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Medics warn police boss after picketing orders

 Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Striking doctors and clinical officers are demanding an immediate retraction of the police order against their picketing.

Through their respective unions and other civil societies the statement by Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome withdrawn.

In a demand letter issued by lawyer Ochiel Dudley, the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), backed by other groups, demanded that the IGP retracts the statement he made earlier yesterday or face court action.

“If you disregard our demand by the specified time, we will initiate court proceedings against you,” read part of the letter.

The letter also warns Koome that he will be held liable for any harm that may befall top union officials.

 “Based on the doctrine of command responsibility, we will seek orders holding you personally liable for harm caused by the police to the striking and picketing medics. We will also seek damages against you for the attack on Dr Atela,” read part of the statement by the advocate.

Warning medics

Other civil society and groups included in the letter are Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Katiba Institute (KI), The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA), Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ Kenya), Africa Centre for Open Governance (AFRICOG), Tribeless Youth, and Siasa Place.

Earlier on, Koome had issued a statement warning medics against inconveniencing members of the public through their demonstrations.

“The Service has witnessed and received reports of the inconveniences arising from the strike, with medics lying on the streets thus obstructing highways, public roads and disrupting free flow of vehicles and movement of people,” said Koome.

The police boss warned the medics of reprisals if they don’t desist from committing the alleged acts. 

 “In the interest of national security therefore, all respective police commanders have been instructed to deal with such situations firmly and decisively in accordance with the law. We wish to caution all doctors to refrain from infringing on the rights of others while demonstrating, and that their efforts to disrupt smooth operations of hospitals will not be tolerated,” he added.

 Meanwhile, the Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO) Secretary-General George Gibore also released a statement condemning Koome.

“KUCO unequivocally denounces the IG’s statements as baseless and fabricated with the intent to misinform the public. It is worth noting that our demonstrations have been conducted peacefully without any reported incidents of obstruction or disruption,” said Gibore, adding,

“This unwarranted narrative echoes the sentiments expressed by the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Administration last week, who purportedly sought to halt our lawful demonstrations without citing any legal grounds. This therefore implies, that the government is utilising the national police to stifle a lawful and protected strike, thereby undermining constitutional rights, which is deeply concerning. There have been no complaints lodged by individuals, patients or hospitals regarding our demonstrations,” he said.

Last week, a demonstration called by KMDU was disrupted by unknown goons, who pelted the medics with stones. A vehicle belonging to Standard Group was damaged, and a TV cameraman from K24 suffered minor injuries. No one has been arrested over the incident.

Elsewhere, leaders of the Orthodox Church have criticised the manner in which the government is handling the deepening crisis in the public health sector.

Speaking during a youth service at the Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Muguga, Kiambu county, the priests said the government should be focusing on finding a lasting solution for the impasse instead of resorting to threats.

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