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KENYA, PRISONS STAFF ON STRIKE

Warders strike as inmates die at Naivasha prison

Written By:Andrew Kilungu/Rose Kamau   , Posted: Fri, Apr 25, 2008

Caption: The move came as three inmates died at the facility after consuming illicit liquor at the Naivasha Maximum Prison.

Prison warders have gone on strike countrywide citing poor working conditions and ‘deliberate’ neglect by the departments’ top brass.

The move came as three inmates died at the facility after consuming illicit liquor at the Naivasha Maximum Prison.

Warders who spoke on condition of anonymity at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison said they were yet to receive risk allowances awarded to them by President Mwai Kibaki last year.

They also lamented over unexplained deductions from their salaries.

The warders warned that they would not return to work unless their demands are met and demanded the resignation of the Commissioner of Prisons Gilbert Omondi whom they accused of being behind the delay in remitting the allowances.

In response to the claims, the Commissioner of Prisons said that the department had already made formal presentations to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Public Service on the need to pay the allowances.

He appealed to the warders to be patient since the process had to go through the relevant government channels.

He warned that disciplinary action would be taken against those who failed to resume their duties.

The Western Provincial Prisons Commandant R. N. Chege said prison warders deserve risk allowances because they supplement regular police work.

Chege said warders were greatly exposed to risk when they beefed up police to quell post-election violence.

“They were gazetted as police”, said Chege who regretted they were excluded from getting the risk allowances.

Chege was speaking to the Kenya News Agency over uncertainty at the Kakamega GK Prison as their colleagues elsewhere went on strike.

The warders however claimed there had been discrimination over the payment of the allowances and that they should be considered equal with their counterparts in the disciplined forces.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said they were more exposed to risks than regular and administration police.

“We’re exposed to dangerous diseases from convicts and risk attack from hard-core criminals”, said a corporal who did not wish to be identified.

Chege said his office had communicated with the Commissioner of Prisons over the issue.

Warders at the Naivasha Maximum Prison and the sister Annex Prison also downed their tools Friday in protest of what they termed poor working conditions.

In a show of solidarity with other warders across the country the over 300 officers from the penal institutions blocked the main entrances to the prison and said they would only return to work after their grievances were met.

The warders claim they work in dangerous conditions, guarding hardcore criminals yet they were not given risk allowances as is the case for other armed forces personnel.

They say even after forwarding their grievances to the Commissioner of Prisons no action has been taken to address the situation. 

The warders are now calling for the immediate sacking of the Commissioner of Prisons whom they accused of neglecting them despite their risky jobs.

According to their representative who spoke on condition of anonymity the warders are also unhappy over unexplained deductions by their credit and savings cooperative.  

They claimed that recently an officer was hit with a hoe on the head by an inmate at the facility and was only treated at a nearby facility instead of being referred to a major hospital for specialized treatment.

During the elections, the warders say they were sent to various areas in Naivasha to maintain security but they have not received any allowances.

According to them, police officers from all the divisions were paid an extra risk allowance for their services during that time but in spite of being promised the same the move has not been effected.

They now want the prisons department to be incorporated to the Office of the President from the ministry of Home Affairs where they feel their grievances would be adequately addressed.

Naivasha Maximum Prison is home to some of the most dangerous criminals serving long or even death sentences and the strike has made the residents wary over their security.

Jailed Mungiki sect leader Mr. Maina Njenga is among the convicts at the maximum facility.

The strike paralyzed activities at the Naivasha Law Courts as remandees who were supposed to be taken to the courts failed to appear as the entrances to both the prisons were locked.

The officer in charge of the prison Mr. Patrick Mwenda however downplayed the incident saying that those who were on strike were not on the planned work shifts.

He said the situation would worsen if they fail to report to work when they are expected especially for night shifts.

Meanwhile three inmates at the Naivasha Maximum Security Prison died Thursday night while five others were admitted to hospital in critical condition after they allegedly consumed illicit liquor at the facility.

The inmates had just had their lunch when one of their colleagues at block C invited them for a drink which he had prepared.

Unknown to them the illicit liquor had high contents of methane and on consuming it they stated complaining of stomach aches and vomiting.

One of the victims Eliud Kiptum in for 20 years for rape said they fell unconscious after taking the brew. 

Another inmate David Mutai who is serving life imprisonment said the brew was prepared by their fellow inmate who sold it to them at Ksh 50 per 300 ml bottle.

The alleged brewer was one of those who succumbed.

Most of them claimed it was the first time they had consumed the liquor though inside sources say the prisoners often prepare their own liquor without the authorities notice, especially during the week ends.

Confirming the incident the officer in charge of the facility Mr. Patrick Mwenda said they had not established what transpired but investigations were on course.

Dr Osborn Tembu who is attending to the inmates at the Naivasha District Hospital said they complained of abdominal pains and losing sight and said initial examination showed they had consumed a poisonous alcoholic drink.

The deaths came hours before warders from the institution downed their tools joining other warders in the country and demonstrated demanding better working conditions.

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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