Categories
EJE Campaign Mothers of Victims & Survivors Network Police Brutality

Charge Killer-Cop Rashid!

After many years of community appeals, and the brave work of activists, killer-cop Rashid is scheduled to face his day in court, since the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) have accepted IPOA’s investigations about his role in the killing of two youth in Pangani — killings that were filmed and were broadcast across the nation five years ago in 2017.

We are here to say, as we have been documenting since 2016, that killer-cop Rashid has killed many more of our brothers, some of them as young as 12 years. We document and keep documenting. For those defending him, and as he continues to protest his innocence, please see here a list of 43 young people killed by Rashid in Mathare and more in our 2017 report: Who is Next.

This list was compiled by Mothers of Victims and Survivors in Mathare, whose children have also been killed by police bullets.

We will not be silent. We will be in court to watch the prosecution of Rashid. And we will keep fighting for our children.

NAMEDATEAGEPLACE EXECUTED 
1.Christopher Maina21/02/201725yrsMlango kubwa
2.Clinton Kioko16/06/201718yrs 
3.Peter Gachichi Gitau01/01/201720yrsMlango Kubwa
4.Kelvin Gitau14/04/201925yrsEastleigh
5.Paul Munyoki Monthe31/12/201719yrsMlango Kubwa
6.Dennis Mugambi07/12/201618yrs 
7.Mbatia 30/11/2016  
8.Saidi 18/04/201618yrs 
9.Nicholas Maina Gitau20/05/2018  
10.Francis Karani8/04/2017 Mlango Kubwa
11.Papa   Mlango Kubwa
12.Josh   Mlango Kubwa
13.Santos   Mlango Kubwa
14.Tobias 5/05/202017yrsBH
15.Jarred Nyausi1/03/2021 Mlango Kubwa
16.Abdul 17/05/202119yrs 
17.Marcus Irungu1/03/202112yrsMathare 3c
18.Samuel Ngure and 2 others24/08/2019 Mlango Kubwa
19.Emmanuel Chaku20/05/202127yrsMlango Kubwa
20.Brian  17yrsWhite Castle
21.Peter   White Castle
22.Ian Mutiso9/08/202124yrsMlango Kubwa
23.Francis Ondego 27yrs 
24.Fadhili Mohammed 22yrs 
25.Pato  21yrs 
26.Calvin Ochieng 22yrs 
27.Maurice Odhiambo 23yrs 
28.Mavine Ochieng  18yrs 
29.Kelvin Omondi  Mathare 4A
30.Alex Mwangi09/08/201919yrsMathare 3C
31.Cosmos Muteithia25/12/201722yrsJuja Road
32.Joseph Kahara27/05/201718yrsMlango Kubwa
33.John Kibe29/04/2021 Mlango Kubwa
34.Joseph Mbuthia Kamau 28/01/2018 Mlango Kubwa
35.Oredo  20yrsBH
36.Peter Maina7/05/201821yrsMlango Kubwa
37.Benson Karindo17/04/201921yrsMlango Kubwa
38.Charles Njogu23/01/2010  
39.2 unknown9/08/2021 Amana petrol Station
40. Amos Kangara11/10/202019yrsPangani
41.Tobias Omondi29/05/202033yrsEastleigh
42.George Odhiambo29/05/2020  
43.Unknown 15/8/2021 Kambi Safi

Categories
Art for Social Change Maji ni Haki/Water Campaign

Maji ni Haki!

Where is the water for our people? And what challenges do they face trying to make sure they can get enough for their families everyday?

Our Art for Social Change campaign made a song about water struggles, and it features powerful commentary and activists from across Nairobi.

Big up to the artists and to Hood Creation for the images and sound. We are also grateful to Mary Lawhon and the Examining nature-society relations through urban infrastructure project (project number: P19-0286:1)  for the support!

See the video above!

Categories
Elections Police Brutality Social Justice Centres Social Justice Centres Working Group

Saba Saba 2022 Edition

For the 5th year in a row, the Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCWG) organised the annual Saba Saba March For Our Lives, commemorating and building on the pro-democracy struggles of the early 1990s. Over 1500 people, mostly young and many women, marched from their communities demanding a NJAA Revolution (a ‘hunger’ revolution), lower food prices, an end to police brutality and justice for all.

Our collective petition to the president, highlighting the high cost of living, enduring police brutality and public debt levels, among other concerns, is available for download here:

Below a pictures from this powerful march.

Categories
Organic Intellectuals Network Police Brutality Social Justice Centres Women in Social Justice Centres

The Unreformable Police Force

By Faith Kasina and Gathang’a Ndungu

The 21st century police have become the law enforcers, the jury and the executioners. To the rich, they are the protectors of their assets and wealth but to the poor, the police seem to be criminals in uniforms, sanctioned by the state against them. They seem to have been created by the elite class to police over the poor.

Global Movements & Protests Against Police Brutality

Police misconduct and abuse of power has been an ongoing debate for a long time due to the series of cases reported world wide, ranging from arbitrary arrests, harassments, torture, enforced disappearances (ED’s) and extra judicial executions (EJE’s), among other criminal activities. The police force has for long been used as a tool of repression to the masses rather than maintaining peace and order as it should be. These traits of police abuse of power have manifested themselves in both developed and developing countries. 

In some countries like the US, the issue is intricately intertwined with the issue of racism compounded together with the historical injustices from slavery, and subsequent repression. With the loose gun control regulations, the police find a leeway to use force on black populations in the pretext of drugs and illegal firearms mop-up.

The US has a long history of police repression on the poor black communities and the Hispanic migrants. The history of US has been tied to the slave trade during the Trans-Atlantic Trade. The southern states which were historically agricultural states depended fully on slave trade which came from the black people taken from Africa. This unequal society is what the Black people found themselves in. 

It was a system that was in all means set against them on political and socio-economic aspects. 

The police force took the states mantle to continue perpetuating racism against the oppressed poor black populations in the ghettos. It is against this backdrop that black movements such as the Black Panther Party and other civil rights movements rose against this systematic racism. Malcom X in his tour to Africa noted that the violence the people of Algeria went through in the hands of the French police was the same faced by the black people back in the US.

In 2020, we witnessed major protests around the world in solidarity for George Floyd who was killed in broad daylight by police officers in Minnesota. The protests which started in Minneapolis spread to other cities such as Berlin, London, Paris, Johannesburg, among others. The outrage was fuelled by the systematic target on black men in the US and the fact that the suspect was unarmed and had already been subdued by the two police officers filmed arresting him. From the footage taken, one of the police officers’ was kneeling on his neck in a chokehold position despite the plea by the suspect that he couldn’t breathe. This was not an isolated case but one among many that have been common in black dominated neighbourhoods in the US. 

Excessive use of police force was also witnessed during the Hong Kong Protests during the Anti-Extradition Amendment Bill of 2019-2020. During these protests, the Hong Kong Police was under harsh criticism due to the excessive force used and also the unjustified use of water cannons, both live and rubber bullets, tear gas among other weapons. Hong Kong has been a semi-autonomous region from 1979 controlling their economy while still under Mainland China through what has been touted as ‘one country, two systems.’  The extradition bill allowed for extradition to Mainland China. This was seen as a way of China controlling the Hong Kong’s Judicial arm. Pro-democracy protesters poured in the streets to demand for rejection of this bill. The subsequent crackdown on protesters sparked outrage leading to more protests against the bill and also police use of force, arbitrary arrests and brutality. The Chinese government also helped the Hong Kong police to do massive surveillance on the protesters. 

Similar demonstrations followed in Nigeria against the SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad), which was a special unit created by the Nigerian Government to tame violent and organised crime. EndSARS Protests began as an online campaign against this notorious unit in 2017, which had a long history of police brutality, extortions and killings. In October 2020, the unit was linked to many other cases of extra judicial killings, use of force, abductions and arbitrary arrests. The young males in Nigeria had been the primary target of this unit just as in the US. They targeted young Nigerians by profiling them based on their fashion such as hairstyles and tattoo among others. Several cases of extortions by mounting illegal road blocks and searches had been documented without justice being served for the victims.

In other cases, women were tortured and raped. This led to demonstrations that birthed the EndSARS Movement which pushed for the disbanding of this unit. Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians poured in the streets of different town and cities to demand for its disbandment. The young population made the bulk of the demonstrators as they had endured these injustices for long. Social media influencers, musicians and the diaspora Nigerian population gave their solidarity on online platforms forcing Buhari’s regime to offer a concession ground. The unit was disbanded although there was no formation of an inquiry body to look into the injustices, violations and the victims of SARS. After the unit was disbanded, the movement has continued to push for other socio-economic and political reforms in Nigeria such as good governance and accountability, by holding corrupt leaders accountable for their actions. The Nigeria government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, went ahead to freeze bank accounts of notable protesters to stall and cripple the movement.

Despite the many calls for reforms, defunding from other quarters and abolition from some, there have never been any meaningful changes to the police around the world as the systems that create them are the same throughout — helping to serve the same purpose regardless of the country. Historically, the creation of a police force is said to have been necessitated by the rising cases of violence and lawlessness in the society. This forced the rulers to come up with a unit to maintain peace, law and order. The first recorded evidence dates back to 3000 BCE in Egypt and its rise is credited with the need to protect the ruling families and their areas of jurisdictions. With time, the need to protect private property owned by the rich merchants became another pressing reason and, due to these factors, the police force has evolved as new needs emerged. However, the basic structures, training and modus operandi has been maintained with little or no change over the ages.

The Kenyan Context of a Police State: a Historical Perspective

In Kenya, the first formal police unit was created by the British Government in 1907 as the British Colonial Police Force. Before this, the only communities that had some kind of police units were the coastal communities under Omani Arabs and some sultans. From 1887 to 1902, policing was done by the Imperial British East Africa Company. This unit was created to protect the commercial interests of this company in the vast region covering Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and some parts of Tanzania. Kenya Railways introduced their police units in 1902 to protect their main infrastructural project; Kenya-Uganda Railway. The Askaris, as they were called, were stationed in Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu to protect the business interests of this company and the white settlers in the country. They protected the workers building the railway from Mombasa, through Nairobi to Kisumu. They also protected the raw materials and other goods being transported from the hinterlands to the coastal town of Mombasa. 

