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Garissa: How staff purge turned into clan withhunt

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GARISSA—Aggrieved Garissa County staff who were sacked by the new administration but later reinstated through a court order have on Tuesday staged demonstrations demanding answers.

Though their demonstration was fairly peaceful, a contigent of police officers in full riot gear were in sight. No arrests were made.

While sharing their frustrations with members of the County Assembly (MCA) through a petition, the group challenged governor Nathif Jama’a to heed their call and respect the Rule of Law failure to which they will bring Garissa town to a standstill next week.

“We will be staging protests every Tuesday and Thursday,” stated Ahmed Hussein, the group’s leader.

WHAT’S THE ISSUE AT STAKE?

On December last year, Justice Stellar Chemtai Ruto issued a conservatory orders to the effect “that the respondents by themselves, their officers or servants reinstate the petitioners together with others aggrieved employees to the payroll.” The governor and the County Secretary were the respondents in the case filed at the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nairobi.

The court further directed that the salaries and allowances for the months of September, October and November be remitted “without unlawful deductions and without any further delays and not later than the next mention date being 14th December 2022 be paid.”

The Court also suspended the Special Task Force formed by Governor Nathif until 9th February 2023. The Judge underscored the place of the County Public Service Board “and it’s cardinal place as framed in the County Governments Act of 2012.”

WHAT DID THE COUNTY DO?

On January, the County Governor directed the County Public Service Board to do an HR audit. Governor Nathif Jama tasked the Ebla Sahal-led board to carry a thorough headcount and do document verification and come up with a report “which should be acted upon.”

The board handed its report to the governor last month and successfully vetted over 900 affected county staff. 942 were found to have been legally employed and had genuine documents while 200 were said to have been irregularly employed.

WHY IS IT TAKING CLAN DIMENSION?

In their expressions, the aggrieved staff believe they were targeted because of their clan identity.

Idle Omar addressing the media during the Tuesday meeting with MCAs

Idle Omar believes the Governor’s decision is informed by settling vendetta against the Abudwaq clan employees.

“It is like he’s taking a political revenge because most of the affected are last regime’s (Ali Korane) supporters,” he noted. The accompanying protesters hummed and nodded in agreement.

Garissa politics has always been a competition between the Abdudwaq and Awlihan clans. The Abdalle usually play the swing vote although they have a significant vote bank.

On September 2017, Governor Korane sacked over 2,000 workers, saying there was no legal backing for their employment under ‘ugatuzi na kazi’ project and that county has no means to continue paying them. Most of the affected were from the Awlihan clan.

The workers were hired by Governor Nathif during his first term “to carryout manual jobs including bush clearing.”

WHAT ARE THE ELECTED LEADERS DOING?

Two weeks ago, the legislator for Fafi Constituency Salah Yakub decried what he termed “a withhunt,” saying he will lead “a Raila-like demonstrations if the affected staff are not reinstated.”

Mohamed Abdi Farah, the  MCA Dadaab, ans hus Jarajara counterpart Aden Dhurow condemned the friction currently being witnessed between the board and the executive calling for an amicable solution to be found between the two sides.

“Going forward, we will ask the board to bring a report to the house as quickly as possible. We only deal with matters to the assembly and this particular one has not been brought to our attention,” he said.

Aden Duale, the Cabinet Secretary for Defense and former Township MP urged the Board to expedite the process and be “fair.”

WHAT’S THE GOVERNOR’S POSITION?

Speaking in Masalani town in December last year, Jama who did not directly talk about the issue said the exercise has good intentions.

“Of course, it is understandable that a few of the steps taken by us on certain critical issues have been unsurprisingly controversial,” he said.

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