Editor's note: Read the petition here.

Nine civil society organizations have sued Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome for curtailing the rights of doctors to strike, assemble, protest and picket.

Koome has been personally sued, meaning the National Police Service (NPS) will not provide legal coverage for him. Any court orders issued will directly target Koome rather than the Service.

On April 14, 2024, Koome said police under his command would “deal decisively and firmly” with the striking and picketing medics.

The nine organizations wrote to Koome, demanding he retract his threats and apologize, but he refused, necessitating the case.

“Applicants fear that this directive requires police officers to forcefully disperse peaceful and unarmed protests by the medics,” the suit says.

Doctors have been on strike since March 13, 2024, demanding improvements in the country's healthcare system, including hiring trainee doctors, better working conditions, and equal pay for equal work.

But the government, doctors said, refused to come to the negotiating table after it reduced the pay of medical interns by 77 per cent to Sh47,000.

The government has insisted that talks can only resume if doctors end their strike, a condition that the medics find dishonest. They have planned multiple protests to pressure the government to address their grievances, citing their constitutional right.

In the lawsuit, the organizations seek to hold Koome accountable for any harm inflicted by police officers under his command on protesting doctors. They argue that Koome's directive endangers the rights and lives of medics by potentially motivating police officers to use force to enforce his order.

They also want all police officers restrained from enforcing Koome’s illegal order.

The groups’ fears of police violence against medics are justified. For instance, on February 29, 2024, at Afya Center, police fired at Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists’ Union (KMPDU) secretary-general Dr Davji Atela during a peaceful protest, injuring his head.

Consequently, the CSOs also want the court to compel Koome to pay Atela, from his personal funds, “compensation in the form of general damages for violating his rights while using unlawful force”.

The organizations involved in the lawsuit against Koome are KHRC, Katiba Institute, ICJ Kenya, and Transparency International Kenya. Others are TISA, AFRICOG, Siasa Place, Tribless Youth and MUHURI. Law Society of Kenya (LSK), KMPDU, and Kenya Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO) are interested parties.

  • Ernest Cornel

    Ernest Cornel is a seasoned journalist and strategic communications specialist with a rich background in the newsroom. Cornel is also a documentary producer. He has worked with human rights organizations and contributed his expertise to a grant-making institution. He has designed and led successful campaigns and implemented digital strategies to halt human rights abuses.