Appeals Court releases seven doctors officials

By KBC Reporters

The Court of Appeal has released the seven Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union – KMPDU officials who were jailed on Monday to allow negotiations on the controversial 2013 CBA to continue.

A three judge bench comprising Lady Justices Wanjiru Karanja , Jamia Mohammed and Hannah Okwengu released the doctors after an agreement between lawyers representing the Doctors union, Attorney General and Council of Governors.

The parties have one week to file a report on the progress of pay hike talks in the same court. The doctors strike that has entered its 73rd day has paralyzed services in the public health sector.

The leader of opposition Raila Odinga was in court to follow the proceedings. A battalion of lawyers representing the KMPDU, Attorney General and Council of Governors nearly suffocated the appeal’s courtroom.

The officials were ordered to serve a one-month jail term on Monday after the High Court found them guilty of contempt of court in relation to the strike which started on December 4th.

On Tuesday, the Kenya Medical Association vowed to shut down private clinics for 48 hours effective Wednesday midnight unless the seven jailed officials were released unconditionally.

The KMPDU officials were first found guilty of court contempt on January 24th after talks with the Ministry of Health collapsed.

On January 26th the doctors officials were given five more days to call off the strike. Efforts by COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli to mediate in the talks failed to resolve the impasse.

Atwoli had offered to lead negotiations, together with Kenya National Commission on Human Rights  (KNCHR), between the government and union officials but last Sunday he confessed that he had failed to resolve the impasse’ citing , alleged infighting between Health Permanent Secretary Nicholas Muraguri and his boss Cabinet secretary Cleopa Mailu.

On February 13th, the Employment and Labour Relations Court sentenced the seven KMPDU officials to one month jail term for contempt of court after defying an order to end the ongoing doctors’ strike in its third month now.

In her ruling, Judge Hellen Wasilwa said the doctors’ appeal had no merit after suspending the sentence twice to allow for further talks to end the doctors’ industrial action.

The government has said its 2013 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with doctors cannot be implemented as it did not have the “input and blessings” of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.