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Referendum looms as IEBC begins to verify signatures : The Standard




A Kenyan signs the referendum proposal at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, in 2015. IEBC will start checking the signatures. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The electoral commission will today begin verifying signatures submitted in support of a referendum.

The crucial stage for the referendum push under the Punguza Mzigo Initiative is set to begin today at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) offices.
Lawyer Ekuru Aukot’s Thirdway Alliance submitted the Punguza Mzigo (Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill, 2019) alongside 1.4 million signatures to the commission.
One million signatures are required to propel the process to the next stage.

SEE ALSO :Sh700m lost in IEBC election tenders: Report

The commission is expected to submit the Bill to the 47 County assemblies once it verifies the signatures.
“If the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is satisfied that the initiative meets the requirements of this Article (257), the Commission shall submit the draft Bill to each county assembly for consideration within three months after the date it was submitted by the Commission,” states Article 257 of the Constitution.
If at least 24 county assemblies approve the Bill within three months, the stage will be set for the National Assembly and the Senate to either approve or reject it.

Presidential Assent


The Bill will be ready for the Presidential Assent if it gets the backing of the majority of the members of the two Houses.
It would, however, be submitted to the people for a referendum should it fail to get Parliament’s approval.
Mr Aukot’s Bill has an attractive proposition for county assemblies. It proposes an increase to county revenue share allocation from the current 15 per cent to at least 35 per cent.
The initiative is also seeking to use each of the 1,450 wards as the primary unit of accelerated development, replacing the National Government-Constituencies Development Fund (NG-CDF).
IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati invited Aukot’s team to turn up for the verification of signatures.
“Your agents, who participated in the document submission and receiving process, are invited to participate in the verification exercise and will be sufficiently briefed before the start of the exercise,” stated Mr Chebukati.
The Punguza Mzigo Initiative seeks to slash the number of MPs from the current 416 to 147, as well as alter the President’s term from the current two five-year terms to a single seven-year term.
Several other proposals have since come up, some for a referendum, others against it.
The Kamket Bill and several proposals before the Building Bridges Initiative have recommended the creation of a powerful prime minister’s post and two deputies’.
Some leaders have in the past criticised the clamour to change the Constitution, saying there were more urgent issues to address. They have also opposed proposals to create new positions for a powerful prime minister and two deputies.

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IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati



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What doctors are learning about Covid-19 ‘on the fly’




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Doctor Daniel Brenner has had a busy week in the emergency department of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, seeing dozens of presumed Covid-19 patients.

As Maryland and other parts of the United States brace for the kind of surges seen in New York and Louisiana, AFP spoke to the fourth-year resident to gain insight into what medical professionals are learning about the disease in real time.

Maryland has thus far seen two dozen deaths and around 2,000 cases – capacity is not yet stretched, but could soon be.

With hundreds of cases now coming in, Brenner said it becomes “very tricky to tease out who needs to be in the hospital, the people who are at high risk for developing severe symptoms and needing supplemental oxygen” versus those who can recover from home.


Making the right call is crucial, but the problem is compounded by a lack of data to help rationalise choices.

“Is it older people? Is it people with medical conditions?” asked Brenner, adding that doctors were desperately trying to keep up with the latest medical literature as it gets published to stay better informed.

Different physicians have different views, “and there’s really no consensus across the country or the medical community which approach is right yet because this disease has only been studied for two months,” he said.
“We’re all trying to learn it on the fly.”

The most significant complication for coronavirus patients is Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) in which the lungs stiffen and become inflamed and the body is starved of oxygen.

Doctors have found placing patients on the stomach in the “prone” position helps prevents fluid from building up in the relatively more healthy area in the back of the lung, said Brenner.

The technique is commonly used on preterm babies requiring ventilators, but for adults it is labour intensive and requires constant monitoring to make sure the breathing tube isn’t displaced.

