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Leave Mandera over attacks, six unions tell their members

Monday November 24 2014

Family members and relatives cry outside the

Family members and relatives cry outside the Chiromo Mortuary in Nairobi where they went to identify the bodies of 28 people killed by Al-Shabaab terrorists in a dawn attack on a bus near Mandera Town on November 22, 2014. PHOTO | AFP 

BENJAMIN MUINDI
By BENJAMIN MUINDI
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Over 10,000 teachers and 16,500 civil servants have been asked not to report to work in Mandera and four other counties recently affected by a spate of terrorist or bandit attacks.

Six unions told their members to stay away from the areas suffering insecurity until the government guaranteed their safety.

The calls came two days after gunmen killed 28 people headed to Nairobi from Mandera on Saturday morning.

Those targeted were non-Muslims who were travelling to their homes for the December holidays. Muslims in the same bus were spared.

Yesterday, hundreds of non-locals working in Mandera fled their homes and camped at a Kenya Defence Forces airstrip demanding to be evacuated.

“We feel safe here than at the AP camp,” one of the workers said when the deputy County Commissioner, Mr Elvis Korir, tried to persuade them to move.

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The teachers, health workers, construction workers and other civil servants said they feared for their lives following reports that Al-Shabaab informers had marked their houses with the intention of attacking them.

All public service vehicles and the three weekly flights from Mandera were fully booked.

LOOMING SERVICE CRISIS

The Kenya Union of Teachers (Knut), Kenya Secondary Schools Headteachers Association (Kessha) and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) were the first to ask their members to pull out of Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Lamu, Samburu, Turkana, Tana River and parts of Baringo counties.

The Kenya National Doctors Union also advised doctors and medical practitioners to immediately leave the north-eastern region after the Mandera terror attack.

The union’s secretary-general, Dr Abidan Mwachi, told health workers to leave Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties until security in the region improved.

If the professionals heed the advice of their unions, vast areas of the north-eastern region will face a serious health, public service and education crisis since many of the civil servants working in the area will abandon their workstations.

That means hospitals will have fewer doctors and schools will have fewer teachers when they reopen, and many government departments will be left with only a handful of civil servants.

MOST AFFECTED COUNTIES

In total, the unions said 16,500 government workers in the six regions will leave their workstations until the government restored security.

The most affected areas are counties in the north-eastern region, where 4,181 teachers have been asked to either vacate or not return to their workplaces after the Christmas holidays.

Others areas are Turkana (2,000 teachers), Baringo East (1,000), Tana River (1,430), Lamu (985) and Samburu (1,387).

In the northern and eastern regions, there are 491 teachers in Moyale, 926 in Marsabit, 1,422 in Mandera, 1,405 in Wajir, 1,487 in Garissa and 267 in Ijara who have been asked to stay away.

The ministries of public health and agriculture have the highest numbers of civil servants in the affected areas. There are 207 health professionals in Mandera, 579 in Garissa, 293 in Wajir and 391 in Marsabit.

“We are asking the Teachers Service Commission to redeploy these teachers because their lives are clearly in danger. We have already lost enough members of the teaching force and can’t risk any further,” Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion said.

REDEPLOYMENT OPTIONS

Twenty four of those killed in the Saturday attack were teachers, seven of them from the same school. The other three were doctors and one was a policeman.

Of the teachers, 20 taught in private institutions, two in public high schools, one in a primary school and one in a nursery school.

“Teachers should not risk their lives. They’re better alive with their families away from these areas until the government takes charge of security,” Mr Sossion said.

Kessha chairman John Awiti asked the government to hire professionals from within the affected counties because they were not being targeted.

“TSC should now consider recruiting teachers from those areas to fill the positions left,” Mr Awiti said.

A part of the code of regulations for teachers states that they can ask for a transfer or redeployment if they feel their lives are in danger in their workstations.

A similar move happened in the 2007/2008 post-election violence, when thousands of teachers were displaced from their regions and had to be redeployed.

PROTECT THE COUNTRY

Union of Civil Servants boss Tom Odege said: "We would like to remind President Uhuru Kenyatta that he took (the) oath of office to protect the country and its citizens from aggressors. When workers are targeted, it is an insult to the government.”

President Kenyatta is visiting the United Arab Emirates.

The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has also asked its members not to report to their workstations in the affected areas in January.

Kuppet chairman Omboko Milemba asked the government to take control of the situation and ensure teachers would be safe before considering sending them back.

TSC Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni said the government would ensure teachers in the affected areas were accorded enough security.

“It would not be right to go the way of the unions because that amounts to sabotage,” Mr Lengoiboni said.

“The government will work to ensure that extra security measures are put in place in the areas.”