The Making of a Police State

This police unit evolved along the years as the British government continued with their rule in the region. To effectively subdue the population, they used divide and rule tactics, whereby they recruited one community to serve under their units as homeguards and set them against other communities. This ensured that the communities were always fighting each other rather than fighting the colonial government. This police state is what Kenya inherited as a country. The successive regimes that followed maintained these units without reforming them. They used the police to protect their newly acquired wealth and also to repress any dissident voices that questioned their authority. Through them, several arrests were made, some enforced disappearances and deaths. Kenya’s first post-independence assassination was the killing of General Baimunge, who was a general in Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KFLA) and one of Dedan Kimathi’s confidants, who led the KFLA battalions on the East side of Mount Kenya forest covering Meru and Embu. His death was carried out by the police who were under the instructions of the first Kenyan Prime Minister, Jomo Kenyatta. This was the first betrayal committed by the first post-colonial government on its war heroes. Under Moi’s rule, they were empowered even more with the creation of special units for torture of political detainees, during his authoritarian rule that went for 24 years. Prisoners of conscious includeMaina Wa Kinyatti, Koigi Wamwere, Karimi Nduthu, GPO Oulu and Oscar Kamau King’ara, among many others.

Karimi Nduthu 

Karimi was a renowned activist during Moi’s regime. He was the Secretary General of the Release Political Prisoners (RPP) pressure group and also served as the Mwakenya National Coordinator. Karimi was initiated into radical politics by the December 12 Movement (DTM) literature which included Pambana, Cheche and later Mwakenya materials. Karimi was from Molo and he investigated the Molo massacre and ethnic clashes during the Moi regime. Moi was a ruthless dictator who never hesitated to silence any dissident voices that seemed to oppose his iron fist rule. He made organizing a challenge for political activists and university students. This forced many of them to organize in hiding while only a few dared him. Karimi was expelled from the University of Nairobi for his activism as a student leader in February 1985 before he could complete his degree in engineering. He was arrested in 1986 for being a member of Mwakenya and was jailed for 6yrs at the dreaded Naivasha Maximum Prison. He was later released in 1992 after the The Mothers of Political Prisoners Campaign piled pressure on the Moi regime to release the political prisoners. Immediately after his release from prison, he went straight to All Saints Cathedral where the mothers of political prisoners and members of Release Political Prisoners had camped. They continued to pile pressure by camping at the cathedral until all the prisoners were released. On the night of March 23 1996, Karimi was brutally murdered by the infamous Jeshi la Mzee murder squad at his Riruta home by a vicious youth militia run by the Moi government, and the then ruling party, KANU. Neighbours recounted how the police, who appeared immediately at the murder scene seemed to have been there to confirm the activist’s death. To make it look like a burglary and or a theft scene, they took his possessions including books and cassettes and manuscript. His murder is among many questionable murders and assassinations carried out by Moi’s regime through the help of his secret police squads.

The Assassination of GPO Oulu & Oscar Kamau King’ara

George Paul Oulu also known as Oulu GPO was a Kenyan human rights activist and a former vice chairman of the Students Organization of Nairobi University (SONU) and Oscar Kingara’s assistant. Oscar Kamau Kingara was a Kenyan lawyer and a human rights activist; the founder and director of Oscar Foundation Free Legal Aid Clinic, a human rights organization based in Nairobi. On March 5 2009, the two were assassinated while sitting in a rush hour traffic in Nairobi. Their assassination is widely attributed to their work in documenting police killings. All the leads pointed to elements within the Kenyan security forces and police as responsible for the assassinations. 

The GPO Oulu, Karimi Nduthu and Oscar Kingara stories all show how extra judicial executions are deep rooted and systemic in Kenya. The denial of justice to the victims to date shows how the justice system has been rigged against a section of Kenyans. 

The police force has been maintained to this date to serve the ruling class and their interests in the country, without any regard for the poor majority in Kenya. The fundamental structures of the police force haven’t changed since the colonial era, despite the many calls for reforms in training, service delivery, maintenance of law and order, impartiality in carrying out their duties, professionalism and their attitude and relationship with the citizens they police. The Kenyan set up shows a force that has been trained to protect the elite in a country with glaring economic disparities between the ultra-rich, who have controlled the country since independence, and the malnourished poor populations who survive on meagre daily wages. To control these hungry and angry masses, the police force has been very active, and more so in the poor urban informal settlements and slums such as Mathare, Kibera, Kayole, Dandora, Kayole, Mukuru and Kariobangi. These areas that harbour majority of the poor in Nairobi are highly policed not to offer protection, but to pacify and repress them into submission. It is from these areas that many cases of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and extortions are reported weekly.

Police violations & abuses under the guide of special operations & crackdowns in Kenya.

Special operations and crackdowns in Kenya have provided ample justification for the use of force, coercion, mass arbitrary arrests with subsequent disregard of the rights of arrested persons, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances. From the crackdown on multi-party democracy crusaders, Marxist-Leninist ideologues, Mungiki, the 2007/08 post-election violence, the Mombasa Republican Council, the anti-terrorism fight, crime in informal settlements to the Covid 19 lockdown, the state has always flexed its muscles on unarmed civilians and created fear in communities through the police force.

In 2006 and 2007, the state launched an operation to crackdown on the outlawed Mungiki Sect which had taken hold of Nairobi, Central and some parts of Rift Valley region. This group incorporated religious, cultural and political issues. They kept dreadlocks, just as the Mau Mau rebels did, to show their ties to the country’s freedom fighters. Their oath takings, which were rumoured to involve use of human blood, and subsequent killings that were linked to the group, invited the government to start a crackdown. Mathare and other slums in Nairobi, and other regions in Central Kenya, suffered a huge blow as hundreds of youths were killed by police and many others disappeared during the same time. According to a report released by a group of lawyers, more than 8040 young Kenyans were executed or tortured to death since 2002, during the five-year police crackdown on the outlawed Mungiki sect under President Mwai Kibaki’s reign.

During the 2007 – 2008 post-election violence, around 1,200 Kenyans lost their lives and the police were used to kill people from the zones termed as opposition. A majority of these killings happened in informal urban settlements in Mombasa, Nairobi and Kisumu, with most of the deaths being as a result of police excesses. To date, the National Police Service (NPS) has never been held accountable for the atrocities committed to its own people. In Kenya, the police force has also been bashed for being impartial in their work, more so during election periods.

The Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) was an organization formed in 1990 by separatists who wanted the coastal part of Kenya to secede. In their efforts, they quoted historical pacts made at independence by Jomo Kenyatta, who was Kenya’s first Prime Minister, with the leadership of Zanzibar, which handed over the coastal strip to Kenya under a lease. They claimed that the lease period was over and it was time to form their own republic. The movement subsided over the years, only to be revitalized in 2008 with their vocal leaders pointing to the thorny issue of land in Kenya, marginalization and skewed development. Under the Pwani Si Kenya (Coast region is not part of Kenya) slogan, they rallied residents to join them with instances of oath taking in coastal forests being reported. The government responded by deploying contingents of police officers who used excessive force on citizens, including women and children. Most of the leaders were detained and some forced to denounce their stand. With the creation of a decentralized government in 2013, after the first election under the 2010 Constitution of Kenya, the movement waned as the creation of county governments gave the coastal people a sense of control of their issues through local governments.

When the Kenyan army entered Somalia supposedly to help the Somali Government fight Al-Shabaab, there were increased cases of terrorist activities in the country as a retaliatory response from the outfit. This led to a crackdown on citizens of Somali origin, and the Muslim populations at large in Kenya. Mombasa and Nairobi became hotbeds of police crackdown by the dreaded Anti-Terrorist Police Unit (ATPU), which rounded-up and arrested hundreds of suspects, some of whom were innocent, and held them in different stations for more than 24 hours without producing them in courts as required. Many Muslim male residents of Eastleigh and Majengo in Nairobi fled as searches were being carried out in mosques and homes. In Mombasa and other coastal areas, young Muslims and clerics were reported to have been killed during this operation, with some being abducted by plain cloth police officers, never to be seen. Some of these abductions and arrests have been carried out in front of families and friends.

The fight against crime in the informal settlements seems to be a war against the poor young Black males in the Kenyan ghettos. Their poverty has made them to be criminalized, along with their dreadlocks, which are used to profile them while labelling them criminals. This has led to the execution and disappearance of many in the hands of the police. Each informal settlement has a renowned killer police officer who seems to be backed by the state. Kayole, Mathare and Dandora all have these serial killers in police uniform, who have taken the role of judiciary to issue instant ‘justice’ to alleged law breakers. The realization that what the government was doing was cleansing young people in the informal settlements, led to the mushrooming of community based organizations to fight this injustice and bring to light and call out the massacre of the ghetto people by their own government. 

The Social Justice Movement & The Fight Against EJEs

The Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCWG) is the decision making body of the Social Justice Centres Movement, which is the umbrella body that brings together all the social justice centres in Kenya. These social justice centres act as human rights defenders’ centres based in the communities. They are formed by the members of the community to find solutions to the pertinent challenges in the communities. SJCWG has over 60 centres spread across the country organizing on different political, socio-economic and cultural issues.

The social justice centres movement continues to organize around extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances. To document these cases, different partners came up with The Missing Voices website, and, so far, 1226 extrajudicial execution cases and 275 enforced disappearance cases have been documented since 2007. The Missing Voices website is supported by Amnesty International-Kenya, Peace Brigades International-Kenya, International Justice Mission, HAKI Africa, MUHURI, Defenders Coalition, ICTJ, International Commission of Jurists, Kituo Cha Sheria, Kenya Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch, CODE for AFRICA, Heinrich Bӧll Stiftung, ODIPODEEV, Protection International-Kenya and SJCWG. These partners help to document, provide legal aid to victims and their kin, offer referral, psycho-social support, among other services. This documentation helps to fill in the evidentiary gap by layering victims’ testimony with quantitative data. It also creates a platform where one can report, sign petitions and follow trials of such cases, as well as offer support. Its mission is to end enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions in Kenya, which have become rampant in recent times.

