NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 1 – Attorney General Githu Muigai has warned striking teachers that they risk a jail term and fines should they fail to report to work on Tuesday morning.
The Attorney General says it is a grave offence to ignore a court order which amounts to contempt of court which is punishable by law.
“The Attorney General’s attention has been drawn to media reports attributed to the leadership of the teachers’ unions allegedly advising their members to ignore clear orders of the Industrial Court of the Republic of Kenya.
“The Attorney General would wish to advice the leaders of the teachers unions, the individual teachers themselves and the general public that the disobedience of court orders -contempt of court – is a grave offence under Kenyan law punishable by both a jail term and the imposition of a monetary penalty,” Muigai said in a statement to newsrooms.
He has advised the striking teachers to comply with the Industrial Court order issued by Judge Linnet Ndolo on Monday halting the strike and directing the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) to engage in negotiations with the government.
“It is totally unacceptable that litigants before any court or tribunal can choose what orders to obey and which ones not to obey. Any person guilty of the disobedience of court orders shall be met with the full force of the law,” Muigai said in his statement.
He went on to defend the court saying that it has no vested interest in the pay standoff that public school teachers and the government are embroiled in.
“The Constitution of Kenya has created independent and impartial courts to enforce the rule of law. The orders of these courts apply to all persons and institutions with equal force,” Muigai stated.
Only hours before Muigai’s statement, KNUT had said it would not call off its strike as ordered by Justice Ndolo arguing that as per its constitution, only the union’s Secretary General is mandated to make that call.
“A teachers’ strike in Kenya is only called and called off by the Secretary General through advice from the National Executive Council as per our Constitution which is with the registrar of trade unions,” KNUT Chairman Wilson Sossion said on Monday morning following Ndolo’s ruling.
“No one else – not even the President of the Republic – can order teachers to go back to class if the Secretary General has not said so,” Sossion continued.
The government’s chief legal advisor’s statement came hot on the heels of a plea issued by Deputy William Ruto on Monday calling KNUT and KUPPET to the negotiating table.