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Doctors’ union officials run out of grace, begin 30 days behind bars

Justice Helen Wasilwa gave the order after finding that no real progress had been made in negotiations despite the grace period she had granted/CFM NEWS

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 13 – Seven officials of Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KPMDU) found guilty of contempt of court have started serving their one month sentences, after they failed to call off the strike that has paralysed operations in public hospitals for three months.

Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Hellen Wasilwa reinstated her suspended sentence Monday morning after finding that the strike was still in progress.

The seven officials are the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union Chairperson Samuel Oroko and Secretary General Frederick Oluga. Others are Titus Ondoro, Allan Ochanji, Hamisi Chibanzi, Daisy Korir and Evelyne Chege.

“Considering the parameter to be applied in deciding whether to allow a review or not, the applicants must demonstrate to court that there is discovery of new and important matter which was not in their knowledge before or that there is an error apparent on the court’s part, or that the ruling requires some clarifications or interpretation,” she said.

She stated that the applicants had not demonstrated to the court any new and compelling issue that would warrant review of her earlier orders.

“Indeed they have submitted that they are engaging in the negotiations ordered by the court but they have not explained why they chose to obey part of the order and failed as KMPDU to call off the strike as ordered by the same court,” she said.

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli who had offered to act as a mediator in the talks admitted over the weakened that he had been unable to end the doctors’ strike, signalling a continuation of the protracted industrial action.

He blamed the prolonged industrial action on antagonism between Health Cabinet Secretary Cleopa Mailu and Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri.

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He stated that during the talks, it was discovered that there was infighting at the Ministry of Health that involved the two and this affected negotiations with the doctors’ union.

He blamed Muraguri, whom he said was working with a section of the union officials to frustrate talks towards ending the strike.

Despite an attempt by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and the Union’s lawyer to get another extension to allow for talks, Justice Wasilwa declined the request indicating that the court’s reputation must be upheld.

“It is this court’s finding that there is no sufficient reason why the court should review its order and therefore this court declines to review its orders sentencing the officials to one month jail term, and the orders of this court will now crystallize,” she ruled.

Following the ruling, the doctors union officials were handcuffed and bundled into a police van where they will serve their sentences in Kamiti and Lang’ata women’s Prisons.

Their supporters who had gathered outside the court to wait for the ruling have vowed not to relent.


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