Activists put under arrest as they protest funds' theft

Human rights activists address a Press conference at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, yesterday, in protest against Covid-19 billions' theft. They were teargassed and some arrested. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Police yesterday used teargas canisters to disperse groups of activists and arrested some as they protested the misuse of Covid-19 pandemic funds.

Those arrested were booked at Nairobi's Central police station, as the leaders from Amnesty International and Haki Africa rushed to their rescue.

One group of the protesters had gathered at Uhuru Park’s Freedom Corner to start the protest and demand accountability for the funds when anti-riot police arrived.

Jevanjee Gardens

Another bunch had converged at Nairobi’s Jevanjee Gardens, but police dispersed them.

Central Police Station boss Mark Wanjala said the protests were illegal and went against the Ministry of Health set restrictions in managing the pandemic.

The protesters carried placards with various messages, condemning alleged theft of the funds. One of the placards read: “Arrest Covid-19 thieves”.

So far, two key donors have threatened to withdraw funds running to billions of shillings earmarked for Kenya, following the latest Covid-19 scandal linked to a government agency.

The agencies, including United States Agency for International Development (USAid) and the Global Fund, have written to the government, expressing concern over alleged corruption.

The Global Fund and USAid are threatening to withdraw funds that were to support HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria programmes for the next three years.

They expressed concern over Kenya Medical Supplies Authority’s (Kemsa) procurement woes, as well as management and implementation of the grants given to the institution.

Kemsa CEO Jonah Manjari and procurement director Charles Juma are also on suspension over the alleged scam, as Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission investigate claims of corruption.

EACC is probing Sh7.7 billion tender for the emergency procurement of Covid-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) that was to be delivered by last July 22.

Address nation

Elsewhere in Nakuru, various civil societies have asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to address the nation on the alleged misappropriation of Covid-19 funds. 

The human rights defenders under the umbrella of Kenya We Want said there had been lack of transparency and accountability on money for the pandemic, including donor funds.

The societies also want the National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani to publish detailed expenditure information on all funds advanced for Covid-19 response efforts through donations, donor grants, loans and salary cuts for civil servants.

Speaking in Nakuru yesterday, led by Center for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG), the societies said the detailed information should be for national and county governments.

CEDGG programme manager Kemunche Masese said failure to address the matter, human rights defenders and Kenyans would join healthcare workers who have issued strike notice to conduct a countrywide demonstration to push for action.

“It cannot be that our healthcare workers are suffering and dying due to exposure to the virus, when few people are enriching themselves from loans meant to fight the pandemic,” said Mr Masese.

Also, for transparency, the civil societies want respective government agencies to publish names of companies and individuals who were awarded tenders to procure medical supplies.

Midrift Human Rights Network (Midrift Hurinet) Executive Director Joseph Omondi took issue with allocation of health funds by the national government to counties.

Devolve funds

Mr Omondi said despite health being devolved, a bigger percentage of funds remained at the ministry, leaving counties strained in provision of healthcare.

“Why is the ministry not embracing devolution? Might it be the reason to have some individuals misappropriate funds? We need proper investigations for smooth provision of healthcare,” said Omondi.

Meanwhile, former Naivasha MP John Mututho has called for citizen arrest of suspects mentioned in scandals touching on donor funds meant to help the country fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

[Cyrus Ombati, Brian George, Mercy Kahenda and Kennedy Gachuhi]