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Conservation, public officer accountability top priorities for Africa

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AGGREY MUTAMBO

By AGGREY MUTAMBO
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Africa’s position in the upcoming decade could depend on how officials conserve the environment and remain answerable to the growing population.

In a new report by non-profit think-tank Brookings Institution, Africa’s ‘rising’ tag may continue, but public officers will have to change their attitude about climate change and see their positions as those of service, not enrichment.

The Foresight Africa report released last week puts forward six key areas that African leaders may focus on if at all the people’s livelihoods are to be improved.

It says they must allocate more attention and funds to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), the UN’s vision for a poverty-less world by 2030.

They must also inculcate public accountability through better elections and services, target the welfare of the youth and combat climate change.

The leaders, the report says, must also invest in the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, where innovation is encouraged and policies that support private investors implemented, rather than rake in debts for white elephants.

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It seems this has to start with a clean environment.

“Make no mistake, the big emitters absolutely must step up their domestic climate action, and quickly,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, now a non-resident Distinguished Fellow at the Africa Growth Initiative of the Brookings.

“But building the new climate economy is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that every African nation should prioritise and claim a stake in.”

Dr Okonjo-Iweala argues in the report that while Africa has contributed the least dangerous emissions to the environment, it is the most-exposed to effects of gases that contribute to global warming, the driver of climate change.

“Devastating cyclones affected three million people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe in the spring of 2018. GDP exposure in African nations vulnerable to extreme climate patterns is projected to grow from $895 billion (Sh89.5 trillion) in 2018 to about $1.4 trillion (Sh140 trillion) in 2023—nearly half of the continent’s GDP,” she noted.

That anomaly is a blot to a continent said to have 10 of the fastest growing economies in the world. But experts had warned before, since 2010, that it will be the continent’s biggest headache.

“Climate change is and has been an issue for the continent for the last 15 years and has been continually getting more complex to manage,” said Macharia Kamau, Former Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for el-Niño and Climate Change.

Mr Kamau, now Kenya’s Principal Secretary of Foreign Affairs, told the Nation that he would tour the world warning leaders that the effects of climate change would worsen.

“The cost to African economies is anywhere between one and a half to three per cent of the GDP. This translates to a punitive climate change penalty and a severe restriction on economic potential, growth and positive social transformation.”

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But climate change is a result of nearly 200 years of the industrial revolution, which Africa did not take part in.

Further, the UN says about 430 million people in Africa are bone-poor or in “extreme poverty” and may need at least $1 trillion annually to implement SDGs.

Brookings experts suggest that issues of governance and inclusion could be top priority as well.

A random poll showed that nearly half of the people want better elections and governance (48 per cent) prioritised so that youth development, health, climate change and regional integration policies are implemented.

“Strong institutions and human development calibre; those are the constraints for Africa,” Armando Manuel, the Alternate Director of the World Bank, said last week during a panel discussion on the report in Washington.

“The rate of discoveries of natural resources in Africa is currently so high that the countries can easily turn into middle income countries. But the problem is that when they reach middle income level, they reach a trap; facing constraints of growth, constraints of income distribution….no inclusion.”

This decade, the UN says should be one of action on poverty, wars, environmental degradation and poor governance. The African Union prioritised 2020 to end violence and 2063 for full integration.

Foresight said business environments across the continent were improving, regional integration centered around the African Continental Free Trade Agreement were progressing, and that transformational technologies were present.

But the rapid rise of the population requires better policies.

Mr Matt Rees, the Interim Coordinator for Prosper Africa at USAID, the US government’s private investment support arm, argues African leaders must prioritise solutions to deal with the population explosion.

“Governments and, most importantly, private players must step up to solve the problem … so that they can collectively create employment for the urbanising population … begin to pay for the achievement of the SDGs … guide for policies that can lead to environmentally friendly outcomes and begin to hold governments accountable,” he said on the panel last week.

“They have to allow people to vote with their economic powers rather than their demographic powers or kinship,” he said.

“The priority should be … how to work with the private sector on policy shift. At least propose answers that are more achievable rather than take on more debt from either international development banks, multilateral banks or unsavoury characters who not only tie people in debt but also don’t invest in labour…and capacity transfer.

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Why is Good Friday called Good Friday? : The Standard

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Brother Kennedy Oronjo (right) with his colleague Br Vincent Oloo at a past Church service. Br Oronjo has appealed to the government to allow church services to continue but with restriction just like supermarkets and matatus. [Courtesy]

The most important weekend of the Christian calendar has arrived as millions celebrate Easter.

