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Mothers of Victims & Survivors Network Papo Reto/Kenya & Brazil Solidarity Solidarity Women in Social Justice Centres

“Killings Get Back, We are Moving Forward” : The Launch of the Network of Mothers of Victims and Survivors of Police Violence

This article was written about the Mother of Victims and Survivors Network launch, and was originally published on RioOnWatch, as part of “ongoing reporting on social struggles around the world that dialogue with the local reality in Rio de Janeiro and offer important points of international comparison. ” We agree with RioOnWatch that “analyzing parallels and showing solidarity for peer communities allows us all to establish connections, share knowledge, build networks of support, and establish a sense of common experience and purpose.”

On February 15, nearly two years after beginning their work, the Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network launched their initiative at the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) in Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya.

The network is composed of close to fifty members from across the city’s low-income settlements—from Kayole, Mathare, Dandora, Mukuru, Kibera and elsewhere—all of whom have come together to seek justice for the killing or brutal victimization of members of their family, usually young men, by the police.

Echoing the struggles of the mothers of political prisoners in Kenya in the early nineties and similar inspirational mobilizations of madres and mães in Argentina and Brazil, the network is primarily composed of women. These are the mothers and wives of victims of extrajudicial killings.

Since 2017, the members of the Network have been coming together to support each other through grief, to offer solidarity in the judicial system for the mothers who have been lucky enough to have their cases reach court, to document new victims, and to strategize collectively. Though throughout this time they have witnessed and continue to experience the imbalances and biases of the Kenyan legal system, the day’s launch was a celebration of the Network’s tedious, painful, and painstaking work: of what they have accomplished and what they will continue to do to ensure justice for their communities.

In 2017, the MSJC, a community-based organization in the urban settlement of Mathare, released a participatory action report on extrajudicial killings in Kenya between 2013-2016. The report, titled “Who is Next?: A Participatory Action Research Report Against the Normalization of Extrajudicial Executions in Mathare,” chronicled the killing of at least 50 young men in Mathare and 803 nationally in the three-year period. While illustrative of the sinister force of the police in the country, most citizens recognize that this documentation is only the beginning. The number represents a minority of those who have been killed in the recent past and filed away as “thugs” or “suspected terrorists.”

Some of the families of the young men killed and documented in this report and other ongoing MSJC documentation are represented in the Network.

Mama Victor, the current coordinator of the Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network, lost her two sons, Victor and Bernard, on the same day in 2017. They were killed, meters apart, by police officers who had invaded Mathare, ostensibly to quell protests provoked by the election results released a day earlier.

In Lucy Wambui’s case, another co-leader of the Network, her husband, Christopher Maina, was killed when she was eight months pregnant with their first child. He was dragged from a building site where he had been working and killed at 2pm on a public street. His killer, a notorious police officer named Rashid, executed one of the witnesses to Maina’s killing a year later. Having also been filmed killing two young men in Eastleigh two months after killing Maina, Rashid continues to work as a police officer. Unjustly vindicated in an irresponsibly biased BBC documentary, this breed of policing reflects that what the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Agnes Callamard called, during her February 2020 visit to Mathare, typical of “serial killers in uniform.”

Another member of the network is Mama Stella, whose son was one of the eight young men killed by the police in April 2016 in Mukuru. Though the media reported that they were “suspected thugs,” two of them were only 16, and one was 17 years old. The group had plans to start a community garbage collection business.

One of the youngest members of the network is 19-year-old Mso from Mathare, who has had two partners killed by the police in the same year. She is now left to care for two young sons in the same settlement where her husbands were killed.

While their family members are killed at whim, these women are unable to seek justice from government organizations such as the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA). According to its own “End-Term Board Report 2012 -2018,” the IPOA has only managed three convictions out of the 9878 cases it received during that period—just as in Brazil, the vast majority of these cases remain under endless investigation. And yet, against the injustice of these conditions, the Network has continued to grow.

