Capital FM (Nairobi)

2 December 2012

Kenya: Officials Held As Nurses Strike Looms

Photo: Justus Ochieng'/The Star
Nurses demonstrate along the Oginga Odinga Street in Kisumu town in March 2012.

There was drama at the Kenyatta National Hospital on Sunday after two nurses were held hostage in a room for over seven hours for allegedly inciting their colleagues to join the planned nurse's strike on Monday.

Wilson Ochieng, the National Nurses Association of Kenya (NNAK) chair at KNH and the association's Secretary General at KNH Purity Kagwira claim the hospital's management had ordered for their arrest which was against their constitutional rights.

NNAK National chairman Jeremiah Maina insists that the strike is still on for all the nurses including those at KNH despite what he termed as 'intimidation' by hospital's management.

"This morning I was called by my officials that they have been held hostage. The security of Kenyatta has taken the law in their hands to lock even our national officials. Its either two things, they change the constitution or register our nurses Union," Maina said.

They blamed the hospital's CEO Richard Lesiyampe for giving orders of the arrest adding that he did not have powers to so.

Police officers from the Kenyatta National Hospital police post had been involved in the matter to arrest the two after they were told that they were organizing an 'illegal meeting' at the hospital.

"Article 41 of the Constitution, Sub Article 2 (d) is extremely clear, that workers have a right to go on strike and not union. There is no single director of this hospital who has ever arrested a leader of any association in this country," said agitated Seth Panyako, Secretary General, Kenya National Union of Nurses.

However acting Deputy Director Administration Shitakha Ludmila immediately denied the claims of intimidation adding that the two had to be questioned in closed doors because it was against the rules of the hospital for them to spread inciting leaflets to their colleagues.

She said the management had to involve police officers and even lawyers for them to write a statement that was legal and that it was not an arrest.

"Our security personnel received reports that somebody is circulating leaflets in the hospital inciting the staff to strike. They requested those involved to come to administration to make a statement. So, no one was arrested and no one has, from our staff, as they claim," she defended.

However there is still uncertainty of whether the strike will materialize as intended with some of the nurses associations having different opinion concerning the strike.

So far the Kenya National Union of Nurses and the National Nurses Association of Kenya have confirmed to their members that the strike will be on from Monday until the government allows the nurses to have a registered trade union. The Kenya Progressive Nurses Association (KPNA) however is not supporting the strike.

The Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS) and the Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (KUDHEIHA) have on their part condemned the planned nurses' strike terming it illegal.

The unions say the associations do not have the mandate to lead a strike since they are not registered trade unions.

On Saturday Medical Services Minister Anyang Nyong'o appealed to the nurses not to go on strike as their grievances were being addressed.

But the nurses say the minister has nothing to do with it adding that they are demanding for a nurses' trade union which can only be addressed by the labour Ministry.

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