- Kenya’s firebrand Minister of Health, who has been known for contradicting government policies, has clashed with police for detaining a women’s rights activist. Charity Ngilu forced her way to a police station and freed Anne Njogu from cell, despite police resistance.
Ms Njogu, who leads the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness, was re-arrested at her home. She and three others were arrested for protesting against parliamentarians’ move to allocate a US $20 million bonus for themselves before the dissolution of parliament takes place.
Kenyans are going to the polls in December. President Mwai Kibaki is seeking for a second term in office. He took over from Daniel arap Moi after winning the 2002 elections, ending the 40-year stint of a party that led Kenya to independence.
Kenyan lawmakers will soon pass a bill that seeks to allocate a 12.5% increase of their pay and allowances. The bill is backdated to January 2003.
"I am a girl and am here to defend their rights,“ the fiery minister said as she struggled to sneak out Anne from police custody. “Leave her alone, and if you arrest her I will come along.”
The three other activists sustained serious injuries when a police van transporting them to a different police station had an accident.
Kenyan activists scolded their lawmakers for increasing the salary of President Kibaki by two-third. However, Mr Kibaki later said he was contented with his scale and therefore rejected the parliament’s approved salary.
Kenyan lawmakers are among the highly paid in Africa. They are also paid for sitting in different committees, which is why activists wonder why the government is still creating more fortunes for lawmakers, especially at a time millions of Kenyans are seriously reeling with poverty and corruption at its highest ebb. For them, the action clearly spells the government’s insensitivity to the plight of its citizens.
The Kibaki government has lost confidence among the donor partners for its failure to stamp out rampant and entrenched corruption scandals. Though described as East Africa’s fastest moving economy, it is estimated that Kenya had lost US $1 billion to official corruption between 2002 and 2005.
Born in 1952, Charity Ngilu was a parliamentarian who has been the Minister of Health since 2002. She was formerly a Secretary for Central Bank of Kenya and a Director of a plastics extrusion factory. Ngilu has been the leader of the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake, a women’s movement, since 1989.
In 1997, Ngilu and Wangari Maathai, the nobel prize laureate became the first women to run for president in Kenya. Running under the banner of Social Democratic Party, she finished fifth..
She is the chairperson of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) that won the 2002 elections.
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