29 May 2002

Kenya: Uproar At State Move Against Children's Body

The dissolution of the Children's Cabinet aimed to intimidate children, three NGOs claimed yesterday.

The Child Welfare Society (CWS), the African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) and the Child Right Advisory Documentation and Legal Centre (Cradle) termed the action by the director of children's services, Mr Sammy ole Kwallah, as "ill-timed and abrupt".

"The move is undiplomatic. The cabinet is not a creation of the government. What rationale did he use to dissolve it?" asked Dr Philista Onyango, the regional director of ANPPCAN.

Last Friday, Mr ole Kwallah directed that the Children's Cabinet be disbanded, citing claims of poor representation, lack of vision and indiscipline for the decision.

Dr Onyango said the official should have consulted the children before scolding and embarrassing them.

"Members of Parliament frequently quarrel like children but they have never been victimised. Even if one child was wrong, why does Mr ole Kwallah want to place this burden on all children?" she asked.

Ms Millicent Adhiambo, the executive director of Cradle said: "Children are impressionable and such an abrupt move might inhibit their personality."

Mr Julius Kaberere, the coordinator of CWS, cautioned Mr ole Kwallah not to level "unjustifiable accusations" against children.

"If Child Light Trust is being investigated, why are all children being dragged in?" Dr Onyango asked.

Meanwhile, the disbanded Children's Cabinet has threatened to sue Mr ole Kwallah for alleged defamation.

Speaking after a closed-door meeting with the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mrs Bernadette Musundi at the weekend, the children swore not to be cowed.

Former journalist Tim Gitau, who initiated the creation of the Children's Cabinet, criticised the move.

"The Children's Cabinet is not a government outfit. Mr ole Kwallah's accusations that it is misguided and indisciplined are unfounded and unprofessional." He accused the director of misleading the government about the activities of the cabinet.

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