Four more test positive for coronavirus

30Mar 2020
The Guardian
Four more test positive for coronavirus

The number of coronavirus cases in Kenya has risen to 42 after four more cases were confirmed yesterday.

During a briefing on Sunday, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said of the four, one is a Kenyan, one American, one Cameroonian and one a Burkinabé. He said three of the cases were based in Nairobi and one in Mombasa. The CS said of the 42 cases, 24 are male while 18 are females. Nairobi leads with 31 cases followed by Kilifi (six), Mombasa (Three) and Kwale (one) and Kajiado (one).

Kagwe revealed that 1,426 people are being monitored while 215 others were discharged after completing 14-day mandatory quarantine.

To contain the pandemic, he said that mass testing in ongoing on those who arrived in the country from last Sunday. The CS said that 18 people were waiting for their test results at Mbagathi Hospital. He said that those who will test positive will be isolated.

The CS warned leaders against perpetuating lies about coronavirus on social media for political mileage. He, however, urged all Kenyans to observe high standards of hygiene and physical distancing. 

He commended the private sector for assisting government to find facilities that can be used as hospitals, isolation centres.

Meanwhile, it is no longer a matter of if but when the Coast region will emerge as an epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak should authorities fail to enforce strict measures to curb the pandemic.

Already, the government has named Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa among high risk counties.

“The National Governments Administration Officers (Ngao) have been quietly preparing for stricter measures that will include tight control of movements within the coast region, as they try to implement strict adherence to counter the spread of the virus. This could include partial lockdowns of the region,” the Press was told.

As a pre-emptive measure to the strict controls, Mombasa County government moved to set aside Sh700 million under the Emergency Household Relief and Nutrition Support Project to cushion 227,404 vulnerable households in case the country goes into lockdown.

“Due to the risk of this global pandemic, enhanced measures may have to be taken by the national government including a total lockdown to enforce enhanced social distancing,” Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho said, adding that this was necessitated by the need to support the population that depends on wages.

In the aftermath of the deadly Al-Shabaab attack on the Dusit 2 hotel complex in Nairobi in January 2019, urgent discussions began about how to re-enforce Kenya's counter-terrorism capabilities. Clearly tough lessons still needed to be learnt in the wake of the Westgate Shopping Centre siege six years earlier.

Al-Shabaab continues to be a potent force in the region. After a brief lull it appears to be ramping up operations in both Somalia and Kenya. Despite a reported increase in the number of United States (US) air strikes against al-Shabaab operatives, al-Qaeda's deadly affiliate has been linked to at least 15 attacks in Kenya since the start of 2020.

Now Washington has announced the creation of the US's first ever overseas joint terrorism task force, based in Kenya. The $2.5 million initiative envisages a multi-agency partnership between Kenya and the US to form the Kenyan Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF-K).

The FBI, which along with the US State Department is the key partner in the new joint task force, is no stranger to Kenya. It offered valuable forensics capacity following the Westgate attack, and FBI personnel are routinely embedded in foreign embassies. Now the JTTF-K is formalising that engagement by promising to offer Kenya's counter-terrorism forces 'training, experience and insight' from US counterparts.

After a brief lull al-Shabaab appears to be ramping up operations in both and Somalia and Kenya

It's supported by George Kinoti, Kenya's Director of Criminal Investigations, who at the JTTF-K launch said it would give Kenya the 'upper hand' at a time when al-Shabaab was entrenching itself and growing more adept at 'adapting to new technologies'. As part of the joint task force, more than three dozen Kenyan investigators will receive training at the FBI's specialist academy in Virginia. They'll be drilled in FBI methodologies including intelligence handling and evidence collection, before returning to Kenya, to be supervised by specialist FBI mentors.

However the FBI also has a less savoury legacy in Kenya, its officers having been accused in the past of involvement in a series of extrajudicial renditions of suspected al-Shabaab operatives. It is perhaps not surprising then that there are questions regarding the creation of a joint terrorism task force, in particular its scope and the limitations of its operations.

The US State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism, which is sponsoring the two-year project, has made it clear that this is an investigative unit - not a military one. It is aimed at equipping Kenyan counter-terrorism officers with the tools required to detect and bring to justice those responsible for conducting, aiding and abetting terrorism.

Whether the Kenyan justice system has the capacity to bring to trial prominent terrorist suspects may be in question, but the US has made it clear that the task force will be subject to the Kenyan constitution and international law. That is code for retaining Kenyan sovereignty and being human rights-compliant, i.e. resisting the urge for security forces to act as judge, jury and executioner, something the Kenyan anti-terrorism police unit (ATPU) have previously been accused of.