Minister wants action against protestors

April 2, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 2 – The ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development on Saturday criticised the Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped (KSMH) for holding a demonstration on Wednesday saying it was illegal and unnecessary.

Minister Naomi Shaban claimed that officials of the society refused to hold talks with government officials to resolve the matter instead opting to stage a day long sit-in at all entrances and exits of the National Social Security Fund building, where the ministry is housed.

She added that the society undermined the rights of the mentally handicapped people by abandoning them at the offices arguing that the act caused them undue distress.

"The demonstrators including children and adults were ferried to the site as early as 7am by buses of a certain company and at about 9pm the buses took them away," she said.

Ms Shaban also noted that the protest paralysed operations at the building which also houses other government departments and asked the police to prosecute those behind the demonstration.

"During the day, supplies of food and refreshments were evident and these well orchestrated activities raise questions as to the motive of those who organised them," she said.

"Their leaders seemed to be in constant telephone consultation with somebody elsewhere who totally rejected any attempt to solve the issue," she added noting that attempts by the ministry\’s Permanent Secretary as well as four MPs were turned down.

She also explained that the demonstrators wanted the immediate release of their monthly stipend from the government in order to call off their protest.

During the last financial year, the government allocated Sh200 million for an interest-free revolving fund that would cater for the needs of the physically or mentally challenged as well as the elderly.

The gender ministry together with the Board of Trustees for the National Development Fund for Persons with Disabilities (NDFPD) for was charged with reviewing the disbursement guidelines so as to accommodate the constituencies\’ allocation.

However the ministry holds that the money was set aside to cater for the needs of those aged above 65 and those with mental disabilities, especially rising from senility.

"This was borne out of the printed estimates which made no mention of persons with mental challenges. In fact, the ministry had requested for funds for a cash transfer programme for the elderly, those with disabilities, orphans and vulnerable children," she said.

"The truth therefore is that the ministry did not receive any funds specifically for people with mental disabilities. The KSMH thought that the Sh200 million was only earmarked for the elderly and those with mental disabilities," said Ms Shaban.

She further argued that it would be expensive and logistically difficult for the ministry to allocate cash transfer programmes for several small and specific disability based groups. She added that the ministry had tried to reason this position with the KSMH but that its attempts had been unsuccessful.

Ms Shaban also claimed that the KSMH had made an application to the NDFPD\’s Board of Trustees requesting Sh69.8 million to last it five years. According to the minister this proposal included Sh6 million per year for the society\’s recurrent expenditure and Sh8 million every year for cash transfers to 150 households at Sh4,500 per month.

"The society however only received Sh1 million and was advised to review the proposal in line with NDFPD\’s criteria. It was asked to exclude the recurrent expenses and re-submit the proposal. This has not yet been done," she said.

She also maintained that the government was committed to improving the welfare of those with various handicaps across the country.

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