, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 3 – As Kenya marked the United Nations Day for People with Disabilities on Thursday the Kenya Society for Mentally Handicapped has accused the government of neglecting them in governance issues.
A spokesperson for the group Eunice Njung’e said the government had for long ignored their plight and added that there was need to acknowledge them in the Harmonised Draft Constitution.
“Do the people in authority know that we exist? We are totally fed up with the discrimination meted against us and denial of support by our own government. When it comes to entrenching rights in the Constitution we are left out. Why is this? Are our children and adults not born of human beings? Are they any less human?” she asked despairingly.
Ms Njung’e who presented a memorandum to Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo on their concerns said that there were about 3.5 million mentally handicapped persons in Kenya and that they were entitled to basic government services.
“We want support so that we do not have to chain our children, cage them or confine them in any way. Why is it that we are pushed away from all social services? The bias is so open that others have free education while those with mental disabilities continue to pay school fees. The excuse by government that our children’s education is too expensive must stop. They have a right to education, food, shelter and medical support too,” she said.
She added: “The government must tell us what to do with an adult who never becomes self reliant and who requires intensive support all his life. We need support to provide our mentally disabled children and adults.”
She cautioned the government against ignoring their plight saying they would all go on a hunger strike to get the government’s attention.
“If our demands are not met this time, we will have all mothers go on a hunger strike and at the end of the hunger strike we will bring half a million children out of the 3.5 million and present them as a gift to government. The half a million children will be those who cannot move or talk well. The government must realize how difficult it is to handle; not one, not two, but half a million persons with mental disabilities,” she vowed.
Ms Njung’e said that those with mental disabilities be included in the search for a new constitution for Kenya and asked politicians to read the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“We want all politicians to support our cause fully and we must also get an opportunity to read the harmonised draft before the referendum and in order to do that we would wish that the draft was presented in plain language for our understanding,” she said.
Ms Njung’e who was accompanied by other mentally handicapped persons and their parents marched from Kencom bus stop to the Co-operative House where they presented their memorandum on the harmonised draft to Mr Kilonzo.
He promised to present their issues to the Committee of Experts and denied the accusations that the government had sidelined the mentally disabled persons.
“The parent who spoke here created an impression that the government does not care for the mentally handicapped. Perish that thought completely. We care. It is only that the time had not come for a new constitution so that we could include your issues,” he stated.
Mr Kilonzo commended the mentally disabled persons for presenting their issues to be forwarded to the CoE and accused politicians of expressing their views about the draft before their scheduled time.
“It seems like the politicians have hijacked a time that is not for them. The 30 days from 17 November to 17 December is for the public to read the draft and express their views in written form. If the children of Kenya and the mentally handicapped understand the law how is it that politicians seem not to understand it? You are the ones who vote them in. You should therefore tell them (politicians) that this period belongs to the public and they should wait for their time,” he said.
He also lauded the CoE for recognizing persons with disabilities in the draft constitution and called on other Kenyans to forward their concerns to the experts.