The SJCWG operates under committees, and the Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network (MVSN) is one of the pillar committees. The MVSN brings together mothers of victims and survivors of police brutality to provide a platform where they can share their experiences. This also act as a social circle to enable the survivors to start the healing process, as they offer each other a shoulder to lean on. They actively engage in documentation and follow up of EJE’s and ED’ cases in the community, and then offer referrals to the right organizations. They have also been involved in publicizing their work and creating awareness about the government’s role in the protection of the dignity of human life as enshrined in Article 26 of our constitution. 

Licensed to Kill: A Killer Cop Breed

The Kenya Police seems to have been licenced by the state to do a mass cleansing of ‘criminals’ in the slums. In Nairobi Eastlands, “innocent till proven guilty” exists only in papers as the police kill without any regard for the law. More than fifty years after independence, our police force still borrows heavily from the colonial police in its mode of operation. 

During our struggle for independence, the colonial police used the media as a propaganda tool to create fear and panic among the natives. Whenever a fighter was captured or killed, the images of their mutilated bodies would be published on the front pages of the local dailies to demoralize the fighters. One of the images that was highly circulated was that of Dedan Kimathi lying on a stretcher handcuffed. This was to bring the Mau Mau on its knees as they believed that he was the main leader of Mau Mau. Today, the social media has taken the role of the local dailies. The killer police use Facebook pages to spread their propaganda leading to self-exiling of youths due to fear. The police have become bold in their nefarious activities as they issue warnings to their targets on Facebook, with the photos of the target which they then go ahead to actualize without any fear of repercussion. Just like the colonial police, they post the badly mutilated bodies with warnings to other youths involved in crime. 

The police also seem to be taking new methods to avoid leaving a trace behind of their activities. Instead of the bullet, their victims are being strangled and their bodies dumped in places far away from their homes or where they were abducted. In an expose by a local media house, most of the bodies found dumped in River Yala had these signs and the victims had an involvement in crime pointing to a secret group cracking down on criminals. This special police unit is not created to follow the normal procedures of law but rather break the law at all cost.

Nearly each neighbourhood in Nairobi’s Eastlands has a known killer police officer who operates in the area. Despite the overwhelming evidence against these officers, the state seems unwilling to take action on them, and the only action taken is transfer and re-shuffling of the officers from one area to another.

The government has invested heavily on arming our police force, while still spending inadequate amounts on social security programs, job creation and provision of social services, which would help to drastically reduce the crime rate. The state has also neglected the well-being of its police officers as mental health issues and low wages demoralize the force from within, amongst other challenges such as poor working conditions. These problems compounded have in a way contributed to the many suicide cases in the force, the increased cases of homicides among police officers, misuse of fire arms and involvement in illegal activities such as robbery with violence and collaboration with criminal networks.

The threat the police pose to the public is immense, and Kenyans seem to be sitting on a time bomb ready to explode, when you imagine a fully armed police officer, underpaid by the government, working in poor and harsh conditions, traumatised by work, being oppressed by the seniors and with no psycho-social support systems in the force, and trying to survive the harsh economic conditions. These conditions create an environment for mental instability among the junior officers. 

The Role of Women in the Fight Against EJEs

Movements have always propped up to deal with human rights abuses by the state. Women have been part and parcel of organizing and confronting the ills in the community, as well as upsetting the status quo. Women in Kenya have participated in all aspects of the struggle, and they continue to do so to this day.

During the Moi regime when the government arrested young people and put them in prisons, mothers of those political prisoners and other women camped at Uhuru Park and piled pressure on the government to release the political prisoners. The government was adamant and this led to the women stripping and going on a silent strike until Moi’s government started releasing the prisoners. The women fought for their sons until they were all released. 

From the defiance of Mekatili wa Menza and Muthoni Nyanjiru against the colonial police during the invasion of our territories, to Field Marshal Muthoni Kirima who fought alongside men during the Mau Mau years, to second liberation heroes such as Wangari Maathai, women have led by example by showing bravery and defiance against the skewed system being enforced through the police. This baton has been passed to MVSN which continues to organize against these atrocities being committed by the police in poor neighbourhoods. Being victims, survivors and witnesses of police injustices, these women chose to rise above their anger and setbacks and channel their energy and efforts by creating awareness in the community, and support others who have been or who would have been victims. Instead of giving up, these women have transformed from being victims to community human rights defenders in the different settlements they come from. They now stand as the vanguard of the community against rogue police officers and the system that creates and supports them. Nduku Mwangagi is one of these victims who swore to protect others from the rogue police officers after losing her adopted son.

 Mwaura’s Story

“I met Mwaura, a street boy in Soweto, in 2004, and I took him in. He was a young boy with no family in Nairobi. His siblings were living with his grandmother in Sabasaba, Murang’a. I offered to take him to school but since he had spent years on the streets he begged me to allow him to work as a co-driver in my lorry. I agreed to that because he needed to trace his family and support his siblings and grandmother. Mwaura became my first son. I felt so protected with him, he loved me like a mother and respected me as a mother. Mwaura was killed in 2008 by police at Kona Market in Kayole, I have never been that frustrated my whole life. I still remember how he would smile and call me Mama Mathew. The fact that I never got the chance to bury him and even never found his body still brings tears in my eyes until today. That is why I fight against EJEs and against all these injustices. I don’t keep quiet in the face of injustices and no one should.” Nduku Mwangangi, Mwaura’s guardian.

The Social Justice Movement has organized communities against these injustices to try and force the state into accountability. Instead of initiating the investigations, the state has in most times responded by intimidation, surveillance and a crackdown of human rights defenders. This use of police force was witnessed during the annual Saba Saba (July 7th) March For Our Lives by the Social Justice Movement, when more than sixty activists, human rights defenders and members of community were arrested for participating in this peaceful protest commemorating the activities of the second liberation struggle in Kenya. 

The Kenya Police Force & Stalled Reforms

The National Police Service is not yet a service but remains largely a force. The change in name from ‘force’ to ‘service’ did not solve the many underlying issues facing our police force. The force that was inherited at independence in 1963 has remained relatively the same in function, operation and culture, among other aspects. The police service was supposed to be citizen-centric in the way it handles complaints from the public. This is far from what Kenyans are used to in our local police stations. The reform of uniforms and change of name hasnn’t brought any change to the police culture in Kenya. 

The Kenya Police Force needs a radical surgery or a total overhaul, together with the system that created it. The many years of reform seems to have hit a brick wall and the changes are no longer effective. The curriculum used by the Kenya Police College needs to focus more on instilling patriotism, dignity for human life and professionalism, while the recruiters should focus on passion to serve and other aspects such as IQ, rather than the physical aspects that are long outdated.

Will reforms work to bring the stalled changes needed in our police forces? Is defunding the police force a viable solution? And should we give a thought to the ideologues who say we should abolish the police?

Until we uproot the system that created this police force, it shall continue to be a ‘FORCE’ rather than a ‘SERVICE’, the issue of mental health among the police shall continue to be a thorn in our flesh, and cases of suicide among the force shall go on. Until a radical surgery is given, professionalism will be an alien vocabulary to our police officers; until we cut the stem that supports a moribund system, Kenyans and the citizens of the world shall continue to suffer in the hands of these police forces.

Written By Faith Kasina (Coordinator of Kayole Community Justice Centre) &bGathanga Ndung’u (Member- Kenya Organic Intellectuals Network & Ruaraka Social Justice Centre (RSJC))

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/topic/Karimi-Nduthu
  2. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/karimi-nduthu-mwakenya-leader-who-remained-defiant-until-his-brutal-death-3335560
  3. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/5/9/the-kenyan-mothers-fighting-to-end-police-brutality
  4. https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/nainotepad/2001261426/bare-breatsed-crusade-when-mothers-of-political-prisoners-stripped-at-uhuru-park
  5. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2009/06/kenyan-government-must-act-urgently-end-impunity-bring-about-essential-reform-20090612/
  6. https://missingvoices.or.ke/
  7. https://www.hrw.org/blog-feed/hong-kong-protests
  8. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2021/02/nigeria-end-impunity-for-police-violence-by-sars-endsars
  9. https://deflem.blogpost.com/1994/08/law-enforcement-in-british-colonial.html?m=1
  10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327002172_crime_politics_and_the_police_in_colonial_kenya_1939-63
Categories
Pio Gama Pinto

Remembering Pio

After a successful book launch on December 12, 2021, Jamhuri day, the Organic Intellectuals Network has brought together reflections that were shared on this occasion.

This report includes solidarity statements from Prof Issa Shivji, Dr Willy Mutunga and Shiraz Durrani, as well as pictures taken at the powerful book launch. It is available for download through the link below:

Cover of the book on Pio Gama Pinto, by the Organic Intellectuals Network

Categories
Organic Intellectuals Network

Reflections on Mwai Kibaki & The Betrayal of the Second Liberation Struggles

By Gacheke Gachihi

Between 1997 and 1999, I had attended several Saba Saba rallies and the ‘no reforms’ protests in Uhuru Park and the historic Kamukunji grounds to demand for a new constitution. I was later invited to be a member of the National Convention Executive Council, NCEC, the vanguard pushing for constitutional reforms in Kenya, as a council member representing grassroots social movements. This was an important political opportunity that gave me a chance to engage with the civic and political developments, and to interact with luminaries of the reform movement such as Dr.Willy Mutunga, the Late Prof Apolo Njonjo, former secretary of Social Democratic party Dr. Kamau Kuria, Rev Timothy Njoya, Bonny Khalwale, Nobel laureate Prof Wangari Maathai, Paul Muite, Prof. Anyang Nyong’o, and Farah Maalim.

During the Saba Saba commemoration of 2001, I was at freedom corner with comrades from Muuugano wa Wanavijiji, The National Youth Movement, The Social Democratic Party, The Green Belt Movement, Safina Party, Peoples Party of Kenya, Saba Saba Asili, Mungiki, and as part of the new sprouting resistance which was called by Dr. Willy Mutunga and Mugambi Kiai as a breed of a new alternative leadership from below, since at that time Raila Odinga had the KANU/Liberal Democratic Party (L.D.P) cooperation.

