Kenya: Court sentences doctors' union officials to jail

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Kenyan Justice Hellen Wasilwa addresses medical union officials, during their case to demand fulfilment of a 2013 agreement that would raise their pay and improve working conditions.

A Kenyan Labour court has jailed officials of the doctors' union for contempt.

On Sunday, the talks that were being mediated by Central Organisation for Trade Unions (Cotu) and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights seemed to have hit a dead end, with Cotu boss Francis Atwoli admitting that he had failed. "Negotiations have now ceased as they have been overtaken by the court process", they said in a statement read by head of Nairobi branch Thuranira Kaugiria at the Nairobi's Railway Club.

"The applicants have not demonstrated to court any new and compelling issue, or pointed out any mistake or error apparent on the record, or any sufficient cause that would warrant review of the court's order", Wasilwa said. "While they are in jail there will be no negotiation because these are the leaders leading the negotiations".

But National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale claimed Raila is "perfecting the art of scapegoating, lamenting and blame game" as he detailed unsuccessful efforts by the Government to end the strike. Odinga said he was "horrified, disturbed and shocked" at the sentencing and said it marked "the lowest point that Jubilee's intransigence, incompetence and inability to lead has brought the nation to".

The government has said it can only afford a 40 percent pay rise.

Resolving the strikes will be a key test of president Uhuru Kenyatta's leadership ahead of the country's elections scheduled for August.

Widespread industrial action is not limited to healthcare, with Kenyan university lecturers also on strike over pay since last month. "The government needs to make an offer that would be acceptable until that happens", he said.

But KMPDU branch officials told members the men had been whisked to Kamiti Maximum Security Prison.

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