By JOB WERU
The Ministry of Public Health has started an operation to get rid of cigarette smokers along streets.
This has, however, been met with outrage after a clarification by the Attorney General on the provisions of the Tobacco Control Act said a street was not a public place.
On Thursday, ministry officials carried out operations in Murang’a and Nyeri and arrested dozens of people.
Those arrested were later arraigned in court and fined for purportedly contravening the Act.
Plain clothes, regular and Administration Police officers accompanied the Ministry of Health officials.
In Nyeri town, Deputy District Public Health Officer Samson Miano said nine people were arrested and seven appeared before Chief Magistrate Wilbroda Juma where they admitted the charges.
They were fined Sh15,000 or face one and a half months imprisonment each. The magistrate advised the ministry to carry out public awareness after the accused claimed they were not aware of the Act.
But the public protested the ministry’s action and accused it of contravening the law. Miano said the operation was conducted in bus parks.
“A few people were arrested in Ruring’u, while walking along roads and others in Nyeri town, especially along Kimathi and Gakere streets,” said John Mureithi. After the controversial Tobacco Control Act 2007 was enacted, local authorities, among them the City Council of Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa Municipal councils rushed to arrest people smoking in streets.
This forced former Attorney General Amos Wako to publish a clarification, which indicated that streets were not public places as defined by the Act. In a letter dated September 19, 2008, Mr Wako wrote to the Local Government Minister and instructed that the Act takes precedence over any by-laws that are subsidiary legislations.
“A public place means any in-door, enclosed or partially enclosed area, which is open to the public or any part of the public or to which members of the public ordinarily have access and includes a workplace and a public conveyance,” noted Wako.