Covid-19 patients also seem to require higher levels of air pressure on their ventilators than people who have developed ARDS by other means, added Brenner.

While hospitals in overwhelmed regions such as New York are in dire lack of personal protective gear, such shortages have not yet hit other parts of USA.

But the virus is forcing medical staff to change the way they work.

In the US, assisted breathing machines called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAPs) and Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAPs) are not being used out of concern that they “might make a giant field of virus” by spraying droplets out of the patient’s mouth and nose under pressure, said Brenner.


Ventilators, which place tubes down a patient’s air passage, do not have the same problem because the exhaled air is sealed.

But this creates its own issues – BiPAP was typically used for heart failure patients in the emergency room, but now these patients must go on ventilators.

This is a more invasive procedure which requires making them unconscious and giving them drugs to temporarily paralyse the body.

In addition to coronavirus cases “we also have everybody else who’s critically ill who still has to come to the hospital – so your heart attacks, your strokes, people who have been hit by a car, those people are still coming,” said Brenner.

Their care has to be managed in the context of the virus – meaning that if a patient comes in with a heart attack and has a cough, they are considered a suspected Covid-19 case. If they are unconscious, they are also presumed positive.

That means donning protective gear even when a heart patient experiences cardiac arrest – and losing precious time when every second can mean the difference between life and death.

“We all do this because we want to help people, so instinct is ‘The patient is in trouble, I have to go in right now, I don’t have time to deal with protective equipment,’ but we keep telling everyone and keep reminding ourselves that if we get infected we can’t help anyone else.”

Morale remains high among the medical staff, said Brenner, 36, even as “people are wrapping their heads around the magnitude of this a little bit” and turning to each other for support.

Some staff have been infected at the hospital, but thankfully there have not yet been any serious cases.

One thing that helps, he says, is support from the community in the form of meals sent by local businesses and individuals.

“Sometimes taking a moment and eating a sandwich can make you a much better doctor,” he said.

“And so that’s been a really nice thing that was kind of unanticipated, that the community has been so supportive and so kind.”



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After a long day of lock-down, how ‘essential’ is a drink? – Nairobi News




Some countries have banned alcohol, others say liquor shops are essential services, and one top official even suggested a tipple after another long day trapped at home can be a necessary restorative.

The debate around alcohol and the coronavirus pandemic touches on issues of health, the economy, worker safety — and whether for some a glass of wine may indeed help cope with the stress of seeing their lives upended in the space of weeks.

Police in South Africa are brutally enforcing a ban on all alcohol sales during the shutdown.

But in North America and much of Europe, alcohol stores remain open, and busy — often protected under the same regulations that allow business such as supermarkets or pharmacies to operate.
In Canada — where legal cannabis stores have also stayed open — Quebec’s premier Francois Legault justified the decision to keep alcohol sales flowing, a move welcomed by consumers but criticized by a trade union concerned for shop workers.

“To reduce the stress, you have to do some exercise, so have a walk — but sometimes a glass of wine may help,” he said.

Unlike much of the world Canadians are not under official lockdown, but they have been urged to stay home and practice social distancing — and that has been enough to send alcool sales soaring.

“Everyone feels like it is Friday or Saturday all the time,” said Catherine Paradis, an analyst at the Canadian Center on Addictions and Substance Use.

Consumers are hitting stores like “in the weeks before Christmas” as well as buying at peak levels online, according to a spokesman for the Societe des alcools du Quebec (SAQ) — a government corporation which last year reported net earnings of CAN$1.146 billion.

Nationwide, Paradis notes that closing stores selling alcohol would cut off a significant source of government revenue — estimated at about 411 Can dollars ($288) annually per person.

– Sauna, then vodka? –

On the other side of the border, New York, the epicenter of the epidemic in the United States, has also placed wine and spirits stores on the list of “essential” businesses.

The New York State Liquor Stores Association confirms that sales have increased significantly.


“In a way, we are helping the economy,” president Stefan Kalogridis told AFP.

