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Kenyan doctors meet political deadlock

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 09 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:76
  1. Buchizya Mseteka
  1. freelance journalist Nairobi.

    Doctors working in the public sector in Kenya are now in the third week of a strike in protest at the government's refusal to register their trade union. They are also demanding better conditions of service, particularly with regard to salaries and housing. The 3000 striking doctors want to be able to bargain for their rights in the future and have asked the government to register the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union. But the conservative government of President Daniel arap Moi has rejected the request, saying that such bodies are for unskilled workers and not for professionals.

    Doctors working in Kenya's public sector are said to be among the poorest paid doctors in Africa. Reflecting the determined mood among the stri1king doctors, their leader, Dr Givan Ateka, said: “We have no intention of ending the strike until there is commitment on the part of the government to meet our demands. Doctors are not worried about losing their jobs. The pay is so ridiculously low that it does not matter.” According to Dr Ateka, public sector doctors in Kenya were paid between pounds sterling 59 and pounds sterling 105 a month, and most had to pay for their housing out of that amount. He said that their colleagues in private service received more than pounds sterling 2000 a month.

    Daniel arap Moi has threatened to recruit foreign doctors unless the strikers return to work, but analysts say that such a move would prove too costly for a government that relies on Western aid to keep its economy running.

    Health minister Joshua Angathia said that he would talk to the doctors but only on the government's terms: “The government is willing to enter into dialogue with the striking doctors only if they resume duty and abandon their call for registration of a union. It is selfish and unrealistic for doctors to ask for better conditions of service without considering other civil servants.”

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