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Kenyan unions warn 1 000s of workers to leave restive north

25 November 2014, 14:18

Nairobi - Thousands of Kenyan civil servants, teachers and medics have been warned by their unions to leave troubled north-eastern regions hit by a wave of insurgent attacks, reports said on Tuesday.

The call follows attacks over the weekend, claimed by Somalia's al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab, in which 28 non-Muslims were executed on a bus near the north-eastern town of Mandera.

Of those killed, 24 were teachers and three were medics, the Daily Nation reported.

Six unions - including those representing doctors, dentists, civil servants and primary and secondary school teachers - have advised members to leave until security forces can ensure their safety.

The call to leave areas, including the main towns of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera, includes over 10 000 teachers and 16 500 civil servants.

Police raids

"Their lives are clearly in danger," Kenya Union of Teachers leader Wilson Sossion said, according to the Nation. "We have already lost enough members of the teaching force and can't risk any further."

Union of Civil Servants chief Tom Odege said the government had a duty to protect its citizens, and that "when workers are targeted it is an insult to the government".

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

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

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

Mass exodus

"We are concerned that very little is being done to improve the security of our members," said Abidan Mwachi from the doctors and dentist union.

But Kenya's newspapers warned the call to leave would damage the region.

The Standard's editorial warning the "call could trigger a mass exodus of civil servants from the areas", while also admitting that "no job is worth dying for".

The Nation warned the already troubled and impoverished northeast would face a "serious health, public service and education crisis".

Hundreds are due to march through the capital Nairobi later Tuesday in a demonstration calling for reinforced security measures.



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