On this day, we had organized a tree planting in commemoration of the young people who were killed between 1990 and 1997 for participating in the then government’s opposition pro-democracy reform rallies, evolving alternative new resistance in struggle and honoring the memory of those who were killed during the Saba Saba massive demonstrations in 1997.

Prof Wangari Maathai was to plant a tree this day in their memory. The gathering faced rough state aggression by being teargassed, arrests and torture in the notorious Central Police Station in Nairobi. A renowned police station in history that once repressed demonstrators who had gathered to demand the release of Harry Thuku in 1921, leading to the deaths of innocent Kenyans. To this date, I cannot recall how many times I have spent nights in Central Police Station, or had my name feature in the Occurrence Book. It is the same police station that came to define my struggle in building grassroots movements that later become Bunge La Mwananchi (Peoples Parliament).

It was during this time that I started organizing youth around Huruma car wash on several issues that affected them, and consequently formed a community based youth network named Starehe-Kasarani Youth Network  (KASTA)  that was formed by  Ngei 1,  a youth group based in Ngei ward, bringing in Mathare and  Huruma car wash youth groups.

I started the initiative as a low income earner, an ordinary human working as a car washer in Huruma car wash. Later we invited Chemi Chemi ya Ukweli, an inter-denominational religious network, to conduct a civic training to our Kasarani-Starehe youth network in Kilimabogo on non-violent protests as a model of organizing. We also partnered with The Green Belt Movement to organize civic and environmental seminars that Prof. Wangari Maathai was giving at the Green Belt headquarters in Kilimani, Nairobi named Kwimenya (to consciously know yourself), after which we would establish environmental advocacy units and the ‘greening initiative’ groups in our areas. The movement would in turn participate in tree planting in and around Kariobangi Market (1999-2000). This initiative with the contributions of the youth helped to mould the emergence of a critical grassroots social movement that would later provide support to the reform movements during the negotiation conversations on the merger of The Peoples Commission led by Oki Ombaka and the Commission on Constitutional Reform led by Prof. Yash Ghai at Ufungamano House. The meetings were being organized by The Peoples Commission under an interdenominational faith led, peoples’ driven constitutional review, which was chaired by the secretary General of National Council of Churches NCCK, Mutava Musyimi. 

It is during one of these meetings that I learned of many tactics in building social movements and political organizing from the late comrade George Mwaura Mburu who was also a member of National Convention Executive Council (NCEC). The Late Mwaura Mburu had initiated Peoples’ Assemblies in Limuru and Kiambu town and was a founder member of the Peoples Party of Kenya (PPK), a foot soldier of the second liberation struggles. He also had a special distinction in being a peasant leader and participating in shaping the middle class constitutional reform struggle in Kenya since 1992. He spent the last days of his life pushing the ‘Katiba Sasa’ campaign during the 2010 constitutional reforms referendum. 

Comrade Mwaura PPK, as we called him, was a great freedom fighter of the people of Kenya and Africa at large. His life in struggle  remain a significant beacon of hope immortalized in the minds and peasants struggles in Limuru where he organized Bunge La Mwananchi peoples’ assemblies to raise consciousness and advance the peoples’ struggles for liberation in Kenya. The late George Mwaura’s contributions helped to build my grassroots politics in Kenya during my early formatives stages in the civil society movements. I remember one historic moment in June 2001, during the merger of the Ufungamano constitutional initiative which had formed the Peoples Commission. The People’s Commission was supported by many Kenyans, progressive movements, and political parties who were opposed to the merger of the Ufungamano constitutional initiative and the Prof. Yash Ghai led commission that was appointed by Moi’s KANU regime and that had no trust with most of Kenyans.

The Ufungamano initiative was made of 54 stakeholders who were to vote that day and merge the Peoples Commission with Prof. Ghai’s team that had many Moi and KANU’s political sycophants. Most of the 54 stakeholders that made up Ufungamano initiative were conservative political parties and religious organizations. Democratic Party (DP) was one of these ideologically bankrupt political parties that were represented in Ufungamano by its then Chairman Mwai Kibaki and the then Secretary General Joseph Munyao. On the other side, progressive forces were social movements like NCEC, Muugano Wa Vijana Wazalendo (MVUA) and political parties like the Social Democratic Party, Peoples Party of Kenya (PPK), SAFINA and many grassroots formations. The Late George Mwaura Mburu was the Secretary General of PPK and he had developed a political pamphlet about the history of betrayal of our freedom struggle that embodied Mwai Kibaki. That day, Kibaki was attending the event at Ufungamano House to vote on behalf of DP as its chairman. The DP was among the parties supporting the unpopular merger between the two parallel constitutional reform processes in 2001. The headline of the pamphlet was about Mwai Kibaki’s neoliberal policies in Kenya.

MWAI KIBAKI’S betrayal legacy and the year listed;

1. That removing KANU was like cutting Mugumo tree with razor blade.

2. Introduced cost sharing in hospitals (curtailing right to health care)

3. Leader of IPPG that betrayed Kenya constitutional reforms in 1997.

4. Dividing the opposition in 1992, 

The list goes on to detail a dozen of betrayals that Mwai Kibaki’s personality embodied in his political life, and that was to manifest at Ufungamano House during that merger. The pamphlets were shared through underground tactics in order to reach as many delegates convened at Ufungamano House, and who were opposed to the merger of which the DP was supporting under Mwai Kibaki’s leadership.

The Late George Mwaura Mburu had one pamphlet copy that he wanted to give to Mwai  Kibaki as he entered Ufungamano House, intended at reminding him of the many times he had betrayed the Kenyan people in their time of need. This was a necessary political propaganda that needed courage. The task of giving Mwai Kibaki a copy of the condensed list of betrayals to the peoples liberation struggles was bestowed to me by the late Mwaura PPK  as my patriotic duty to shame Mwai Kibaki: a task that I did with utmost courage and great sacrifice as it was a revolutionary act to deliver a copy of the pamphlet.

That was done through a disguised handshake handing over the day’s program to Mwai Kibaki. True to the wording of the pamphlet, upon reading it, Kibaki stood to speak and address the gathering in support of the merger in Ufungamano House. His reaction was clear  as he started with a historical perspective of his political life. With difficulty of reconciling the political contradictions ensuing in his political life history, as was reflected in pamphlet, and which had  invited his conscience to reflect on his continuing betrayal to our motherland Kenya. At this point, political activism that had rooted Comrade George Mwaura’s peasant life in Thigio village in Limuru was one of the many tactics and skills that he used as a community organizer and member of grassroots social movement to give political education to the masses and recruit new cadres for revolutionary struggles in PPK and Bunge La Mwananchi. That was part of my generational inheritance as part of social struggles in Kenya. which is part of my reflection in the last 15 years of grassroots struggles in the era of neoliberalism and colonial poverty in Kenya 

I had a great opportunity to interact with Comrade Mwaura Mburu in many of the NCEC council meetings in Nairobi and Limuru, where we developed our comradeship that helped me to understand Mwaura’s struggle with the peasants in Limuru and Kenya at large. I was invited to PPK meetings often which Mwaura had organized with very little resources and challenges that came with political parties. The late Comrade Mwaura was also a delegate at the Bomas Constitutional Reform Conference representing PPK, and participated in the devolution committee that advanced the values of participatory democracy. Our late Comrade Mwaura will remain a hero of grassroots movements, as he shaped the politics of ordinary people in many political meetings that he attended around the country. He was a pillar of the Bunge La Mwanachi Movement, where we used the PPK party to organize Bunge la Mwananchi Movement in the grassroots and empower our people. I will remember him greatly in the contributions he made in the movement that today has continued to inspire more grassroots activism in Kenya. On  12/02/2011 in Limuru Thigio village when the remains of George Mwaura Mburu were returned to the soil of our ancestors, there were no tears from comrades who gathered in his grave that day; the only action was  to continue organizing towards realizing his dream of social justice in liberating Kenya. And we prayed to the revolutionary spirit of our ancestors Kimathi, Nyerere, Pio Gama Pinto and Jaramogi Odinga who manifested in the Great Rift Valley in our rivers, who raised the sweetness in Mumias sugar cane and comrade George Mwaura Mburu’s peasant struggles. We committed ourselves to continue organizing our people from where  he had left and as most comrades from Bunge La Mwananchi said. Comrade George Mwaura Mburu was killed by the cancer of the betrayal of our second liberation struggles.

Categories
anti-capitalism Social Justice Centres Working Group

#NJAA REVOLUTION

#KASARANI4

By Nahashon Kamau, Kasarani Social Justice Centre

The sun was hotter than usual in our pockets. I went to the Center where comrades were gathering preparing for the Njaa Revolution crusade hosted by Kasarani Social Justice Center.

I had carried a few cartons to be used as writing materials. The other comrades had arrived earlier with the materials. Comrades were very joyful, another day to fight against the oppressive system created and controlled by countable individuals.

I stood at the end of the room silently observing everyone writing revolutionary messages on their cartons. They didn’t even mind what they were writing on so long as the message was brief and concise.

Comrades decided that they were behind schedule so they should get going. The peaceful demonstration was to pass through Sunton then to proceed to Mwiki along Kasarani Mwiki road.

Due to time constraints, comrades decided to proceed with Kamuti-ini road. Comrade Ojango had the mini mega phone chanting revolutionary messages with the comrades.

“Tuko njaa” he said and we chorused “tuko njaa.” Wakenya mko njaa?” he asked the community members who had started coming out of their houses and others from their daily routine .The members of the community took photographs and videos using their “Mukias”. They were intrigued by the comrades audacity to come out to the streets chanting revolutionary songs.

“Nchi gani hii, wanataka tukufe njaa?”.

The boxes read “Wakenya mko njaa?” At this time we were at Garage stage proceeding to Maji Mazuri. On reaching Maji Mazuri, community members had started joining us slowly and gathering around. We halted and started engaging them.

