs in in Kwale have helped to curb bullying, indiscipline and radicalisation in schools, local officials say.
“Since the establishment of Amani clubs in the county, we have been carrying out activities with the sole aim of achieving the peace objectives established by the NCIC. We have held peace football matches, peace tree-planting and peace drama festivals,” said Kwale Amani Clubs coordinator Julianah Mwanjelle.
Meanwhile, NCIC boss Hassan Mohammed said: “Youth are the most active group and a better understanding of them is, therefore, important in any efforts aimed at attaining long-term peace building and social cohesion.”
An initiative of the NCIC, the Amani clubs aim to influence young people on matters of positive ethnicity, nationhood and inclusivity by advocating national cohesion and integration.
According to the NCIC vice-chairperson, Ms Irene Wanyoike, the overall goal of the clubs is to inculcate an appreciation of diversity among students from different ethnic, racial and religious communities.
NCIC lists six counties where hate speech is rampant
A commission has listed six counties where incitement and hate speech are widespread.
The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) yesterday cited Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kakamega, Nakuru, Nyeri and Kilifi as counties where incitement and hate mongering were rampant.
NCIC Assistant Director Kyalo Mwengi, who is in charge of complaints, legal and enforcement, said the commission flagged the counties after a national survey.
Speaking in Eldoret yesterday during the training of police officers, Mr Mwengi expressed concern over what he described as the metamorphosis of incitement and hate speech from political rallies to social media.
“We have identified six counties where incitement and hate speech is rampant. We are embarking on training to equip the police with knowledge on how to effectively use voice recorders and camcorders to collect evidence,” he told the officers drawn from six sub-counties.
“We currently have a team that is constantly monitoring social media for purposes of identifying and recommending action against perpetrators of hate speech. We are concerned that hate is moving from social-political rallies to social media.”