Doctors union officials freed in Kenya

Kenya’s Court of Appeal has ordered the release of officials of the national doctors’ union so they can continue negotiations with the government over a strike that has paralyzed the public health sector.

The strike has angered Kenyans and turned into a test of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s leadership ahead of an election in August.

The union, which has about 5,000 members, wants the government to implement a deal agreed in 2013 to give doctors a 150 to 180 percent pay rise on basic salaries, review working conditions, job structures and criteria for promotions and address under-staffing in state hospitals.

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

Appellate Judge Wanjiru Karanja said the seven officials would be released immediately.

The applicants, respondents and interested parties undertake to resume negotiations forthwith, with a view to resolving the outstanding issues, in order to restore normalcy in the public health sector,” she told a court packed with doctors.

Doctors in private hospitals had agreed to stop work for 48 hours in solidarity with the officials of the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union, which represents workers in state hospitals.

Reuters/Ime N