Experts also note that for people who are addicted, the side effects of abrupt alcohol withdrawal can include tremors, insomnia and nausea.

This “could have serious complications, especially if the person is confined to their home, it is very, very dangerous,” says Anne-Elizabeth Lapointe, director of the Addiction Prevention Center in Montreal.

But even for the majority of moderate alcohol consumers, closing liquor stores could lead to increased anxiety and stress.

Since the start of the epidemic, alcohol has served other purposes too.

In France, where wine merchants remain open, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi were also among the first beverage giants to convert part of their production into alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel.

In Poland meanwhile, almost half a million liters of contraband vodka and illegally-produced pure alcohol have been used as a disinfectant instead of being destroyed.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has even recommended drinking a 100-ml glass of vodka after going to the sauna — as a spurious miracle remedy for coronavirus.

At the other end of the spectrum Hong Kong executive Carrie Lam has banned all restaurants and bars from serving alcohol — arguing that easy access could harm social distancing.

“Sometimes people get a bit intimate when they are drunk, and this will raise the risk of infection,” she said.

A perhaps more serious risk linked to excessive alcohol consumption, points out addiction specialist Paradis, is domestic violence under the lockdown and mounting stress.

To limit the risk, Greenland has temporarily banned sales in its capital Nuuk.



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Ndingi is to finally rest at the Basilica : The Standard




Retired Catholic Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki (pictured) who died on Tuesday will be buried at a basement crypt at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi.
The burial will take place on Tuesday next week. Today, the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi will announce details of the programme.
A crypt (from Latin crypta “vault”) is a stone chamber beneath the floor of a church or other building that typically contains coffins or religious relics.
With his remains interred within the church, Ndingi will join other top Catholic prelates who have been buried inside churches where they served.
In 2017, Eldoret Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir’s coffin was placed inside a 2.9 metre by 1.225 metre tomb at the Grotto of the Virgin Mary, a small room inside the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Eldoret.
Much earlier, Nyeri Catholic Archbishop Nicodemus Kirima had been buried at Our Lady of Consolata Cathedral in Nyeri town in 2007.


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Archbishop Kirima was laid to rest in a tomb next to that of Bishop Caesar Maria Gatimu, whom he had succeeded in 1987.
The remains of Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga who died in 2003 are interred inside a Chapel at Resurrection Garden in Nairobi.
Initially Cardinal Otunga had been buried in the Msongari Cemetery, where other priests and missionaries of the Archdiocese of Nairobi are buried.
But Fr Ottavio Santoro, a Consolata missionary who helped Otunga create the Resurrection Garden, requested to have him buried in its chapel.
The garden is dedicated to the suffering and resurrection of Christ.
Yesterday, Kakamega Catholic Bishop Joseph Obanyi said Ndingi, having served in Nairobi for 10 years before his retirement, will be buried at the Basilica.
Obanyi, who led Ndingi’s mass celebration yesterday, was accompanied by only one priest, a pianist and three other faithful, so as to observe the social-distancing directive from the State.
He eulogised Ndingi as a servant who stood for justice and truth, especially during Kenya’s struggle for multiparty democracy.
“He was simple and accessible to all,” said Obanyi.
Ndingi retired in 2007. He had been ailing for some time, and had been resting at the Archdiocesan clergy house in Ruaraka.
Obanyi also prayed for victims of the Covid-19 pestilence, as well as the families who have lost their loved ones to the disease globally. 
He said the church stands in solidarity with all those individuals infected with the virus, especially those in quarantine.
“As a church, we deeply feel for them and constantly pray for their speedy recovery. We pray for all the health workers and caregivers that the good Lord may protect and keep them safe in their line of duty,” said Obanyi.
“We salute those fighting against this deadly disease.”

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Related Topics
Catholic Archdiocese of NairobiNdingi Mwana a’NzekiArchbishop Ndingi



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