This meeting was organized by Mathare Social Justice Centre, aiming at bringing together grassroots human rights defenders in this election season, to ensure peace talks and strengthen the grass roots movement. The theme of this event was strengthening and protecting the grassroots human rights defenders movement and election agenda 2017. About 60 grass root human rights defenders showed up for this event. We had defenders from Korogocho, Dandora, Kamukunji, Kariobangi, Kayole, Utalii ward, and all the six wards of Mathare.
The event started with brief prayer from Kennedy Chindi, MSJC field coordinator. Juliet Wanjira Coordinator of the Reproductive Justice campaign then welcomed the human rights defenders and after introductions she gave a brief history of Mathare Social Justice Centre. Gacheke Gachihi , Coordinator for Political Accountability and Social Justice, then informed the defenders of the purpose and objective of the meeting. He mentioned the four wheels of building the social movement namely: community dialogues and direct action, advocacy for social justice, building of a community centre as MSJC and participating in elections through alternative political leadership in the grassroots politics. This work also includes building a supportive and safe network for grassroots human rights defenders. He spent time explaining each stage and mentioned he was in the 4th wheel of building alternative political leadership from grassroots movements, and urged other defenders to take on that route to strengthen the movement.
The we had other human rights defenders take on the floor sharing their experiences, challenges and proposals for strengthening the grass root defenders network .First was Ruth Mumbi, a grass root human rights defender from Bunge la Wamama Mashinani, who shared her experiences and challenges as a defender. She mentioned her concern about extrajudicial executions and now as a victim she understands the pain even more, and will continue speaking against it.After highlighting the killings of her younger brother by the police her life had been threatened. Mumbi stressed on the importance of loving and caring for each other and defenders and as a community. Giving each other solidarity because we all need each other. On donor fund she suggested flexibility as it always so rigid and the people on the ground often find themselves at a loss and how to go about things wanting to comply with the donor conditions.
Next to speak was Wilfred Ola from Dandora Must change Social movement. He suggested that we map out our struggles in every different ward. It was clear there were similar struggles but there were struggles that were entirely different. For example FGM is not practiced in Dandora but it is very common in Kiamaiko. Having the dumpsite in Dandora was a violation of human rights in itself which the defenders from Dandora have to struggle with. Olal urged the defenders to always remember and be on the forefront of documenting human rights violations. Going through the 5W and H documentation Formula, he also mentioned modern ways of documenting like smartphones or voice records to have substantial evidence that can be used in court and urged everyone to most importantly maintain peace during and after this election period.
Wandera from Kariobangi and Korogocho Justice Centre thanked MSJC for having brought human rights defenders from every various place together to discuss our struggles and the future of our beloved country Kenya. He stressed on the different talents present and how we can all come together to strengthen the movement specializing with what one is best capable of. He also suggested that to strengthen grass root human right defenders we must push that KNCHR (Kenya National Coalition of Human Right Defenders) and CGHRD (Coalition for Grass root Human Rights Defenders) to pressure the acknowledgement of grassroots human rights defenders by law, and also support capacity building for defenders.
Anthony Muoki, coordinator of the extrajudicial killings campaign in MSJC , spoke on the Machozi ya Jana campaign and seriousness of the risk human rights defenders constantly find themselves in. He mentioned plans that are underway to create a solidarity safe place for fellow grass root human rights defenders.
Mama Whitney, a member of Bunge La Mwananchi and Bunge la Wamama Mashinani, raised the question of how we can support each other to rescue the young men whose pictures are put on Facebook and then found dead days later killed by police. As a mother, she pointed out it’s an issue that bothers her a lot. Losing young men in the community that she has known.
MC Fred Ooko ( Tooth Brush), also addressed the defenders with a sms that had been sent to him by a distressed sister whose brother’s picture had been put on the Facebook page of wanted criminals. Olal proposed that a few defenders organize themselves and take the boy to the police station, if found guilty to be arrested and taken to court. Everyone agreed with this proposal and accepted it as standard procedure. He also suggested that we, the grassroots human rights defenders, organize a meeting with IPOA, to express our concern and develop a memorandum of association and how to best collaborate to fight extrajudicial executions.
Rachael Mwikali in relation to the day’s theme, stressed the importance of having the support of the community members in every place represented in that meeting. To fight extra judicial killings, we will need the community to understand and support the standard procedure of dealing with crime. This will spread the risk and stop the criminalization of defenders as being labelled supporters of crime. While at it, Rachael urged the defenders to talk the boys out of stealing and always remind them that crime will never pay. She spoke on the importance of the unity of defenders and suggested similar regular meetings to push the movement forward. Charles of IJM also emphasized the need to involve other stakeholders to achieve the desired effect. For example religious institutions and other key stake holders must also be part of the process.
Chekai Musa, acting speaker of Bunge La Mwananchi, thanked MSJC, for the hard work they have put in for the past two years and stressed on the importance of preaching peace during this period. It was mentioned in this meeting that they have been red signs, neighbors who have lived peacefully for the past years NOW packing to leave in anticipation for violence after elections.
Samuel Keriro, Director of Ghetto Foundation, urged grassroots human rights defenders to have the right attitude doing this job. He said he has a platform that could be used to recruit young guys as activists. They have lost brothers, friends and cousins and will always feel the pain of EJE. If shown a way of fighting it they would gladly join in. He said everyone has to take part in a changed community, even the police should be engaged with, to create a friendly relationship. Present parents were reminded to instill positive values in their children. Lastly, he invited everyone present for a peace caravan that will be taking place from Mlango kubwa to Kiamaiko. The main event will be at Austin’s ground Kiboro. Theme will be preaching peace to all and sundry, targeting the violence hotspots. MSJC members will be taking part in this event instead of our usual general meetings on Saturday.
Towards the end, Gacheke challenged Fred Ooko Tooth Brush to share songs of the struggle with the other defenders. These songs will be used in social mobilization and propagating the struggle for social justice and movement building. Gacheke also emphasized that the MSJC office can be used as a meeting place for defenders to conduct their activities, and also to come learn the freedom songs of struggle to together and deepen the struggle. Juliet and Kennedy concluded with Samora Machel’s words, Aluta Continua! Against extra judicial executions, police brutality, corruption and bad leadership, poverty, poor sanitation, tribalism and capitalism and for human rights! In between we had Danito cheer us up with his music! See some pictures from this day below.