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You won’t oversee polls, Sossion tells ministry

EDUCATION
By Augustine Oduor | June 23rd 2021
Wilson Sossion rejected the Ministry of Labour’s offer to oversee the exercise. [File, Standard]

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) elections are now in limbo after the Secretary-General Wilson Sossion rejected the Ministry of Labour’s offer to oversee the exercise.

Sossion yesterday accused the Acting Commissioner of Labour Hellen Apiyo of sabotaging the elections, just hours after the ministry had given the go-ahead to hold the national delegates conference on Friday and Saturday.

“I refer to your letter dated 22nd June, 2021 purporting to have had a briefing with my officials, a meeting of which i am not aware of... This constitutes surbotage (sic) of electoral process by conducting illegal meetings related to elections that are not authorised nor agreed within the standard protocols,” he said.

Apiyo had in the morning written to the union following the green light from the Health Ministry that it was satisfied with measures taken to conduct the polls in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

“Having also held a briefing meeting with your officials today (yesterday) on the arrangement for the elections, I wish to confirm that your request has been duly noted and we will be available to preside over the elections,” she said.

The move by Sossion complicates the matter that has already seen angry exchanges between him and a section of top officials who want the exercise to go on.

On Monday, Sossion wrote to the branch executives, saying the delegates conference stands postponed.

“We regret to inform you that the Ministry of Health has advised against a physical meeting and recommended that either the meeting be put on hold until the current Covid-19 situation is brought under control or alternatively we proceed with the conference through a hybrid model limiting to a maximum of 15 persons participating in person and all the others virtual,” said Sossion.

But his deputy Hesbon Otieno, who also chairs the Knut Covid Protocol Committee, immediately wrote to the Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, saying there was no need to postpone the polls or go virtual since “voting would strictly be a ‘walk in, walk out’.”

“Delegates will remain in their buses until they are called upon to vote. And no campaigns will be entertained and strictly no posters will be allowed,” said Otieno.

And on the same day, Health Principal Secretary Susan Mochache wrote back to the union, giving approval for in-person elections.

“In view of the above, the ministry has no objection to the union proceeding with the in-person special delegates conference,” she said.

Sossion had termed as “illegal and sheer madness” the letter by his deputy. “He has no right to write to the CS when a substantive Secretary-General is in place. The best he could do was to write and give it to me to sign,” said Sossion.

But Otieno accused Sossion of sensing defeat. “He knows he will lose and he has been running around looking for ways of delaying the vote,” said Otieno.

He defended the decision, saying the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers and the C Kuppet and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions held their elections virtually.

Yesterday, Sossion said the union would “appoint another government officer that is neutral and non-partisan like the IEBC” to oversee the exercise.

A total of 1,878 delegates from eight regional branches are expected to vote.

The central region was allocated 211 delegates, Coast 139, Eastern 392, Nairobi 43, North Eastern 25, Nyanza 327, Western 238 and Rift Valley 503.  

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