These women know that the killing of their family members is only one extreme outcome in a continuum of structural violence that features, among other things: lack of access to water, poor schools, inadequate health care, and the militarization of their homes. “Children being killed like kukus [chicken],” said one mother.

They also know that the government’s informally formalized “shoot to kill” policy is reserved for spaces like theirs. Wealthy areas of the city see no such policing.

For this reason, these mothers came together on February 15 wearing red shirts to represent the[ir] “blood that had been shed.” On the back of these shirts were only three words: “justice for victims.”

Together they sang and danced and marched determinedly, expressing how the[ir] “fire had been lit” [moto imewaka], while dedicating time to plant trees in memory of those they had lost.

As these trees grow and are taken care of in a community that is governed by environmental apartheid, they will stand as symbols of residents’ struggle for justice. They will exist in opposition to a status quo, planted in a moment of change co-catalyzed when these mothers got up and said: “killings get back, we are moving forward.”

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Social Justice Centres Working Group

The Social Justice Centres Press Statement on the Corona Virus Situation in Kenya

Kenyans, the majority who cannot afford to work or home or don’t have enough water or any hand sanitizers, are struggling with the restrictions brought about by the Corona virus situation. See a statement from the Social Justice Centers Working Group below.

18 March 2020

THE SOCIAL JUSTICE CENTERS PRESS STATEMENT ON CORONA VIRUS SITUATION IN KENYA 

The Social Justice Centers Working Group wants to join Kenyans in commending the Kenyan Government in the steps they have taken to try and contain the spread of Covid 19 although not as timely as Kenyans would have wished for. When Kenyans pushed for the cancellation of flights and better preparation in the event the pandemic hit the country, the government in its style and fashion dismissed the concerns of its citizens. We now find ourselves in a precarious position where restriction of movement and observation of the health guidelines could mean financial disability and starvation for the larger majority with no clear good will from the government on how to tackle this. 

While we appreciate the efforts that are now in place, the Social Justice Centers Working Group is deeply concerned by the practicability of the health measures put in place. The informal settlements that are densely populated are almost between a rock and a hard place because the guidelines put out are not anything they can abide to even if their lives depended on it. 

In his address to the Nation, the president advised citizens to work from home except those offering essential services. While essential services might mean different things depending on which side of the divide you come from (the haves and the have not’s). A simple interpretation on the ground in the informal settlements means no means of survival. Mama mboga is essential service, public toilets are essential services, water vending are essential services, hawking is an essential service because such are the wheels that drive our economies in the informal settlements and working from home is not an option. A day in the house for most people living in the informal settlements means a day without a meal on the table. Such blatant disconnection from the common mwananchi and their reality shows a failed government. We hereby demand that the government offer alternatives to the millions of Kenyans who are casual laborers and depend on daily earnings for survival. 

The saving grace in this pandemic has been ensuring we observe hygiene. The ministry of health has been in the front line championing for the use of sanitizers and hand washing yet has not given a sustainable solution to the more than 80% of people living in the informal settlements with no access to water and cannot afford the hand sanitizers. The assumption that all Kenyans can access water and soap is not only ignorant but careless and we demand that the government now shows more seriousness in combating this pandemic by supplying all Kenyans who cannot afford these essentials. 

In this regard we demand that the government: 

1. Restore water supply to all the estates and slums and crack down on all water cartels extorting citizens. 

2. Speedily dispatch water tankers to areas that have no running water and depend on water points that are congested and expensive. 

3. Provide free or subsidized hand sanitizers clearly marked by the MOH. 

4. Equip government health centers with testing kits, trained personnel and ambulances to be able to handle emergency cases. 

5. The government must control the prices of basic commodities to ensure most Kenyans can afford, give relief food to those who cannot afford. 

Lastly, the public is in panic and very little education is being given to allay fears and to assure Kenyans of their preparedness. The constitution of Kenya gives Kenyans the right to information and yet the government has largely depended on digital platforms to spread the message disregarding the reality that not everyone is tech savvy or on digital platforms. Mass public health education must be rolled out if we are to fight this pandemic successfully. 