I glimpsed at one of the placard it read “we can’t eat food for thought.” Ojango and Maryann engaged the people with the people’s budget briefly then we were on our way to Mwiki. Comrades were careful not to disrupt traffic and avoid any confrontations. I noticed we were now approaching the long awaited destination ACK road Mwiki. All along the walk we engaged the community members.

Close to the first streets a substantial mass of kiosk vendors, shop keepers and hawkers were taking photos or videos. I noticed a few local opinion leaders taking pictures or videos but I was quickly drawn back to the crusade.

At that moment, comrades were chanting our slogans and reading the people’s budget which was passed around for them to express their opinions. The masses were deeply pleased and accepted the people’s budget.

Most of them thought it was the real budget that was read by the state officers but we made it clear that it was our own proposed mwanainchi budget.

The police were arriving one by one from Mwiki Police Station. At first they tried to arrest Comrade Ojango but we pulled him away from the officer. I was surprised how we managed to hold onto Ojango because the officer was built heavily. The police officer retreated back to their Mahindra police pickup.

Comrades were careful incase of any confrontations. We continued with our procession. In the middle of the road we heard police sirens. The police had regrouped and were many. We tried to keep people together telling each other “musitoroke,” “when we loose our fear they loose their power.” Comrades now were almost reaching the Budalangi sub-chief’s office.

When the police officers reached closer to the comrades, they dispersed strategically eluding arrest. Upon reaching the bodaboda stage, I saw a plain-clothed officer grabbing Comrade Minoo by the collar and hitting her on the chest. Instinctively, I started walking towards them.

Immediately I heard people shouting “shika huyo,” and to my surprise they were referring to me. The OCS said kuja tuongee. Events unfolded very quickly; one minute I was being hauled up by the waist. I tried telling and pleading with them that I was not resisting arrest. My plea fell on deaf ears. I overpowered the two officers.

I remember the OCS together with his officers, including a traffic officer, were standing very near and assisting. They made the whole situation look like I was resisting arrest. I was not read my rights before being arrested. I felt like I was kidnapped by utumishi kwa wote. I was still pleading with them to let me board their vehicle peacefully but the only language they understood was brute force.

I was violently shoved inside the back of the pickup falling on my back. Little did I know that a plain clothed officer was waiting for me to land on my back with his fists ready for a brutal beating.

He pressed me with his knee on my chest hitting me violently like I was a punching bag. I felt so powerless; it was like he was looking for a reason to kill us. He wanted to provoke me so that he could find a concrete reason to kill us. Incase I had raised a fist against him you could probably be raising funds for my hospital bill or funeral.

He released all his police frustrations on my head. I had to guard my face after receiving several blows on my lips and chin. After that he tried to strangle me. All this time Comrade Minoo was screaming at him to stop pounding me. The other officers had already boarded the pickup. All this time he had managed to handcuff my left arm and he tightened the cuff. The other officers helped him to cuff my right hand. I stood bent and sat on the right side of the bench close to Comrade Minoo.

He turned his attention on Minoo, pounded her with his fists, hitting her severally on her right eye which swelled immediately. I tried to stop him but he hit me again, this time on the left side of my forehead severally, and on the right four times which I tried to dodge and block. The vehicle had reached Red Soil road where it stopped. Comrade Clinton was forced to board. They shoved him to the left corner of the vehicle. The violent officer hit him below the right eye where he sustained a cut and started bleeding. I tried to plead to him to stop hitting him because he had undergone an eye surgery after being hit by a nail early last year. The image is deeply embedded in my mind.

Anytime I close my eyes the first image is him staring at me. Along Red Soil road the officer was staring me dead in the eyes. He had opened his eyes wide open staring at me. I stared back at him. I could tell from his eyes that he was disappointed because he didn’t kill my spirit. I didn’t fear him. We stared at each other now at Mwiki stage.

He started accusing us that “hiyo bangi mnavuta mnatuletea vurugu uku Mwiki leo mtakipata.” He asked me “hizo sheria ulikua unasema sasa ziko wapi” I answered him “umesema ninyamaze.” On reaching Mwiki Police Station, the pickup reversed up to the station door. The officers ordered us out of the police vehicle and into the OB room where the violent officer frisked me vigorously then the officers at the OB took over.

I didn’t see the violent officer again after he removed the handcuffs. We were booked and our phone, money and wallets labeled together with our bags were confiscated. Comrade Minoo stopped them from reading her notebook telling them it was infringing on her privacy. When I switched off my phone it was around mid noon. They ordered us to our respective cells after telling us to remove one shoe and belts.

Inside the cell we met other victims of this slave system. Their material conditions had forced them to be there. We engaged with them. The stench coming out of the dilapidated nothing close to a toilet, burned the nostrils and eyes. The situation was so overwhelming in regards to what we were fighting for.

Article 43 is the most basic right a human being can enjoy. Momentarily we heard commotion. From far I could identify Comrade Brayan and Kinuthia’s voices. From my side it felt so strong that the spirit of comradely love still perseveres.

We heard them say “tufungulie ata sisi tuingie huku nje nikubaya.” The cell was opened, Comrades entered ,checked on our well being, dinner was served, we ate, and started singing “nchi gani hii inataka tukufe njaa?

Officers came and released the comrades. They were ordered to go home or risk being arrested. Comrades kept coming in solidarity. They hastily took our finger prints while interrogating each of us. Do you work for Muhuri? Were you being used by politicians? Who is funding you ? They even tried/pretended to side with us. The OCS and Deputy OCS with other officers visited the male cell asking who was assaulted by police officers, and we told him all of us.

He referred a former inmate to describe the situation at Industrial Area Remand Prison. He asked if I was ever beaten for committing a mistake. I said for leaking sugar. He insisted if you go to Inda you will receive worse beating and monolization than this.

All this time, what they really wanted to know is who were the leaders of #Mwiki4. At around 8 or 9 pm we heard bullet sounds, shouting, running and finally nothing. We were quickly transported to Kasarani Police Station, to await court proceedings. We were booked with resisting arrest and having an illegal gathering.

Inside the cells you could feel and see the victimization of the so called leaders of tomorrow. Every single cell mate had his own story, but the material conditions due to Covid-19 and the increase in the prices of basic commodities was a common foundation.

The state should stop investing in the prison industrial complex and invest more in cottage industries. We made friends and had a political education class. Comrades were always there all the time, giving more solidarity. The cells were spacious. We ate poorly cooked ugali and cabbage which is a delicacy in prison. We dozed off.

At around 2-3 am, we heard loud commotion and the door was forcefully opened waking all of us. I woke up hastily and stood at the door, after opening the door an officer said “nimewaletea nyama.” One of the cell mate who had stayed there for sometime had already reached the door, grabbed the noisy drank and pushed him straight into the toilet which was flooded with foul alcohol stinking sewage. The new cellmate was chased from the other cells because he kept shouting “ethiopians.” The Nigerian we were sharing the cell with kept reminding us the rules of the house: “close the door friend.” I went back to my part of the floor. The new cell mate reached our cell and shouted “ethiopian.”

Comrade Clinton told him to close the door. He was recognized by the new cellmate. He called out “Didi” then I heard “Jose,” finally I heard “chair.” We were all there coincidentally at that bizarre moment and place.

We were overwhelmed and kept talking about our circumstances. We were cut short by our fellow cellmate: “tell your friend to take it easy. “There was major victimization of the boy child. The male cells were several and large compared to one small female cell. How many of our comrades shall they kill until we realize it is time to wake up. No more matyrs!

Categories
Organic Intellectuals Network Solidarity

February : My SHUJAA Month

By Comrade Gathanga Ndung’u

Mashujaa Day (Heroes Day) is celebrated every 20th of October as a national public holiday in Kenya to commemorate the great role played by our freedom heroes towards the attainment of our independence as a country. The date was chosen to coincide with October 20th 1952, when the then Governor of Kenya, Sir Evelyn Baring, issued a state of emergency after the Mau Mau Uprising became a threat to colonial rule in Kenya. He launched Operation Jock Scott to round Mau Mau fighters and flush them out of the forest. 

Although the commemoration is a positive gesture towards our history as a country, it remains an insincere tribute from a country that has betrayed the sacrifices of the fighters who fought, many dying, for our freedom. Most of the land that the freedom fighters fought for was never returned to their rightful owners. Instead, the comprador class that replaced the British Government went ahead to amass large swathes of land and other properties as the poor were pushed to squatters and slums. Those who were opposed to these plans were hunted down, arrested and thrown in jails without proper trial. Some were assassinated and others exiled. That was the ‘payment’ the fighters received after spending more than a decade in the forest for the freedom we enjoy today.

My story has been inspired by the striking semblance and parallelity of six brilliant flowers that were plucked before their full blossom. Three on the national stage and the other three within grassroots organization and social justice movements in Kenya. Some of my February heroes met their untimely deaths directly through the involvement of the state and others indirectly through the system they found themselves in which has been perpetuated by the unsavoury ruling political class more than fifty years after independence. All their deaths coincidentally occurred in the month of FEBRUARY!

My first three heroes are: Dedan Kimathi (October 31st 1920 – February 18th 1957), Malcom X (May 19th 1925 – February 21st 1965) and Pio Gama Pinto (March 31st 1927 – February 24th 1965). Their ideological stand, brilliance and organizational skills attracted both friends and foes. 

All were born under different circumstances in the 1920’s with all their lives ending in the ages between 37 to 40 years after committing their lives to liberating their fellow oppressed.

I have juxtaposed their stories to bring out the striking semblance of their lives and their contribution towards the egalitarian societies that they all envisioned. Their activism was cut short due to their firm belief in equality of all humans and the commitment they had towards the liberation cause. Their resolve not to compromise with their conscience resulted in their tragic end. This is their story…

EARLY LIFE

Dedan Kimathi Waciuri was born in a poor peasant family in a remote village in Tetu, Nyeri in the former Central Province of Kenya. His father died a month after he was born leaving the young Kimathi to be brought up by his mother. At the age of 15, he joined Karuna-Ini Primary School and later Tumutumu CMS School for his secondary education where he proved to be a talented and brilliant student through his quick mastery of English and other subjects. He was an ardent reader, writer and an eloquent debater in his school years. Kimathi, found himself being a rebel from an early age in life and being unable to conform with the education system at the time. His rebellious nature placed him at loggerhead with the system that be. From school, the military which he tried to be part of but failed and also to the colonial government, he was a rebel. He juggled several jobs, at one time being a primary school teacher from which he was dismissed too for opposing and questioning the school administration on several issues. 

