Tension mounts as Kenyan doctors jailed in labor dispute

Court sentences seven KMPDU officials to one month jail term

A Kenyan court on Monday ordered that officials from the national doctors' union be jailed for one month over the ongoing strike that has crippled public hospitals for 10 weeks.

The presiding judge had earlier suspended a one-month sentence handed down to them on December 20 on the condition that the doctors would end their strike.

In 2012, Kenya's doctors went on strike to protest the bad state of public health care.

The officials were handcuffed and driven to jail past placard-waving supporters gathered outside the court.

"The applicants have not demonstrated to court any new and compelling issue, or pointed out any mistake or error apparent on the record, or any sufficient cause that would warrant review of the court's order", Wasilwa said.

"We are disappointed, we have suspended all the negotiations", said Thuranira Kaugiria, a union official. "The orders of this court will now crystallise and you can now start serving your sentences", Judge Wasilwa ruled.

The opposition found the ruling as another chance to express their disappointment with the government's approach to tackle the crisis.

COTU Secretary General who was leading negotiations for a return to work formula has accused Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health Nicholus Muraguri for inciting the doctors to reject any agreement apart from the CBA. Odinga said he was "horrified, disturbed and shocked" at the sentencing and said it marked "the lowest point that Jubilee's intransigence, incompetence and inability to lead has brought the nation to". In solidarity with jailed union officials, the private health sector declared a 48-hour strike, starting Wednesday.

Doctors downed their tools to push the government to implement the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) they signed in 2013 that, among others, sought to improve their salaries and working conditions in public hospitals. The crisis reached an impasse as the government did not hold its part of the agreement. The current action comes despite a threat by the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists' Association, that doctors in the private hospitals might also strike if union leaders were jailed.

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