Supermarket shelves are always awash with chocolate eggs and other sweet treats, but the religious story behind Easter, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, is far more harrowing.
The first day of the Easter weekend is Good Friday.
Good Friday marks the day Jesus died on the cross.
Of course, two days later, Easter Sunday, represents the day Jesus rose from the dead and went to Heaven.
So why is the Friday, the day Jesus died, called Good?
If you look at it on face value, there’s not much that’s good about a man being nailed to a cross, made to wear a crown of thorns and left to die.
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It’s the day Lent has been leading up to as Christians remember how Jesus was flogged before having to carry his own cross to a hillside. Once there he was crucified alongside two criminals, despite doing nothing wrong.
The original definition for the word “good” was that it “designates a day on (or sometimes a season in) which religious observance is held”.
The Oxford England Dictionary says “good” refers to a day or season observed as holy by the church.
So, in this case, good means holy.
It’s also why people say “good tide” at Christmas and on Shrove Tuesday.
Another suggestion is that the name Good Friday comes from “God’s Friday” being corrupted over time. The earliest use is “guode friday” from 1290.
Mankind salvation
But locally, Nairobi-based Religious Catholic Brother Kennedy Oronjo says, Good Friday is called Good Friday because it marks mankind’s salvation which came through Jesus Christ’s crucifixion at Golgotha in Jerusalem.
“Through his crucifixion, he saved mankind, despite the painful ordeal Jesus went through, he was able to bring salvation to us hence the name Good Friday,” said Br Oronjo.
Speaking to Standard Digital on phone, Br Oronjo urged Kenyans and Christians not to lose faith in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, adding that if Jesus conquered death, he will conquer the virus too.
“Let Kenyans reflect on their actions and not to lose faith because we were set free by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, he will conquer the coronavirus pandemic and we shall overcome,” he said.
He cautioned people against mocking God during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the word of God cannot be stopped by the virus.
He told Christians to remember that God reveals himself through others, therefore even the medics, researchers are voices of God.
“God helps those who help themselves and he as well reveals himself through others, therefore the voice of our leaders and doctors too are voices of God.”
 He urged Christians to continue praying wherever they are, saying the church is not only buildings but also the faithful themselves.
“Those people saying churches are closed have forgotten that churches are not just the buildings, but the followers too.”
 
Church service
He urged various organisations to donate what they have for the needy at this time of the outbreak in the spirit of love and sharing.
Br Oronjo, however, feels church service should have been listed among essential services, but with strict rules just like supermarkets, saying spiritual nourishment is equally vital at this point. 
He said the government should have allowed the churches to operate the way supermarkets and matatus do, adding that most churches can provide masks, sanitisers, washing hand spots and keeping the social distance during services.
“If supermarkets, shops, buses and matatus can be allowed to operate with masks and a sanitisers, even the church could have been allowed to operate because most of them can enforce the directives,” he said.
Easter season
Easter is seen as the most important Christian festival – yes, more important than Christmas – because it reaffirms their faith.
The season begins on Ash Wednesday – the first day of Lent. Lent lasts for 40 days, leaving out the six Sundays before Easter, and is a time when Christians give up a favourite food or vice. This is to remember Jesus’ time in the wilderness where he fasted for 40 days despite temptation.
He arrived in Jerusalem on what is known as Palm Sunday – the Sunday before Easter.
A few days later he had the Last Supper with his 12 disciples on what is now known as Maundy Thursday.
2,000 years ago it was the time of Passover, a Jewish celebration. Because of that Jesus and his disciples were eating together in what turned out to be Jesus’ last meal.
His actions there have also led to what is now known as Communion, where he offered bread and wine saying they were his body and blood. He also commanded his disciples to think of him whenever they had bread and wine together after he had died.
The Bible says that after his death on Good Friday, Jesus’ body was taken to a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy Jew and follower of Jesus.
On the third day (marked by Easter Sunday), he was found alive. God raised his son Jesus from the dead in an act that symbolises the defeat of death and the opening of Heaven and eternal life to everyone.

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3 pastors fighting ban over coronavirus get court date

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MAUREEN KAKAH

By MAUREEN KAKAH
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The High Court has certified as urgent a case in which three pastors want the ban on congregating lifted with measures put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Justice James Makau issued the directive on Friday after Pastors Don Mutugi Majau, Joan Miriti and Alex Gichunge sued the Interior, Health and ICT Cabinet Secretaries, the Attorney-General together and the Inspector-General of Police.

Justice Makau set the hearing for April 16 and ordered the pastors to give copies of the case documents to the sued parties before close of business on April 14.

In the suit, the pastors acknowledge measures put in place by the government to stop the spread but argue that as the pandemic worsens, Kenyans will look to churches for solace.

They are protesting the directive against social gatherings that saw closure of churches, saying it was reached without consultations with relevant stakeholders.

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They also say the State imposed the curfew and the restriction on gatherings without consulting the church.