He later moved to Ol Kalaou in 1947 where he started working with Kenya African Union (KAU) and he would later become the Secretary of KAU Ol Kalau branch. It is here that his activism started through his contact with the Forty Group, a radical wing of the defunct Kikuyu Central Association.

Five years after the birth of Dedan Kimathi, another hero-to-be was born thousands of miles away across the Atlantic Ocean by Afro-American parents. Malcom ‘Little’ X was born in Omaha, Nebraska in the United States. Nebraska is a mid-western state in the US known for large scale agriculture initially produced by slaves. His parent, who had a history of slavery were avid supporters of the Pan Africanist Marcus Garvey. His father, Earl Little was a Baptist lay speaker and together with his wife Louise Hellen Little had ties to the Universal Negro Movements and other black liberation movements in the US. Malcom’s parents passed the black liberation politics to Malcom and his siblings. 

Nebraska had a long history of slavery and white supremacist groups such as Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and Black Legion and hence his father’s association with the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) made them an obvious target. For this reason, they relocated twice for as they feared for their lives. They had every reason to, as four of Malcom’s uncle had been killed by the racist extremist group. They relocated to Milwaukee and then to Michigan in 1926. When Malcom was six, his father died in what alleged to be an accident but it was rumoured that he was killed by Black Legion. Their family was denied most of their life insurance benefits, claiming that Earl Little committed suicide. This placed their family on a tough survival path while still trying to fight the constant harassments. In 1937, Malcom’s mother suffered a mental breakdown due to the political and personal turmoil her family went through. She was admitted to an asylum for the mentally challenged leaving her kids to be sent into different foster homes. 

In school, Malcom was an exceptionally smart student with a promising future. However, he dropped out of high school before graduating in 1941 after a white teacher told him he couldn’t become a lawyer since he was a negro. With prejudice, his teacher asked him to consider pursuing carpentry which led to him dropping out of school. He joined the street and became involved in petty criminal activities and he was, as a result arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1946. He was later released in 1952. It is during his years in prison when he converted to Islam and joined the Elijah Muhammad led Nation of Islam (NOI). It is from this political context that he would launch his activism and the struggle against institutionalized racism.

Pio Gama Pinto was born to Kenyan-Goan parents. In contrast to the previous two, Pinto was born in a relatively privileged family as his father was a colonial official. Pinto started his schooling in Kenya and was later sent to India at the age of eight where he spent the next 9 years studying. He studied science for two years in Karnatak College before joining the Indian Air Force in 1944. He too, proved to be an exceptionally brilliant learner. He took a job at the Post and Telegraph company where he led and participated in workers’ strikes. This marked his initiation into the liberation struggle for workers. He formed The Goa National Congress to liberate Goans from the oppressive Portuguese rule.

ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS

If there is one attribute about Dedan, Malcom X and Pinto that their enemies feared was their organizing skills. 

When Mau Mau declared full blown war on the colonial government on the October 1952, Dedan Kimathi assumed a central role coordinating the different factions fighting in the dense forests of Aberdare and Mt. Kenya. With no proper means of communication, he went ahead to form and convene the first Defence Council to help in coordination. Kimathi’s dream was to convert the fighters into a modern army with superior organizational standards and employ strategy and tactics to win the war of independence. The council was to assume the coordination and supervisory role of Mau Mau activities. Through this arrangement and planning, the Defence Council with the help of supporters from all over the country was able to sustain the fighters by supplying essentials such as food and other supplies. From as far as Nairobi, goods were smuggled to the forests which helped to sustain the fighters in the decade long protracted war. They also provided critical intel that helped fighters escape what would have been night raids, bombings and ambushes. The Kenyan war of independence and the Mau Mau movement has been epitomized in the persona of Dedan Kimathi due to the major role he played in the battle field. It is due to this that the colonial government marked him as number one on their “Most Wanted” list because they believed Kimathi to be the aorta of the Mau Mau Movement. 

Malcom X was a charismatic and an eloquent orator. This, combined with his witty acumen, made him a very persuasive and influential figure in the Nation of Islam (NOI) which was headed by Elijah Muhammad. After his release from prison in 1952 he joined hands with Muhammad and rose steadily through different ranks. He organized the Nation’s Detroit Temple as an assistant minister, established the Boston Temple, run other temples in Harlem and Philadelphia and recruited many black people to the NOI. It’s during his time that the population of NOI grew from 5,000 in the early 1950’s to more than 70,000 in the early 60’s. Due to his work, his meteoric rise and his pro-communist stance, he became a marked man on the FBI’s list who trailed him from his early years of working with the NOI. Malcom X would later become the Nation’s national spoke’s person, a rank just below the Nation’s supreme leader. He would eventually fallout with the Nation of Islam and form the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) to continue advocating for the rights of Black Americans.

Pio Gama Pinto was the “glue” that held together the different factions fighting for independence in Kenya. He was the nexus between the Mau Mau fighters and the trade union movements, Asian Lawyers battling in the court for the release of Mau Mau detainees, the international community in solidarity with the liberation struggle and other sympathisers. He was a brilliant brain and he prefered working in the background without attracting any attention or seeking credit for the sacrifices he made. Pio made sure the needs of the families left behind by fighters were catered for by donating whatever money he had and also mobilizing for resources needed by the fighters. Pio made sure his friends outside the country such as Joseph Murumbi and the lawmakers in Britain’s House of Commons knew the violations going on in the country under the colonial government. 

After Kenya got its independence in 1963, Pinto was instrumental in founding the Lumumba Institute which was an ideological training ground for Kenya African National Union’s (KANU) cadres. This was to impart the right ideology to new cadres of the independent party and the nascent state which needed leaders with ideological clarity to ‘jump start’ the cultural and socio-economic slump caused by colonialism. It is owing to this organising prowess that he became a nominated MP. 

BEYOND THEIR BORDERS

Although Dedan Kimathi was confined to the forest during the struggle for independence, his spirit of organizing an armed struggle against a major European power inspired other armed struggles and leaders in Africa. The Mau Mau movement accelerated the pace of nationalism beyond its borders. Nelson Mandela was inspired by the Mau Mau movement and he considered Dedan Kimathi his hero. After his release from prison after 27 years, he visited Kenya to pay respect at Kimathi’s grave site which unfortunately never happened as Kenyatta’s and Moi’s governments had not shown any interest in locating Kimathi’s burial site. Mandela also hoped to meet Kimathi’s widow; Mukami and General Waruhiu Itote (Gen. China). His legacy has continued to inspire generations across Africa decades after his death. As an African Icon, some busy streets and roads in African cities have been named after him such as in Mpumalanga in South Africa, Lusaka in Zambia and Kampala in Uganda.

Malcom X was a black nationalist supremacist when he was serving under the Nation of Islam. He had a very anti-whites’ stance due to the radical teachings of Elijah. However, this changed after his pilgrimage to Mecca and his subsequent international forays that followed, more so in Africa. Between 1959 and 1964, he made four trips to Africa meeting African Intellectuals such as Maya Angelou, addressed university students in West Africa, addressed the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and met with African leaders such as Julius Nyerere, Oginga Odinga, Pio Gama Pinto and Abdel Nasser among others. By 1964, he had changed from a Black Nationalist to a Pan-Africanist. Through his influence, he tried to rally African leaders on the same course against imperialism which was manifested in US by the racist police and was same by the French in Algeria as well as other places with black people. Though he never lived long to achieve his dream, he made bold steps in bringing African leaders together. He was also in solidarity with the Palestinian masses fighting against Israel’s apartheid. 

If internationalism could be personified, then it would come in the persona of Pio Gam Pinto. Pio launched his ‘career’ when he was still 17. He organized workers to oppose Portuguese rule in Goa. This placed him on the spot with the colonial government. Escaping to Kenya, he never took time to let the dust settle as he carried the same vigour with him and started fighting the British rule in Kenya. At the same time, he supported other African Countries fighting Portuguese rule such as Angola, Mozambique, Guinea and Cape Verde. His dream was to see Africa as a whole free from the colonial yoke. Just like his new found friend, Malcom X, he never lived to see this dream fulfilled.

THE UNTIMELY DEATHS; HANGMAN’S NOOSE AND THE ASSASSINS’ BARRELS

Dedan Kimathi was arrested on 21st October 1956 after being shot on his limb. He was placed on a stretcher where he was taken to prison. To demoralize other fighters in the forest, the colonial government distributed tens of thousands of leaflets bearing the picture of a frail Kimathi on a stretcher. This was a psychological war to the fighters as they thought by capturing the ‘mastermind’ of the uprising, they would bring the whole organization to its knees. His life was cut short through the hangman’s noose on the morning of February 18th 1957 at Kamiti Maximum Prison and he was buried in an undisclosed location. Before his execution, he was allowed to see his wife Mukami Kimathi to bid her farewell. His last words were full of optimism and demonstrated the commitment he had for the liberation struggle. His last words were, “I have no doubt in my mind that the British are determined to execute me. I have committed no crime. My only crime is that I am a Kenyan revolutionary who led a liberation army… Now if I must leave you and my family, I have nothing to regret about. My blood shall water the tree of independence.” True to his words, his blood watered the seeds of more liberation fighters who continued to join the liberation army after his death. This culminated with the independence and hoisting of The Kenyan Flag to replace The Union Jack in 12th December 1963.

Like Dedan Kimathi and other fighters, its better to die on our feet rather than on our knees.

