‘We condemn the ill-advised, distasteful statement’ – LSK President Faith Odhiambo reacts to Koome’s remarks on doctors’ strike

By , K24 Digital
On Sun, 14 Apr, 2024 17:15 | 4 mins read
Aphoto collage of IG Japhet Koome and LSK President Faith Odhiambo. PHOTOs/NPS(@NPSOfficial_KE) &Faith(@FaithOdhiambo8)/X
Aphoto collage of IG Japhet Koome and LSK President Faith Odhiambo. PHOTOs/NPS(@NPSOfficial_KE) &Faith(@FaithOdhiambo8)/X

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Faith Odhiambo has criticized the statements made by Police Inspector General Japhet Koome on the ongoing doctors' strike.

Earlier, Inspector General Koome had referred to the striking medics as a nuisance and criticized their picketing activities, stating that they had disrupted public roads and highways, contrary to constitutional provisions.

In a statement on her X media on Sunday, April 14 Odhiambo expressed concern over the remarks made by the IG, terming them as inflammatory and ill-advised.

She condemned what she described as "blatant threats, reckless outbursts, and illegal directives" issued by Koome regarding the ongoing strike by doctors and clinical officers.

"We note with concern the inflammatory statement issued by the Inspector General of Police; terming the ongoing strike by Doctors and Clinical Officers as a public nuisance and instructing his officers to 'deal with such situations firmly and decisively'," the LSK boss stated.

The LSK president emphasized the right of doctors to demonstrate, which is enshrined under Article 37 of the Kenyan Constitution.

She denounced any form of violence or intimidation against peaceful protestors, stating that such actions were a breach of democracy and constitutionalism.

"The sustained, targeted attacks against Doctors exercising their right to demonstrate enshrined under Article 37 of the Constitution is unjustifiable and illegal. The shocking use of force against peaceful protestors and hiring of goons to interfere with protests is a breach of our democracy and constitutionalism as a nation," she added.

President Odhiambo also reminded Koome of his duty under the National Police Service Act to ensure discipline within the police force.

She warned that any unreasonable use of force against doctors would be met with legal action, holding the IG personally liable for any directive leading to such actions.

Odhiambo's remarks come shortly after a coalition of pressure groups, including the 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, joined forces with the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) to criticize statements made by Koome.

These groups issued demands to Koome, including a request for an apology, and set a deadline for him to comply.

Failure to do so, they vowed to take legal action against Koome personally, rather than against the police service.

The coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs) contested Koome's assertion that he could revoke medics' rights to strike and protest peacefully.

"We, along with other CSOs, have set a deadline of 6 PM EAT today for Inspector-General of Police, Japhet Koome, to retract his statement cancelling medics' right to strike and protest. We demand an apology for the violent attacks against KMPDU's Davji Atela. Failure to comply will result in legal action against him, not the Service. Koome, the choice is yours," the groups said in a statement.

"We have seen your press statement today in which you claim to cancel the medics' right to strike and to picket peacefully and unarmed. We must clarify, sir, that you confer neither tight."

They argued that he lacked the authority to restrict citizens' rights to picket or demonstrate, citing constitutional protections.

They stressed that Koome's actions are subject to the Constitution and that he cannot suspend fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 37 and 41.

"No constitutional article conditions the right to strike or to picket on a notice given to you. Nor can you limit anyone's rights outside of Article 24 of the Constitution. Our clients, however, consider that you have suspended Articles 37 and 41 of the Constitution.

"You cannot do that. You are under; not above, the Constitution," the group added.

Koome to striking doctors

Koome expressed concern over the ongoing strike by doctors, highlighting the disruptions caused by medical personnel staging demonstrations.

He noted instances where medics obstructed highways and public roads, impeding the flow of traffic and people.

"The National Police Service takes cognizance of the ongoing doctor's strike, with utmost concern. The Service has witnessed and received reports of the inconveniences arising from the strike, with medics lying on the streets thus obstructing highways, and public roads and disrupting the free flow of vehicles and movement of people," Koome stated.

"The medics have become a public nuisance, blowing whistles and vuvuzelas during the demonstrations thus causing discomfort to patients in hospitals and the general public."

Additionally, Koome emphasized the discomfort caused to patients and the public by medics using loud whistles and vuvuzelas during protests.

Koome said the police were not notified of the strike which allowed non-medics to join in the strike causing disruptions on the road.

"Contrary to the Constitutional provisions on the right to picket, petition or demonstrate, the medics continue to engage in demonstrations without notifying the Police. Yet, we have information that non-medics to cause havoc and terror to the public intend to join the ongoing processions, a move that poses a threat to public safety and security," Koome added.

He stressed that such actions posed a threat to public safety and violated constitutional provisions on the right to protest.

The Inspector General instructed police commanders to handle these situations firmly and lawfully, without explicitly stating whether the police would intervene in future demonstrations.

He urged doctors to respect the rights of others and warned against disrupting hospital operations.

"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 the smooth operations of hospitals will not be tolerated. We wish to assure the public that our Country is safe and that the National Police Service remains committed to maintaining law and order," he added.