The Kenyan Doctors’ Union officials jailed over the strike have been released. The Court of Appeal ordered the release of seven union officials who were sentenced to one month in jail on February 13.
The union officials were set free pending a hearing, which will rule on the appeal against Justice Hellen Wasilwa’s decision to jail them. The parties are expected back in court on February 23.
Despite the release, the strike continues, heavily affecting Kenya’s already precarious health industry. Both public and private hospitals have been paralyzed by the strike, which has left most public hospitals to operate without doctors. Thousands of patients are without medical care, and patients continue to die daily.
The 5,000 doctors have been on strike since December 5 last year, demanding better pay and improved working conditions. Most of Kenya’s public health care facilities are in dilapidated condition, which affects how the doctors discharge their duties, putting the lives of patients at risk.
With the impending Kenyan general elections, scheduled for the 8th of August this year, the strike is increasingly becoming a hot issue for the ruling government, aiming to win a second term. The election is likely going to be a close contest as the ruling government faces yet another strong opposition coalition.
According to the Standard Media Group, the negotiations will resume immediately and a team from the Law Society of Kenya and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights will jointly lead the mediation efforts, to find a solution to the lengthy labour dispute
As the election approaches, labour disputes and demonstrations have become all too common in Kenya, and the government is under immense pressure to address a plethora of disputes and deliver on its previous election promises.
Meanwhile, doctors in Zimbabwe have also gone on strike over poor allowances and other issues. Several departments in state-owned health institutions have reportedly shut down as a result of the ongoing industrial action.