Had consultations taken place, the petitioners say, the public would have been sufficiently educated on social distancing and proper hygiene, peace and unity would have been promoted and food drives would have been held for the sake of the less fortunate.

“The petitioners [and] other believers are in no way approaching this court in efforts to spread the coronavirus. Their sole wish is to congregate whilst adhering to the directive issued,” said their lawyer John Swaka.

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He added, “The church’s role in such times is to give hope amid the crisis not only in this country but also in the world at large. They humbly seek the intervention of the court since their rights and freedoms are being infringed.”

The pastors further note that judges, doctors and journalists are risking their lives to serve Kenyans and that pastors should be added to the list of essential service providers.

While admitting that religious activities cannot continue as usual, the trio said clergymen, as essential service providers, cannot remain locked up yet they are required to serve the people and rally the nation, on their knees, in the fight against the deadly disease.

The religious leaders note that their services can go on with those in attendance wearing masks and gloves and using hand sanitisers.

They want churches allowed to conduct services with leaders compelled to ensure members adhere to guidelines for curbing spread of the virus.

The alternative, they say, is for the government to allow the broadcasting of services on specific days.

The case will be mentioned on April 16.

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Kenya: Suspected COVID-19 Patient Fights Lonely Battles

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“I cannot wait for my quarantine days to be over so that I can mourn my mother; I will start wailing at the door.”

These were the painful words of Brenda Akinyi, 42, whose mother, Ursula Buluma, a Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) employee, passed away at a Mombasa hospital on April 2 and was buried the same day at Mbaraki cemetery.

Ms Buluma was the Coast region’s first Covid-19 fatality.

Speaking to the Nation on phone from her isolation bed at Coast General Hospital (CPGH) in Mombasa, Ms Akinyi, who is the late Buluma’s first born daughter, said her mother’s death was as a result of “carelessness and negligence” by the hospital’s management.

“I am yet to grieve. I didn’t see her body, nor attend her burial,” she said, adding: “My mother has been having health complications which she has lived with for years, so when she called me on Wednesday, March 25, to go to her house in Jomvu to take her to hospital, I did not find it strange because it was not the first time I was doing it.”

PNEUMONIA TREATMENT

They went to Bandari Clinic – which is usually the first stop for KPA employees – where her mother was diagnosed with pneumonia and referred to the Mombasa hospital.

“We went to Mombasa hospital on a KPA ambulance, where my mother was first taken to the emergency section and put on oxygen. However, she was removed from the intensive care unit and taken for what the hospital staff told me was screening, the same day,” she said from her Rahamtulla isolation ward at CPGH.

She was later told that her mother will have to be taken to an isolation ward as they suspected that she had Covid-19 disease.

She visited her mother on Friday and Saturday, staying next to her on both days and chatting as usual. But when she returned on Sunday, March 29, she was asked to stay away because her mother had tested positive.

“I was devastated. I also demanded to know why my mother was not put on pneumonia treatment at Mombasa hospital as was directed by doctors at Bandari Clinic, but no one gave me an answer.”

According Ms Akinyi, doctors visited her home on Monday, March 30, did some tests and left. They returned on Tuesday, March 31, to pick her.

TESTS TURN NEGATIVE

She was first taken to the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC) isolation centre in Mombasa before being moved to the Coast General Hospital on Tuesday, April 1.

“I have been in quarantine for 10 days today and I have not exhibited any symptoms. I have been in touch with my children and none of them has exhibited any signs, which leaves me very confused as to why exactly I am here,” she said.

“I have not been given any results from the tests they did before they took me to KMTC and thereafter in this isolation ward. It is very frustrating because I am not aware of my condition. Am I on forced quarantine or under treatment?” she wondered.

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Ms Akinyi’s children are under quarantine at the KMTC, Mombasa campus. But given the poor condition of the facilities, the family transferred them to Mombasa Beach Hotel, one of the quarantine centres at the Coast.

According to her, life in isolation is tough because she is cut off physically from the rest of the world, depending on her mobile phone and internet connectivity to keep abreast with what is going on in the country and beyond.

“I am in a self-contained room staring at the walls the whole day, without anyone to talk to or even an opportunity to bask in the sun,” she said.

ROUTINE

Ms Akinyi said she wakes up as early as 4am to browse the internet and check on friends on social media until 7am, when her breakfast is served by hospital staff.

At 10am, she is served with tea, and thereafter lunch at noon. Four hours later, an evening cup of tea is wheeled into her room, before her dinner closes the daily meal routine at 7pm.

“They have made sure that we have our meals on time. That is all we get here, mostly because one is rarely visited by a medical doctor,” Ms Akinyi said, adding that the medics talk to her on phone mainly to ask if she is exhibiting any symptoms.