We’re not afraid of arrest, nurses tell Uhuru, say strike will persist

President Uhuru Kenyatta (R) during a meeting with governors and Health and Labour Cabinet Secretries at State House in Nairobi yesterday /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta (R) during a meeting with governors and Health and Labour Cabinet Secretries at State House in Nairobi yesterday /PSCU

Nurses yesterday said more counties are expected to join their strike on Monday despite President Uhuru Kenyatta’s order that they resume work by tomorrow.

The President directed the nurses to report to work tomorrow or face dismissal by the county governments and the Health ministry.

“Any nurse who fails to report to work will be dismissed. The government will be at liberty to take any action as they deem appropriate,” he said.

He was addressing the nation after meeting the Council of Governors.

Uhuru said the government had a clear development agenda and would not allow “unlawful industrial action to derail Kenyans from taking the country forward.”

The strike was last week suspended by the labour court, which ordered the parties to negotiate and report the outcome of the talks in 60 days.

“It is disheartening to hear officials of the nurses union declare they will not obey court orders. One of the most important principles our republic has established is the rule of law and no one is above the law,” Uhuru said.


Addressing the press hours after the President’s directive, union officials said they could not respond to the President’s directive.

Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary general Seth Panyako said he would be overstepping his mandate.

He said he was waiting for advice from branch officials whom he gave powers to negotiate the terms of service with the county governments.

“I urge our members to remain firm and fight for their rights. If there will be something otherwise, we will advise them accordingly,” Panyako said.

“The strike is going on; nothing has changed and there are counties joining on Monday, some on Tuesday.”

Panyako said they were not afraid of arrests. Uhuru instructed the police to take stern action against picketers out to harass Kenyans going to work.

“When I was arrested at Kenyatta National Hospital, was I throwing stones? Whoever wants to arrest me can come to my house. Many people have been arrested and disappeared and we are ready to take that route,” Panyako said.

“Nurses are not hooligans. We shall not resist any arrest if it is lawful, but the law must be applied rationally and critically,” deputy secretary general Maurice Opetu said.

In Bomet, nurses said they will not resume work.

Branch secretary Vincent Rono said they will not be cowed. He demanded that the union’s demands be honoured.

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Addressing the press in Bomet town, the official said county nurses have been patient enough. He asked the county to reciprocate the gesture and ensure a return to the work formula signed in 2017 is implemented.

“We are not going to be intimidated at all by his (Uhuru’s) commands. The strike will start and they will do nothing about it,” Rono told reporters.

Rono asked the President to respect the medics and concentrate on other important national issues.

“Health is a devolved function and we only deal with governors, not him (Uhuru).”

Nurses are on strike in 23 counties. The work boycott began on February 4. The medics are demanding the implementation of the 2017 return-to-work formula.

Machakos, Migori, Kwale, Nairobi, Mombasa and Vihiga have fully implemented the agreement. Murang’a, Tana River, Nakuru, Siaya, Kakamega, Narok, Makueni, Bomet, Busia and Uasin Gishu are expected to join the strike next week.

Nurses in West Pokot, Kisumu, Kisii, Taita Taveta, Trans Nzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet, Wajir, Homa Bay, Marsabit, Samburu, Kirinyaga and Embu have been on strike since February 4.

Baringo, Laikipia, Meru, Bungoma, Nyamira, Kajiado, Kericho, Kilifi, Lamu, Nandi and Turkana counties have committed to pay and are yet to receive the strike notice.