By Victor Muyakane
A vigil by doctors intended to be in solidarity with the jailed KMPDU officials was last night broken up after police interrupted the proceedings and ordered the doctors out of the premises or risk forceful eviction.
The doctors had earlier assembled at the railways club in Nairobi for what they termed as a night vigil to stand in solidarity with their jailed union heads when the police arrived and surrounded the tented venue for the vigil.
The boisterous songs and chants soon took an angry and uncertain note when the paramilitary arm of the police service, the GSU, were seen arriving at the venue with the officers heavily armed with assault rifles and tear gas canisters as well as stout clubs (rungus).
At some point it appeared that the situation was about to escalate into violence when a section of the protesting doctors led by activist Boniface Mwangi expressed outrage at the show of force which they termed as unnecessary as they were not engaging in harmful or violent protest.
Soon after, the doctors reluctantly vacated the venue under the watchful eye of the security officers present who had formed a cordon around the tent. The standoff had lasted for close to 4 hours.
KMPDU Nairobi branch secretary Dr. Thuranira Kaugiria expressed outrage at the response of the police to what he termed as a peaceful event.
“ …it is very unfortunate that when we fight for the rights of Wanjiku it becomes a police matter… if they want to jail all the 5000 doctors in Kenya, so be it. We are ready and have sacrificed a lot to get here.” He said.
The union leaders are in jail to serve a month long sentence meted out by Employment and Labour relations Court Judge Helen Wasilwa after they failed to obey a court order requiring them to call of the strike.
The strike is entering its third month with the doctors demanding the full implementation of a 2013 CBA.
Recent attempts at dialogue by the unions and the government officials have failed. The most recent attempt spearheaded by COTU boss Francis Atwoli was also unsuccessful.