As Malcom X rose to national and international limelight, he made both friends and foes. His radical messages which were mostly anti-white made him a target for the CIA and FBI. He was also trailed by the New York Police after he had an altercation with them when he still served under the NOI. His path crossed powerful government officials and white supremacists. He was also targeted by the Nation of Islam after the acrimonious fallout and the subsequent revelations he made about Elijah. Malcom X was assassinated on February 21st 1965 in Manhattan, New York as he prepared to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Audubon Ballroom. He died of multiple gunshots.

Let’s always stand for truth, no matter who tells it. Let’s stand for justice no matter who it is for or against.

Most African countries were granted their independence in the 1960’s and 70’s when a wave of liberation was sweeping across the continent. During this time, the new formed states found themselves at the crossroad of the west’s capitalism and liberalism and the East’s socialism and/ or communism. Pinto was a socialist ideologue who believed in redistribution of wealth and land. Jomo Kenyatta chose the capitalist route as a result of his close ties with the colonial government. This clash of ideologies brought the two at loggerheads as Kenyatta had started to reward his relatives and cronies with the pieces of lands that the Mau Mau fighters had sacrificed their lives for. Pinto adamantly opposed this and this led to an altercation between him and Jomo Kenyatta at the Parliament Building where they exchanged bitter words.

At the time, Jomo Kenyatta and Tom Mboya had united and drafted a western–backed Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965 which they claimed was to chart a new “socialist” economic model for the new Kenyan State. As a true socialist, Pinto and his friend, the first vice president of Kenya: Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, started drafting a counter paper. Pinto went ahead to prepare a list of the many pieces of land that Kenyatta had grabbed. This was to be tabled at the floor of parliament and would have resulted in a vote of no-confidence thereby impeaching Kenyatta and doing away with the Sessional Paper. Oginga Odinga learned of the imminent danger to Pinto’s life and took him away to Mombasa for a few days, only for Joseph Murumbi to bring him back to Nairobi hoping that his friendship with Kenyatta would help ‘buy’ safety for his friend Pinto. This did not deter his killers from assassinating him. He was shot severally in his car, just outside his home in Westlands as he was heading out. He died fighting for what he believed in.

In the spirit of Pinto, lets ensure that Kenya’s uhuru (freedom) is not transformed to freedom to exploit, or freedom to be hungry and live in ignorance. Uhuru must be uhuru for the masses – uhuru from exploitation, from ignorance, disease and poverty.

SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT HEROES

The remaining part of my shujaa story is of three committed social justice activities whose lives were cut short by the same system that took our independence heroes. They dedicated their lives in the Third Liberation Struggle which has been characterised by extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances by the police, the shrinking of democratic space, high level corruption, the ever-widening gap between the poor and rich and privatization of basic services such as provision of water and healthcare among other social injustices.

The Social Justice Centres’ Working Group (SJCWG) is an umbrella body of more than sixty social justice centres based in the communities across the country. It was formed early in 2018 when individual grassroots human rights defending centres decided to come together and synergise their efforts on tackling the many injustices in the country and more so in the poor urban areas. The Social Justice Centres Movement has also suffered losses in its 5 years of existence with the lives of three human rights defender (HRD’s) ending in tragic ways. The unfortunate coincidences are that all of them happened in the month of February. It is unfortunate too that they were perpetuated by the ‘savage capitalist’ system we have in place from policing, to institutionalized poverty and privatized healthcare. I choose not to demonize the month which their lives were taken but rather use the same month celebrate the impactful lives they led by setting a precedence for the current and future generations. As the old saying goes, “the richness of life is not through material accumulation, but rather through the impact we make on others’ lives.” Carol ‘Mtetezi’ Mwatha (February 12th 2019), Henry Ekal ‘Turu’ Lober (1977 – February 21st 2021) and Alphonce Genga (February 8th 2000 – February 4th 2022).

Carol ‘MTETEZI’ Mwatha

Carol Mwatha was a mother of two at the time of her tragic demise. She was a vibrant and committed human rights defender (HRD) who dedicated her life to serving the community. She worked to ensure that the streets were safe for the youths who had been a target of police killings, arbitrary arrests, extortion and harassments. She started her activism way before the formation of Dandora Community Justice Centre (DCJC) and she had made an elaborate network with other community organizers, activists and organizations fighting for the same cause. 

The truth about her tragic end will probably never be known due to the manner in which the state agents hastily created what seemed like an obvious cover up and disseminated the story to media houses without reaching out to the family first, as protocol would have demanded. This was a deliberate move to control the narrative that reached the public despite the official statement being very incongruent. Carol Mwatha went missing on 6th February 2019 only to be found at the city morgue on 12th February registered under a wrong name. Her family and friends had been at the same facility on the 8th and 9th of that month and didn’t find her among those that had been brought to the facility from the day she went missing. The police narrative lacked credence from the very beginning. The mortuary attendants failed to disclose the officer in charge on the day she was purportedly brought to the morgue; the postmoterm was unduly delayed, and even then the wrong name was suspiciously entered-  Carolyn Mbeki, and the police went ahead to tip the media of her ‘discovery’ on 12th even before informing the family. The pain and agony was a classical way through which the state police have always prevented justice and truth to follow its course.

Carol was a visionary leader with very good organizational and mobilization skills. The idea of forming a centre in the community was birthed in her house while in an informal meeting with her colleagues that she had hosted. She saw the need to have a community centre to bring different Human Rights Defenders and community organizers in Dandora under one umbrella and speak in one voice. She sat down together with her colleagues from Dandora Community Justice Center and committed to organizing and mobilizing her community against the many social injustices they experienced daily. As a mother, she was highly sensitized to the bringing up her children in a context where injustices were normalized. To this end, she committed to fight extra judicial killings, police extortion, arbitrary arrests and harassment of youths which were and still are a common trend in Dandora and other high density and poor neighbourhoods. She decided to go against a system of injustices that was way older than her, predating Kenya’s independence. She knew what she was standing against but her zeal for a safe Dandora superseded her fears. Alaman James, a long-time friend of Mwatha and a colleague from DCJC opines that she was a frequent visitor at Kwa Mbao Police Post and other police stations in Dandora as she tried to secure colleagues and community members who had been arbitrarily arrested. James recounts how his church friend turned activist spent countless hours without giving up, sometimes going late into the night to police stations and hopping from one organization to another trying to help victims. Her resolve to follow up cases of police killings which were rampant set her against powerful forces which were previously used to acting with complete impunity. The setting up of DCJC in the community definitely sent a strong a message which made these forces very worried and concerned as DCJC would become the eyes and the voice of the community. 

Faith Kasina, another close friend of Mwatha and a co-cordinator of Kayole Community Justice Centre, paints Carol Mwatha as a mother figure to most of her comrades. Despite her lean frame, she had wide shoulders for her colleagues to lean on when they needed her. She was an elder sister, a mother figure to some and a close confidant to many. Faith talks of a comrade who would frequently reach out to her colleagues just to make sure they were okay. Personally, I never met Carol but I have come to ‘interact’ with her through my colleagues. Through her friends’ narratives, I hear a story of a mother hen that stood against a hound or raven knowing very well the odds stuck against it but still mounted a wall to protect its chicks no matter the outcome. Carol Mwatha launched a war against a system of impunity, a system one hundred times larger than her, mightier than her, older than her, but she mounted a defence to protect her children and the community under her wings. With her motherly instincts to protect, she paid the ultimate price with her dear life so that the future generations may live in safe communities.

Following her ever- shinning torch of justice, may we become the eyes and the voices of our communities.

Henry Ekal Lober “Turu” 

On 21st February 2021, we lost another committed comrade. Members of the social justice movement learnt of his death after a six-day search ended with the tragic revelation. Ekal had lost consciousness and was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital. Members of his centre had spent days looking for him with the searches being fruitless without help from the hospital administration. With the lethargy and negligence in our public hospitals and also owing to the fact that he was not accompanied by anyone to the hospital, he was left to the mercy of fate. He succumbed to his condition and died.

Ekal or Turu as he was known by many hailed from Loki in Turkana hence his alias. Just like many in Mathare, Ekal found a second home which he would spend the rest of his years until his demise. He came to Nairobi looking for a promising life after living his pastoralist family hundreds of Kilometres from Nairobi. Mathare welcomed him with open arms, and he ‘fell in love’ with the place, never to return back home.

Ekal had a slurred speech, a limping leg that had become septic overtime due to a wound, and he struggled with both alcoholism and the institutionalised poverty in the ghettos of Nairobi. Despite these, he was a very jovial soul, brutally honest with everyone and coherent when it came to articulating issues of injustices caused by the system. For this, some referred to him as professor. Mary Njeri, one of the administrators at Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), recalls her moments with Ekal with nostalgia. “Even though he struggled with alcoholism, he was smart and very clear when it came to articulating his thoughts and what he envisioned for the community. He always carried a pen and a book for jotting down ideas and reflections and a magazine to read in his free time. I sometime wondered what a drunk man would be scribbling every time and one day out of curiosity, I decided to check his notebook.

I was shocked to learn that Ekal was doing a one-man research on water accessibility in Kosovo, Mathare where he lived. He did all these with zero budget. Despite his flailing health, he would criss-cross the narrow alleys to interview residents on his topic and combine the outcomes. On this particular day, he came straight to Njeri. (below is the conversation that ensued)

Ekal: Mambo Njeri (Hello Njeri)

Njeri: (Nko poa. Na wewe?) I’m fine, what about you? 

Ekal: Nko poa. (I’m fine). Bado uko college? (You are still in College?) Si unajua kutumia computer? (You know how to use a computer?)

Njeri: Eeh, najua kutumia. (Yeah, I know how to).

Ekal: (Unfolding his research papers) (Nataka uni typie hii research nilifanya ya maji.) I would like you type for me my research report on water.”

Njeri was left speechless after going through the content of his research. It was a simple research written in a very congruent manner capturing most aspects of the water crisis. Ekal was proactive when it came to action and chose to do what was needed without waiting for donors to fund his researches. This was the true spirit of an organic community organizer and mobilizer. Apart from this, he always had articles written which he would ask anyone at MSJC to type for him. He was an intellectual that got smothered by the system, slowly sucking his dreams out of him leaving him hollow.

