The directive goes against the constitutional and legal obligations of Kenya Railways, a state corporation that is bound to conduct its operations with utmost transparency.
China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the Chinese company that operates the standard gauge railway (SGR), sent out a directive warning its employees against recording, storing, copying and sharing any confidential information on SGR operations to non-workers without the approval of the company contrary to the Kenyan constitution.
“One should not post negative articles, videos or photos on social media that involves SGR operations,” the letter seen by a local daily says even as it warns of dire consequences.
The directive goes against the constitutional and legal obligations of Kenya Railways, a state corporation that is bound to conduct its operations with utmost transparency in order to remain accountable to the people of Kenya whose taxes run it.
The Kenyan Constitution gives citizens the right to access information held by the state or another person especially where that information is required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom.
In recent years, the firm has been hit with accusations of violating workers’ rights and that may be what informed the gagging order.
Three years ago, for instance, more than 300 SGR workers in Voi sub-county downed their tools alleging discrimination by CRBC officials.
The workers drawn from Manyani and Man-Eaters camp sites said they were risking their lives as police officers deployed to provide security at the camp were only guarding Chinese officials, leaving them at the mercy of wild animals.
Last month, over 200 workers from sections DK86 and DK87 in Satellite Mai Mahiu downed their tools over lack of protective gear, accusing the Chinese firm of endangering their lives by exposing them to diseases.
The workers said despite working over a flooded area caused by heavy rains along Nairobi – Naivasha SGR line the firm did not provide the necessary gumboots and waterproof jackets.
China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) has, however, found a Kenyan ally who sees nothing strange with the gag order.
The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) said there was nothing unique about the directive as such matters are dealt with under specific employment contracts and internal human resource policy manuals.
“The legal provision will be dealt with under the specific employment contract and the company’s human resource policy manual. The confidentiality clause and non-compete agreements bind employees under common law,” said FKE executive director Jacqueline Mugo.