Kenyan unions warn civil servants to leave amid 'danger' of attacks

Protesters participate in a demonstration for greater security after being hit by a wave of insurgent attacks by Islamist extremist group al-Shabab. (Simon Maina, AFP)

Protesters participate in a demonstration for greater security after being hit by a wave of insurgent attacks by Islamist extremist group al-Shabab. (Simon Maina, AFP)

Thousands of Kenyan civil servants were urged on Tuesday to leave troubled regions hit by a wave of insurgent attacks, as protesters in the capital demanded greater security.

The warnings by six unions to members to leave the restive north-east, as well as the protests in Nairobi, follow a weekend attack which saw 28 non-Muslims executed on a bus.

The executions near the northeastern town of Mandera, whose victims included 24 teachers and three medics, were claimed by Somalia’s al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab militant group.

Unions representing more than 25 000 doctors, dentists, civil servants and primary and secondary school teachers have advised members to leave the region until security forces can ensure their safety.

“Their lives are clearly in danger,” Kenyan teachers union leader, Wilson Sossion, told media. “We have already lost enough members of the teaching force and can’t risk any further.”

The call by unions to leave areas, including the main towns of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera, affects more than 1 000 teachers and 16 500 civil servants.

In Nairobi, more than 100 protesters marched through the city centre, chanting slogans demanding that police “stop the killings”, before sitting down outside the main government office complex.

Others waved wooden crosses to represent those killed in a string of attacks, amid chants calling for the resignation of the police chief and interior minister.

‘No job worth dying for’
Many wore tops with a slogan “Tumechoka” (“we are tired” in Swahili), and a message reading: “Mr President, we need your action on security.”

“This government has failed to manage security, people are being killed everywhere and we don’t see action,” activist Boniface Mwangi said.

Security forces kept a close watch on the protesters but allowed them to demonstrate.

Kenya has suffered a series of attacks since invading Somalia in 2011 to strike al-Shabab, later joining an African Union force battling the Islamists.

The Shehab said the bus attack was carried out in revenge for police raids on mosques in Kenya’s key port of Mombasa.

Professionals working in the largely Muslim and ethnic Somali northeastern regions often come from further south in Kenya, where Christians make up about 80% of the population.

Many are angry at what they see as government inaction, with the protest taking place close to Parliament, where lawmakers are set to meet on Tuesday to debate how best to tackle the security situation.

But, in an editorial, the country’s Daily Nation newspaper said that the government’s repeated assurances of safety which follow each attack “are beginning to sound like a stuck record”.

“People are hurting. People are wounded.
People are angry, scarred and scared, and tired of living in a state of terror,” it said.

“The buck stops with the president and, therefore, it is he who must take decisive action to restore peace, security and safety for all in Kenya.”

But newspapers also warned that the unions’ call to leave would damage the region, with one newspaper saying it feared a “mass exodus” of civil servants, although also accepting that “no job is worth dying for”. – AFP

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