Ekal was a committed member of Bunge La Mwananchi (People’s Parliament). It is from this space where he became friends with Gacheke Gachihi one of the founder members of MSJC. Ekal floated the idea of forming JM Kariuki Social Justice Centre named after JM Kariuki, who was a social justice activist and a politician assassinated during Jomo Kenyatta’s regime. It was from this that MSJC would later be formed in 2014 to document and fight extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other social injustices. 

I came to know Ekal in 2020 at various functions organized by MSJC. In all these meetings, he always created ‘beautiful trouble’ the kind of trouble I call, ‘necessary trouble’. He would not let the meetings to go on without following protocol. He would speak his mind and oppose anything that he deemed not to be in the spirit of social justice. According to Njeri, Ekal wouldn’t hide his disappointments and he would offer his unsolicited criticism and would repeat it over and over until his counsel was heeded. And of course, it was positive criticism. Through this, he was instrumental in MSJC’s growth and by helping his centre not to veer off from its core mandates over the 8 years it has been in existence. As Gacheke Gachihi puts it, “it is through sharpening of contradictions that the movement will remain ideologically grounded without wavering.”

Oyunga Pala, a Kenyan journalist, columnist and an editor teamed up with Ekal and became committed members of the Mathare Green Movement where they embarked on an ambitious project to clean and green Mathare together with others. Hailing from the arid areas of Turkana in North Western Kenya, Ekal understood very well the role trees play in our ecology. He invested his time in increasing the tree cover of Mathare knowing very well that most of the trees wouldn’t benefit him personally but would serve the generations to come. They went ahead to transform some garbage sites and polluted areas into little ‘paradises’ in shanties with rusty tin roofs. These small parks serve as oases of hope in Mathare giving us a sneak preview of the Mathare Futurism dream that Ekal believed in. In his final tribute to Ekal, Oyunga Pala describes the futuristic dream that Ekal saw for Mathare; the future where youths could shape their destinies by being proactive in shaping and charting a new path full of hope. Ekal was one of the few comrades who was proactive, pragmatic, brutally honest, committed to the struggle and a jovial soul. He always strived to rise above the system’s dragnets stifling him. This is my ode to Ekal.

May the homeless birds from the wilderness find a tree to perch on in Mathare, 

from a restless journey may they find home, an oasis of peace and comfort. 

May your trees be home to thousands of homeless birds, 

ejected from their ancestral homes due to ecological disruption and other injustices. 

May your trees clean the foul air in Mathare, 

the foul air of ethnicity, crime, despair and hopelessness

 and breathe out fresh air rich in hope, a brighter future and common goal of prosperity.

May the roots of your trees hold together the soil of Mathare, 

the soil with the blood of Mau Mau and many slain youths. 

May that rich history be held together by the roots of your trees. 

May that soil never be eroded or washed away. 

Let your trees hold the rich history for us and for the future generations. 

‘We cannot fail to criticize ourselves when we are oppressing each other while the government is also oppressing us.’ In the spirit of Ekal, lets create those beautiful troubles, those necessary troubles for the sake of a better future.

ALPHONCE GENGA

On 4th February 2022, the Social Justice Centres’ Movement was thrown into yet another deep mourning after the sudden death of Comrade Alphonce Genga. Alphonce was a 21-year old comrade of Githurai Social Justice Centre (GSJC) whose demise occurred 4 days to his 22nd Birthday. He was a dedicated Human Rights Defender (HRDs) who joined GSJC in 2021. 

Brian Mathenge, a close friend and a colleague to Comrade Alphonce at both GSJC and CPK Youth League, paints a picture of a young, vibrant comrade fresh from school, who decided make an impact in his community rather than follow youthful passions which is a common trend for young people of his age. He chose the unfamiliar route; to commit his life to protect the weak, the marginalized, the voiceless and the poor in our country. Within a year, Alphonce was a powerhouse in the HRD’s circles due to his sincere commitment to the struggle. He used art to reach out to more community members and to educate, organise and mobilize.

Alphonce would later join Mau Mau Study Cell organized in Githurai. Through the ideological grounding classes, he attended, he joined the Communist Party of Kenya Youth League (CPK) where he dedicated his time to reading and understanding Marxist Theory. This sharpened his wits and he would later use the same knowledge to reach more people from his area of residence in Roysambu. He preached and practiced socialism.

Aphonce wore many hats, but if there is one aspect that defined him was his commitment to ecological justice. He took part in the annual climate strike through his involvement in many oyungacountry, he had joined several ecological justice groups such as Eco-Vista, Ecological Justice League, Kasarani Ecological League, Green Jewel Movement and Githurai Green Movement among others. He left an indelible mark that shall keep guiding the future generation towards attainment of ecological justice.

In the short period he had been with GSJC, he had participated in many campaigns and activities such as cases of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and documented these cases in his community. He also advocated for quality and accessible healthcare, food sovereignty and security, quality education for all and good governance. He was a selfless cadre. During his posthumous birthday and celebration of his life, one of his friend confessed that he had quit football, giving up a talent that he had nurtured since childhood so that he could get more time to fight for his community in Githurai. To the struggle, he gave his all and it’s on the line of duty that he lost his life. 

Before his demise, he was full of energy and very vibrant. On the February 2nd 2022, he was involved in a road accident. He suffered an internal head injury and a broken arm. He was rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) where he was left unattended for more than 10 hours yet his was an emergency situation. For more than 10 hours, Alphonce was in pain, his centre members were in panic in the hospital compound. It was only after a confrontation between his friends and the hospital staff that the doctors attended to him although with a lot of lethargy. At the time of his death, his broken arm had not been attended to, more than 36 hours after admission. It was this kind of neglect precipitated by the privatised healthcare system that gradually and painfully squeezed the life out of Comrade Alphonce. The same healthcare system he was fighting to improv became his death knell, cutting his life abruptly short.

It is an agonizing fact which makes one reel with pain to learn that a public national referral hospital such as KNH has a private wing to attend to their well-to-do clientele while the general populace is segregated in general wards without enough medics, nurses, drugs and even beds for inpatients. This becomes like bidding where only the rich get services as they can afford to pay for them while the poor die in droves daily due to neglect. Privatization of the healthcare system in the country has made the whole system to be a for-profit venture rather than taking a human-centric approach that is tailored to prioritise health first before anything else. This commodification of health has reduced our health to ‘service’ that can be bought and its quality varies with the price that one has to pay.

To give a befitting tribute to our fallen comrade, it is the responsibility of every comrade and citizen to demand for a total overhaul of the cartels-ridden healthcare system and replace it with a system that is tailored to serve the people.

In the spirit of Comrade Alphonce Genga, Its NOT YET UHURU until our healthcare is liberated. Let’s ensure we fight for justice, dignified lives and a better healthcare system as Comrade Genga lived doing. 

APPRECIATIONS

This article would never have been possible without the generous contributions by my fellow compatriots:

  1. Alaman James, Adminstrative Coordinator at Dandora Community Justice Centre (DCJC).
  2. Brian Mathenge, Organizing Sec. at CPK Youth League and a founding member of Githurai Social Justice Centre (GSJC).
  3. Faith Kasina, Co-cordinator of Kayole Community Justice Centre (KCJC). 
  4. Mary Njeri, Adminstrative Coordinator at Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

(i). Biography on Malcom X. 1965. The Martin Luther King, Jr Research and Education Institute.

(ii). Donald Barnett, Karari Njama. Mau Mau from Within: The Story of the Land and Freedom Army.

(iii).  Durrani, Shiraz. 2018. Pio Gama Pinto, Kenya’s Unsung Martyr 1927 – 1965. Nairobi: Vita Books.

(iv). Fitz de Souza. 2019. Forward to Independence: My Memoir. Fitzval. R. S. de Souza.

(v). Gacheke Gachihi.2019. Fighting for Justice – Caroline Mwatha Ochieng. ROAPE.

(vi). Kinuthia Ndung’u. 2022. Tribute on Comrade Alphonce Genga.

(vii). Mwangi wa Githumo. 1991. The Truth About the Mau Mau Movement: The Most Popular Uprising in Kenya. Gideon Were Publications.

(viii). Oyunga, Pala. 2021. In Memory of Henry Ekal Lober. Facebook story.

(ix). Sean Jacobs. 2011. When Malcom X Went to Africa. Africa As A Country.

(x). The Star Newspaper. 23rd February, 2019. Two Records of Mwatha Confuse Abortion Theory.

(x). Timeline of Malcom X’s Life. pbs.org

Written by 

Cde. Gathanga Ndung’u,

Political Ed. Coordinator,

Ruaraka Social Justice Centre.

Gathangandungu72@gmail.com

Categories
EJE Campaign Mothers of Victims & Survivors Network

Posters on the ban of non-uniformed police & Probox cars

On October 19, 2021, the network of Mothers of Victims and Survivors in Mathare decided to put up posters around Mlango Kubwa, which informed our community about the official announcement that all police need to be uniformed when making arrests and cannot use unmarked and unofficial cars, like Proboxes, when patrolling.

Proboxes have long been the official vehicle for killer police officers in Mathare and other poor spaces.

The goal of sharing these posters was to spread the news on the ban of the Probox to the members of the community who were not aware. Many members of the community have normalized these types of arrests done by the police.

More specifically, Mlango Kubwa has become a hotspot for police to arrest and harass youth and unfortunately these encounters often result in death or disappearances.

By putting these posters in sheng around Mathare, young members of the Network continue to work to protect and defend their community.

Categories
Organic Intellectuals Network

Pio Gama Pinto Book Launch

On December 12th, 2021, the Organic Intellectuals Network launched their book reflecting on the legacy of Kenyan martyr and revolutionary Pio Gama Pinto.

The book is called: “Kenyan Organic Intellectuals Reflect on the Legacy of Pio Gama Pinto.”

You can find out more about the Organic Intellectuals Network here. And you can purchase the book from Daraja Press here.

Former Chief Justice of Kenya, Willy Mutunga was the guest of honour. You can download his powerful speech here.

Scroll through this post for more photos from the event!