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Kenya prisoners denied pay rise

Ferdinand Omondi

BBC News, Nairobi

Prisoners in Kenya
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Prisoners in Kenyan jails earn less than $1 a year

The High Court in Kenya has dismissed a petition seeking to increase prisoners' wages.

Three ex-inmates filed the petition four years ago, arguing that current prison laws deprived them of basic human dignity and subjected them to slavery.

Kenyan prisoners currently earn less than $1 (£0.78) a year - something that has not been revised since 1979.

They make a lot of the furniture for government buildings, including for the parliament and courts. They also make vehicle registration number plates.

The former prisoners had told the court that inmates were not regularly provided with basic amenities like soap, toothpaste and toilet paper.

One petitioner, Aloys Onyango, said he had not been paid his wages after 16 years in prison and wanted the prison authorities to be compelled to do so.

But the judge dismissed the petition on the grounds that under current laws the prison payment scheme was at the discretion of the commissioner of prisons and not an entitlement.

The petitioners have said they will appeal the judgement.

Kenyan chemistry exam leaves students in hospital

Scores of Kenyan students and teachers have been admitted to hospital after a dangerous chemical was used during a practical for a national exam.

One student suffered serious burns on his face during the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) chemistry practical while others were taken to hospital after suffering from dizziness, the Daily Nation newspaper reports.

Apollo Otieno was heating the chemical xylene to observe its reaction at a laboratory in St Peter’s Mixed Secondary School in Kajulu in Kisumu county, when it exploded and burnt his face, the paper says.

The chemical that exploded had been used as an alternative to cyclohexane, on the advice of the education ministry.

Kenya National Examinations Council acting head Mercy Karogo had sent out a circular on 1 November telling head teachers that they could buy xylene as an alternative to the safer cyclohexane.

“This is to inform you in case of difficulties in obtaining cyclohexane, you are advised to replace it with xylene. This is available at Kobian Kenya Ltd, Chemical and School Supplies or any other chemical distributors,” the circular said.

A supplier wrote to Ms Karogo days later requesting her to instruct school administrators to store the chemical in glass bottles.

“We have heard that some suppliers are packing it in plastic bottles. Xylene is a solvent and reacts with plastic,” said e-mail that was marked “urgent”, according to the Daily Nation.

The Standard newspaper reported that a teacher had been taken to hospital in Trans Nzoia County after being exposed to the gas during the practical.

The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers said it had received reports of several students and teachers being treated for dizziness - some had collapsed during the practicals, the paper says.

The government has denied that the chemical used in the practicals was poisonous.

"Most of the substances that we use in chemistry are dangerous, the substance of xylene that they are talking about is not as dangerous as chlorine and bromine," Education Minister George Magoha said.

A top civil servant in the education ministry, Belio Kipsang, did not respond to a BBC request for a comment about the matter.

Kenya dismisses Sky News report on London stowaway

The authorities in Kenya have dismissed a report by British broadcaster Sky News which said it had revealed the identity of a stowaway who fell from a plane into a London garden in July.

Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), which manages the country's airports, said in a statement that its investigation had not found anyone registered under the name Paul Manyasi working at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), as Sky News reported.

"The identity of the stowaway is an open and active investigation and any information received will be investigated to ensure a factual conclusion," a KAA statement said.

An official at KAA, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the BBC that every employee at the airport goes through security vetting and was issued with a pass, and that all employees at the agency and those working for private companies at the airport had been accounted for.

Colnet, the cleaning company which Mr Manyasi was said to have worked for, also said it had no record of anyone by that name.

"There are records of the passes issued and all Colnet employees are accounted for without failure at the end of every shift and we can confirm without a doubt that we don't have, and have never had Paul Manyasi as an employee," it said.

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Sky News had reported, quoting a woman who said he was Mr Manyasi's colleague and girlfriend, that a manager had informed workers that a person was missing after a shift in July.

"Paul was a nice guy," the girlfriend, who chose to remain anonymous, told Sky News.

"He was just a jovial person. I just liked him the way he was. We had agreed one day maybe we could make a family."

The stowaway would have endured sub-zero temperatures in the landing gear compartment of the Kenya Airways flight, giving him no chance of survival.

A resident of the area in the UK capital where the body fell told the BBC: "One of the reasons his body was so intact was because his body was an ice block."

UK police believe he was already dead when he dropped out of the plane. A bag, water and some food were found when it landed.

The Sky News journalist showed the items found to both Mr Manyasi's girlfriend and his parents, who said they belonged to him.

Kenyan budget airlines suspended after accidents

Emmanuel Igunza

BBC News, Nairobi

Two budget airlines in Kenya have had their licences removed for one week following a spate of accidents.

Safe Air and Adventure Aloft are to be inspected by Kenya’s Civil Aviation Authority to ensure they are fit for flying.

The last two months have seen at least half a dozen accidents involving small carriers operating local routes in Kenya.

A third carrier, Silverstone Airlines, has had its entire fleet grounded and all future flights cancelled. Last month alone, one Silverstone flight skidded off the runaway, another lost a wheel on take-off while a third clipped another plane on the ramp as it was taxiing for routine engine runs.

Kenya's Civil Aviation Authority has assured Kenyans that air travel is safe even as it continues investigations into the accidents.

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Kenya police filmed beating a student suspended

The four police officers in Kenya caught on film beating a student have been identified and suspended, a statement from police chief Hilary Mutyambai says.

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The video, filmed during a student protest at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, close to the capital, Nairobi, has been widely shared on social media.

People have been commenting on it using the hashtag #StopPoliceBrutality.

In response, the police chief said: "We commend the individual who had the presence of mind to record the incident and thank all Kenyans who made it go viral."

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