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Kenya suspends public gatherings to curb COVID-19 spread
30 July 2021, 3:11 PM

Kenya’s health minister Mutahi Kagwe says government has suspended all in-person meetings and public gatherings country-wide to try to contain COVID-19.

In a televised address, Kagwe says the government has asked public and private sector employers to allow their workers to work from home unless they were classified as essential services.

He also says public gatherings and in-person meetings of whatever nature are suspended countrywide.

According to the ministry’s data – Kenya has recorded a total of 200 109 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3 910 related deaths.

Economic impact of pandemic

More than five million people in Kenya’s informal sector, the country’s largest employer, have lost their jobs since March 2020 when Kenya first declared its first positive case of COVID-19 and instituted stringent measures to control its spread, according to the Federation of Kenya Employers.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics says this is in addition to 1.7 million people who lost their jobs between March and June this year.

COVID-19 is turning out to be an economic crisis for Kenya, where the bureau of statistics indicates that young workers between the ages of 20 and 29 years accounted for 63% of the lost jobs.

Information Technology Graduate, Don Adrian Ingutia (27), is about to begin another uncertain day.

He is a freelance loan salesperson. His earnings depend on the number of people who need quick cash and he can convince to take up loans.

However, times are hard and many are the days, weeks he goes without making a sale.

“It is hard it is really, really hard, last month was really hard for me, because I did not post a sale and if you do not post a sale you can’t earn,” says Ingutia, who is a resident in Nairobi.

Things were not always this way. The 27-year-old has worked at an apparel factory that shipped designer jeans to the US, until COVID-19 crossed the shores to Kenya.

“They said it is about COVID, they said look at us COVID is affecting us there are no shipments coming, no longer coming in,” he says.

He then joined at least 1.7 million Kenyans who lost their jobs between March and June last year due to restrictions put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“If I sell a loan today, I take an advance instead of waiting for end of the month to be paid so that I can survive. Rent is an issue, I used to pay rent on time nowadays even the landlord is like what is really going on with you.”

Federation of Kenya Employers CEO, Jacqueline Mugo, says COVID has brought with it a level of desperation.

“COVID-19 has brought with it a level of desperation and hopelessness as you at government you know that we are hard-pressed for cash, the country is broke, we did not have the money to run the various services we want to run,” explains Mugo.

The African Development Bank estimates that nearly 2 million Kenyans fell into poverty in 2020, statistics from the Federation of Kenya Employers paint even a grimmer picture especially in the informal sector, which employs at least 83% of Kenyans.

“FKE did a survey this year to see what the impact on the informal sector was specifically in three counties and those are the numbers that we have extrapolated from the numbers that we have gathered 34% of the jobs in the informal sector had been lost if we extrapolate that nationally, then it seems to us 5.1 million jobs have been wiped away by COVID-19 this year,” says Mugo.

The rescue packages introduced by the government last year to cushion those affected by the pandemic did not reach informal sector and many who lost their jobs like Ingutia were not lucky, help in form of cash transfers did not reach them. And although East Africa’s biggest economy has vaccinated less than 2% of its population, it is betting on vaccination to fully reopen the economy.

“It is impossible to say how soon we can recover because once we vaccinate then you say we have vaccinated, operate somewhere near normally to the extent that we are not able to vaccinate quick enough I think it will be able to hamper us to be able to pick up and move on,” says Mugo. – additional reporting by Sarah Kimani

Qatar calls on Tunisian sides to avoid escalation, start dialogue
26 July 2021, 4:36 PM

Qatar on Monday called on all parties in Tunisia’s political crisis to avoid escalation and move towards dialogue, the state-run Qatar News Agency said, after Tunisia’s president dismissed the government and froze parliament on Sunday.

“Qatar hopes that Tunisian parties will adopt the path of dialogue to overcome the crisis,” QNA cited a foreign ministry statement as saying.

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied ousted the government on Sunday in a move labelled as a coup by the country’s main parties.

Saied, who on Sunday dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and froze parliament, said on Monday he would also replace the defence and justice ministers.

Tunisian democracy is said to be facing its biggest test since the 2011 revolution following Saied’s move, which led to confrontations between his supporters and opponents. He has invoked emergency powers under Article 80 of the constitution to sack Mechichi and freeze parliament for 30 days, lift the immunity of parliament members and make himself prosecutor general.

