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Police disperse protesters over misuse of Covid- 19 Funds

Human rights activist in Nakuru spent the better part of Monday morning engaging police in running battles as they joined protests demanding accountability for Covid- 19 funds in the county.
The activists led by a program’s officer from the Centre for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG) Kimuche Masese were demanding for arrest of the County’s top officials in health and procurement departments over their purported failure to account for Sh400 million set aside by the devolved unit in the fight against the pandemic.
A senior police officer who met the protestors outside the Rift Valley Regional Commissioner’s offices asked them to disperse stating that the demo was illegal, and its convener’s action went against health ministry protocol to contain the virus.
However, the protestors stood their ground with Mr Masese saying they could not be denied permission to hold demonstrations and present a petition to Regional Commissioner George Natembeya, yet the Constitution only requires them to notify the police of their intention.
In the ensuing standoff, police fired teargas canisters into the crowd prompting them to scamper for safety. The five who were arrested were booked at the Central Police Station.
Earlier, the placard waving and slogan chanting organizers of the protest March which began at Kenyatta Avenue had proceeded into the County headquarters where they were allowed to present their petition to a senior administrative officer in the governor’s office.
However, former civic leader at Municipal Council of Nakuru Mr William Ating’a dismissed the demonstrators as ‘rent seekers’ out for cheap publicity.
Mr Atinga said though there were legitimate concerns and credible questions the residents were raising over expenditure of Covid-19 funds and quality of medical equipment used by front line health workers, some of the protestors had attempted to disrupt business along the Central Business District.
“On this I will defend the police for lobbying teargas to this small band of men at Kenya Commercial Bank Building as some of them were degrading the whole thing into acts of lawlessness and violence,” claimed the former civic leader.
Masese asserted that the devolved unit had awarded tenders to ‘big fish’ that supplied substandard Personal Protection Equipment and contaminated food stuffs that were being used in the fight against Covid-19.
“We are demanding for the arrest of the people who are well known to have misappropriated COVID-19 funds but are still free. Instead of tear gassing us, police should be on the ground investigating and making sure these people are taken to court and jailed.
We cannot allow impunity to take charge, with a system that does not care for the people of this County,” Masese alleged.
He said Nakuru residents had been exposed to risks of infection by the disease as powerful personalities had transformed the pandemic into a cash cow.
He further lamented that it was unfortunate that funds were being misused while health workers had issued a strike notice over poor working conditions and understaffing, a fact that did not augur well during this pandemic.
Another activist John Mbugua claimed that powerful cartels had infiltrated the County headquarters and taken the procurement department hostage since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country in March.
He called on Governor Lee Kinyanjui to reorganize both the health and procurement departments and dismantle cartels hampering campaign against the spread of Covid-19.
By Jane Ngugi/David Mururia

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