Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union asks IG Koome to apologize for terming striking doctors a public nuisance

On Sunday, April 14, 2024, the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) issued a statement urging the Inspector General of Police, Japhet Koome, to apologize for labeling striking doctors as a public nuisance.

In collaboration with 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, KMPDU called on Koome to retract his statement and extend an apology to the medical professionals across the nation.

The joint statement emphasized that the Police Inspector General had overstepped his authority by attempting to revoke the medics’ right to strike and engage in peaceful, unarmed picketing. It clarified that no constitutional provision mandates the need for prior notice to the Inspector General for the exercise of these rights, nor does it grant him the power to restrict these fundamental rights outside the confines of Article 24 of the Constitution. The statement further asserted that Koome’s actions were perceived as an attempt to suspend constitutional provisions safeguarding the rights to assembly and expression (Articles 37 and 41), an act deemed unconstitutional.

The doctors’ union demanded a retraction of the directive and a public apology from the Police IG by 6:00 pm on Sunday, April 14, 2024. Additionally, KMPDU insisted that Koome publicly apologize for the violent assault on Dr. Davji Atela on February 27, 2024. Failure to comply with these demands, they warned, would result in legal action against Koome, with the union seeking accountability under the doctrine of command responsibility. They threatened to hold him personally liable for any harm inflicted by the police on striking medical professionals and to seek damages for the assault on Dr. Atela.

The statement from KMPDU was released shortly after Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome’s directive urging police commanders to take a tough stance against striking doctors.

In his press release, the Inspector General cautioned striking health workers against violating the rights of others and disrupting hospital operations. He instructed all Police Commanders to address such situations firmly and lawfully in the interest of national security. Koome warned doctors against causing disruptions in hospitals and labeled them a public nuisance, citing instances of noise disturbances during demonstrations.

In summary, the KMPDU and its allies called for accountability from the Police Inspector General, demanding an apology for his statements and actions perceived as infringing upon the rights of striking medical professionals.