30 January 2018

Kenya: Lamu Health Workers Protest Link to Shabaab

Lamu County health workers early Monday morning took to the streets of Lamu Island to demonstrate against recent allegations that they were aiding Shabaab activities.

The doctors, clinical officers, nurses and lab technicians from various hospitals, dispensaries and health centres across Lamu also matched to Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo's office.

PROTEST

They demanding the immediate release of some colleagues who were arrested last week after being accused of providing drugs to and treating Shabaab militants.

They also said all the charges against them should be withdrawn.

Led by the Lamu County Health Workers' chairperson Dr Ahmed Farid, the demonstrators submitted petitions to the county commissioner demanding that he immediately address their concerns.

The medics also demanded for stoppage of humiliation, intimidation and victimization of county health workers by national government officers.

ARRESTED

On Monday last week, just a day after the security agents implicated health facilities for helping Al-Shabaab militants in the region, a pharmacist from the Lamu King Fahad County Hospital was arrested by CID and anti-terror police officers.

He was accused of tampering with evidence concerning a stash of drugs that was found on the Shella seashores on November 26 last year.

It was suspected that the drugs were being ferried to Shabaab militants, but they were later found on the seashores and returned to the King Fahad Hospital.

The pharmacist is said to have unknowingly switched boxes containing the stolen drugs.

APOLOGY

But the agitated health workers demanded an apology through the media for what they referred to as "malicious" accusations made against them by top county security agents - who, they said, created the impression that medics were cooperating with illegal groups.

"The purpose of holding peaceful demonstrations and writing this letter is to kindly request your honourable office to address immediately some critical matters, which are seriously affecting the aforementioned stakeholders of Lamu department of health workers.

"We demand an immediate stoppage of humiliation, intimidation and victimisation of health workers by national government officers, particularly the police.

"We also want the investigating agents to do thorough investigations on the alleged accusations laid against us - that we are cooperating with Al-Shabaab - before accusing anyone. We look forward to a positive response," said Dr Farid in the letter.

'UNFAIR'

Lamu County Clinical Officers Union Secretary Iddi Yusa said it was unfair for security agents to make such weighty allegations against the medics.

"Drugs supplied to Lamu hospitals come directly from the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) and any drug taken out of our facilities goes thorough procedures. In addition, the drugs supplied are not enough for our hospitals.

"Where are these drugs we are told we are supplying to Al-Shabaab come from? Those are baseless allegations and we want an apology from the security team. We are not cooperating with Al-Shabaab or any other illegal group as alleged," said Mr Yusa.

ACCUSATIONS

Union of Kenya Civil Servants Lamu County Secretary Mr Haji Shibu threatened to take legal action against the security department in the county if it did not stop police officers from harassing medics.

His sentiments were also echoed by Kenya National Union of Nurses Lamu Secretary Julius Njogu, who said the allegations have made them to work under extreme fear.

"If the Lamu security department won't respond immediately on this, we will take action against them. They can't accuse us like that and [we] let it go," said Mr Njogu.

The protests came a week after Linda Boni Operation Director Joseph Kanyiri said some hospitals and other health facilities in Lamu, Tana River and Garissa counties were being investigated on suspicion that they were supplying drugs to and secretly treating Shabaab militants in Boni Forest.

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