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State must act on violence, strikes – clerics

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 20 – Church leaders have expressed concerns over violence in parts of the country and strikes in the public sector, saying the government must put in place workable solutions to end the crises.

Led by the Anglican Church of Kenya, the leaders cited the tribal clashes in Tana, coupled with the ongoing teachers, lecturers and doctors strikes saying the government should act decisively as the events risk plunging the country into lawlessness.

ACK Archbishop Eliud Wabukala told the government to address the current standoff in the public sector noting that its ripple effects had significantly affected patients and school-going children.

“Children and students have had to stay home when they are supposed to be in school and this is devoid of the fact that national exams are only a month away,” he said.

“And with the doctors on strike, patients suffer the consequences. The God given gift of life is compromised and becomes the negotiating chip. This situation should not deteriorate further,” he pleaded.

The five leaders, from various mainstream churches, also asked the government to engage with the Central Organisation of Trade Unions and make sure it calls off the looming workers’ strike over the new National Hospital Insurance Fund rates.

“We urge the government to urgently and decisively negotiate with this umbrella body to avert this strike,” said the chairman of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, John Cardinal Njue.

Teachers, lecturers and doctors have all defied orders to return to work until their grievances are settled.

The church urged the government to give them a decent pay so as to end the stalemate.

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“The government should put in place a practical back to work formula for teachers, doctors and lecturers to ensure that the basic right of children to education as well as those of workers to fair wages and Kenyans to basic health are not violated,” said Cardinal Njue.

Teachers rejected the government’s plan to give them a pay hike in phases.

Teachers rejected the government’s plan to give them a pay hike in phases saying the plan would see the biggest beneficiary get a Sh4,000 increment which was ridiculous.

“I don’t understand why the government is paying teachers in blocks. We are not a herd of animals,” Kenya National Union of Teachers Chairman Wilson Sossion said while rejecting government’s offer of Sh13.5 billion which was to be paid in three phases.

The church leaders further lashed out at Parliament over the manner in which it had been amending new laws before their passage.

The group accused Members of Parliament of undermining the Constitution.

“We are perturbed with the way in which the Constitution is being implemented and we wish to state that Kenyans’ wish to have a new Constitution is upheld. They (MPs) should therefore uphold the latter of the law,” said the cardinal.

The clerics also announced its discontent over proposals contained in the Education Bill saying it would not surrender its schools to the government.

“The church shall continue to assert its rightful position with all that appertains to its responsibility as sponsors in various schools. We will not surrender land on which our schools are built under any condition,” stressed Wabukala.

Officials of the Methodist Church of Kenya, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and the National Council of Churches of Kenya were also present.

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