Doctors, Lawyers Gang Up Against IG Japhet Koome With 4-Hour Ultimatum

NPS Inspector General Japhet Koome addressing officers in Turkana County on February 14, 2023.
NPS Inspector General Japhet Koome addressing officers in Turkana County on February 14, 2023.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), alongside 8 other organisations, has given Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome an ultimatum to apologise to medical workers or face legal headwinds.

In a strongly worded letter dated Sunday, April 14, and signed by Advocate Ochiel Dudley, the commission termed Koome's call to doctors to halt their strike as an attack on their rights.

In his letter, Koome lamented that the striking doctors had become a public nuisance blowing whistles and vuvuzelas during the protests and causing discomfort to both the public and patients in hospitals.

"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 right," read the demand letter.

A screengrab of KMPDU Nairobi Branch secretary, Malindi Chao (Centre) and other officials protesting in Nairobi CBD in February 2023.
Photo/Johnson Sakaja

"No constitutional article conditions the right to strike or to picket on a notice given to you. Nor can you limit anyone's right outside Article 24 of the Constitution. Our clients, however, consider that you have suspended Article 37 and 41 of the Constitution. You cannot do that. You are under, not above, the Constitution."

As a result, the petitioners demanded the IG to withdraw the orders he gave police commanders on manhandling the striking doctors before 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

They further demanded an apology from the police boss over the attack Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) Secretary General Davji Atella endured.

"We thus demand that you retract the directive and apologise for it publicly by 6:00 pm today, Sunday, April 14, 2024. In your retraction, you must also apologise for the violent attack by police on Dr Davji Atela on February 27, 2024," added the letter.

"If you disregard our demand by the specified time, we will initiate court proceedings against you. Based on the doctrine of command responsibility, we will seek orders holding you personally liable for harm caused by the police to the striking and picketing medics. We will also seek damages against you for the attack on Dr Atela."

Early Sunday morning, IG Koome directed Police Commanders in all counties to deal with striking doctors firmly and decisively in accordance with the law. 

He had accused the doctors of lying on the streets, obstructing highways, and public roads, actions which he claimed were disrupting the free flow of vehicles and movement of people.

Additionally, he complained that the medics were contravening the Constitutional provisions on the right to picket by failing to notify police officers of their demonstrations in advance.

"We wish to caution all doctors to refrain from infringing on the rights of others while demonstrating and that their efforts to disrupt smooth operations of hospitals will not be tolerated," he stated.

Medical doctors participating in a strike on April 9, 2024
Medical doctors participating in a strike on April 9, 2024
George Oyunge
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