Prison warders threatened to release inmates today in a second day of strikes demanding risk allowances from the government.
The prison warders strike which began on Thursday in a few prisons now appears to have spread countrywide. In addition to the payment of risk allowances, prison warders are demanding the resignation of Prisons Commissioner Gilbert Omondi as well as better housing. As a result of the strike, court cases could not be heard as warders declined to take remand prisoners to court.
Prison warders in Naivasha gave the government until Monday, April 28th to accede to their demands, failure to which they would release the jailed Mungiki leader, Maina Njenga.
Top prisons officials have acknowledged that prison warders have not been paid a Shs10,000 shilling allowance (US$160) that the government gave all police officers. The allowances were a token for their role in subduing post elections violence. Prison warders allege discrimination since they were not included in the package. The Shs10,000 was a bonus in addition to the regular monthly salary. This amount of money can make a big difference for a police officer whose monthly salary averages the same amount.
Since 2003, the government has undertaken widespread reforms to improve the conditions of prisons in the country. Kenya’s jails were said to be among the worst in Africa. Today, prisoners are treated humanely and are given opportunities to complete their education. However, prison warders say the government has neglected their lot during the reforms. As one protester put it, the prisoners seem to be getting a better deal the warders!