Tension in prisons over dispute for promotion of warders

Anxiety has gripped the Kenya Prisons Service following a dispute on the promotion of warders.

Lawyer John Swaka, who is representing a group of warders opposed to a criteria used to effect the promotions, said the tension has been heightened by the decision by prison bosses to defy a court order that stopped the exercise.

“What the court stopped is ongoing and causing a lot of tension among the warders. The court should intervene to stop the exercise and ensure the orders are obeyed,” said Swaka.

Justice John Mativo told the lawyer to file a contempt of court case against the prison bosses.

The judge last month stopped the Kenya Prisons Service from promoting junior officers until the case filed by the senior officers who were overlooked is heard and determined.

According to Swaka, warders with doctorates, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees are demoralised by the discrimination of their bosses in the promotions.


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“The list of people earmarked for promotion contains the names of friends, wives, in-laws, and relatives of prison directors and other top officials, while the petitioners, who are long-serving graduate wardens, were mysteriously left out after the interviews,” said Swaka.

The prison department last year invited warders to apply for promotions based on their experience and academic qualifications but when the list was released in March, only junior officers with less experience were considered.

He added that some of the complainants have served in the service for more than 10 years without any upward mobility or salary increment.

“Those left out have struggled to acquire doctorate and master’s degrees with a legitimate expectation that they will get career progression in the prison service only to be discriminated against because they are not related to the prison bosses,” said Swaka.

In response, Senior Deputy Commissioner of Prisons John Nkiria insisted that the positions were open to all officers and that all applicants were subjected to thorough interviews before a decision was made on the promotions.

Stakeholder consultation

According to Mr Nkiria, the warders complaining about the scheme used for promotion were insincere since they did not raise any objections before the interviews.


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“Before the new scheme was implemented, it went through stakeholder consultation and was approved by the Public Service Commission. There is no record showing they opposed the scheme, only coming to court when they have not succeeded,” said Nkiria.

He denied that there was discrimination of officers with higher educational qualifications, saying that various factors were considered before effecting the promotions.

The hearing was adjourned to July 21.


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