Kenya: National Rights Commission Weighs in On Koome's Outburst

Police at a scene of crime.(file photo)

Nairobi — The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has called for an immediate end to threats and intimidation against lawful protests urging the government to engage in dialogue.

KNCHR made the call in response to a directive by Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome who ordered firm enforcement measures on Sunday to reign in on striking medical professionals whose protests he declared a "nuisance".

The Commission called for genuine dialogue between representatives of doctors, clinicians, and nurses to address unresolved issues and establish a return-to-work formula.

"The KNCHR holds that the State bears the primary responsibility of ensuring that Kenyans enjoy their rights (including the right to healthcare) as provided for under the Constitution and international human rights instruments that Kenya has ratified," KNCHR Chairperson Roseline Odede said on Tuesday.

While noting that the strike that commenced on March 13 had disrupted public healthcare and resulted in fatalities and escalated medical expenses, KNCHR observed that the protest remained non-violent thus conforming to the law.

The Commission singled out incidents of police brutality as unacceptable noting injuries inflicted on the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Secretary General Davji Atellah during a protest.

"The KNCHR maintains that national security shall be pursued with utmost respect for the rule of law and human rights," Odede said.

KNCHR's response came a day after the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) denounced Koome's directive.

The LSK said Koome's directive lacked legal foundation and care for public welfare.

Conciliatory talks

KNCHR and LSK responded to Koome even as the government urged striking doctors and clinicians to end the "illegal" strike and pursue dialogue.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore urged doctors to suspend the strike and negotiate with their employers: the Ministry of Health and the 47 county governments.

She called on the doctors to obey the Employment and Labor Relations Court orders, reiterating that the union must call off the strike and direct its members to return to work.

"This matter has received attention at the highest level, and we should have faith in each other to resolve the matter once and for all. Once more I appeal to the doctors, clinical officers, and laboratory technicians to give dialogue a chance," she said in a statement on Friday.

Bore met KMPDU representatives on Monday to discuss the framework of court-ordered conciliatory talks.

The Ministry of Health proposed retaining interns on a stipend of 70,000, which would cost the government approximately Sh2.4 billion.

Afya House noted that the Sh206,000 demanded by the union would require an allocation of Sh4.9 billion, a figure it was was unaffordable.

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