The army has helped him by surrounding parliament and the main government palace, but the main parties in parliament including the moderate Islamist Ennahda have called his move a coup and say Article 80 does not allow his actions. These are some scenarios for how the coming days may unfold.

Street violence, confrontations

Supporters of the president — a political independent –and of Ennahda mobilise in the streets across Tunisia, leading to violent confrontations that could draw in security forces and herald an era of instability or prompt a military power grab.

Said appoints a new premier and restores parliament

Saied rapidly names a new prime minister to handle the  COVID-19 surge and a looming fiscal crisis. He returns powers to parliament after his 30-day freeze ends and allows normal procedures to resume. New parliamentary elections may follow.

Authoritarian control

Saied consolidates control over the levers of power and security apparatus, postponing or cancelling a return to the constitutional order and cracking down on the freedoms of speech and assembly won in the 2011 revolution.

Changes to constitution and new referendum, elections

Saied uses the crisis to push for what he has called his preferred constitutional settlement – a presidential system based on elections but with a smaller role for parliament. The changes are followed by a referendum on the constitution and new elections.

Dialogue and new political deal

Repeating the pattern of earlier crises after Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, the political opponents draw back from the brink and agree to seek a compromise through dialogue that includes other players such as the powerful labour union.

Cannes film festival is back after 2020 cancellation due to COVID-19
7 July 2021, 8:30 PM

A musical starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard as lovers caught in an ominous relationship kicked off the Cannes movie competition on Tuesday (July 6), bringing rock riffs and operatic airs to the film festival for its big comeback night.

Directed by French director Leos Carax, heady and highly theatrical “Annette” proved a fitting big-screen pick for the cinema showcase, after its 2020 edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Set to a soundtrack by U.S. pop and rock duo Sparks, the tale partly dwells on the world of performers and the corrosive effects of fame.

At times almost absurd, and deeply poignant at others, the film occasionally pushed its stars to their singing limits, Driver said.

The actor, who plays a sardonic stand-up comedian who falls for shy opera singer Ann before their love turns sour, previously had a fleeting singing scene in 2019’s “Marriage Story”, but belts his way through his character’s highs and lows in this film.

Cotillard, who won an Oscar in 2008 for Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en Rose”, needed back-up for her vocals on some arias.

The stars reaped broad praise for their performance in early reviews on Tuesday, with Indiewire critics singling out Driver as a “deranged force of nature” in particular.

Originally imagined as an album by brothers Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks, the film also impressed reviewers, despite many recognising its patchy or puzzling moments.

The story takes on a darker turn when Driver’s comedian and Cotillard’s soprano have a child, Annette, and their relationship begins to disintegrate as his star fades and she goes on to ever greater success.

“Annette” will be released in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Poland and other countries in August and September.

Zambia’s Kaunda buried at offical site despite son’s challenge
7 July 2021, 7:12 PM

Zambia’s founding President, Kenneth Kaunda, has been laid to rest at the country’s presidential burial site.

This after the High Court dismissed a challenge by one of his sons that this would be against his wishes.

Kaunda died on June 17 in a military hospital in Lusaka. Kaunda’s son Kaweche had challenged in court the government’s plan to bury his father’s remains at Embassy Park, where other former heads of state are buried.

Kaweche Kaunda said his father’s last wish was to be buried at his residence next to his wife, Betty, who died more than 10 years ago.

In a ruling delivered while the burial was underway, High Court Judge Wilfred Muma said there was no clear arguable case made by the applicant for judicial review.

Video: Funeral service for former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda

Haitian president assassinated at home, sparking fears of widespread turmoil
7 July 2021, 4:40 PM

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph has taken over rule in Haiti following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

The assassination coincided with a wave of gang violence in Port-au-Prince as armed groups have battled with police and one another for control of the streets in recent months, turning many districts of the capital into no-go zones.

The 53-year-old president’s wife, Martine Moise, was also shot in the attack that took place around 1 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and was receiving medical treatment, Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a statement.

“A group of unidentified individuals, some of them speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president of the republic and thus fatally wounded the head of state,” he said.

 Condemning the incident Joseph has called for calm, saying the police and the country’s armed forces had taken control of the security situation.

Moise has ruled by decree for more than a year after the country failed to hold legislative elections and wanted to push through a controversial constitutional reform.



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