In the fight for social justice and equity, access to affordable and good healthcare has been one of the core campaigns of the Social justice working group. Through participatory action research and robust lobbying, we have severally pushed for better health care in public hospitals and it is very unfortunate that Kenyans now suffer because of an irresponsible and corrupt government that has brought the health care sector to its knees. We call upon the government to live out the mandate given to it by Wanjiku to serve them diligently, without discrimination or alienation. People from the informal settlements and Kenya at large deserve a dignified life. It is their right. 

The Social Justice Centers Working Group will on its part continue to Organize, Educate, and Liberate until we are a Social Justice Nation.

A Luta Continua. 

Signed 

WILFRED OLAL 

CONVENER, 

SOCIAL JUSTICE CENTERS WORKING GROUP. 

ON BEHALF OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE. 

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Reflections on Working with the Community: My Experience from 15 Years of Social Justice Work in Kenya

In early February, our coordinator, Gacheke Gachihi, was invited to the East African Public Interest Advocate Training in Arusha to reflect on his over 15 years experience in community organizing, and how he has contributed to public interest in this work. Below is the speech he prepared for this training, and that can help us as community organizers reflect on social justice movement organizing and how it can be complemented by public interest litigation.

Reflections on Working with the Community: Experience from 15 Years of Social Justice Work in Kenya

East Africa Public Interest Advocate Training Program – Arusha, February 2 2020

By Gacheke Gachihi: Coordinator Mathare Social Justice Centre and Member of the Social Justice Centre Working Group.

Greetings. I would like to thank the East Africa Public Interest Litigation Program for inviting me to speak and share my experience as a community organizer and social justice activist from Kenya. It is a great honor for me to speak to lawyers and advocates in the region, and it is a great idea to include community organizing reflections in this public interest litigation training.

In East Africa, the democratic and political space for civic engagement and public interest work is eroding in a dramatic way. The governments of Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda have extended presidential terms limits and curtailed rights to organize for social justice and for opposition.

Kenya is struggling with a failed democratic transition, even after passing a new constitution in 2010. Tanzania is experiencing rising cases of police brutality against vocal human rights defenders and political activists, and the limiting of rights to organize and assemble peacefully, all which erode civic engagement and the struggle for social justice. The complex situation of an economic crisis and a shrinking democratic space demands robust community engagement: active public interest litigation to defend human rights and social justice that is linked to grassroots political and social justice movements.

In my 15 years experience in community organizing, I have been using public interest litigation as a tool to expand democracy, and fight for human rights and social justice.  In 2000 – 2001, I worked as an intern at the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), and was monitoring and documenting human violations cases to contribute to a database of torture cases, as part of the Litigation Fund Against Torture Fund (LIFAT). This was a project that was created by People Against Torture (PAT) and Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) so as to bring about public interest cases against torture. Later, I worked with the Independent Medico-Legal Unit as a field officer in the legal department from 2005-2010. We bailed out victims of torture and human rights defenders.

 

In 2015, I co-founded, with other social justice activists based in Mathare, Mathare Social justice Centre. This is a grassroots community based organization, which was created to  address the issues of social injustice and human rights violations, and has since inspired vibrant social justice centres in Kenya today.

In collective struggles, we have worked with Katiba Institute and other civil society organizations to file many public interest cases in the judiciary, as part of fighting for social justice and demanding the implementation of the constitution, especially the enforcement of the Bill of Rights — Chapter 4 of the constitution. One example is Petition 323 of 2014, that quashed the malicious prosecution against myself and three other activists who are part of the leadership of social justice centres. Another case was the petition to stop the election in 2017.

The path of public interest litigation has allowed for the growth and formation of grassroots social justice centres.

Social Justice Movement

The Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCWG) is the collective leadership of 24 social justice centres and social justice activists across the country, and that was formed in 2017. It was launched during the Saba Saba March for our Lives in 2018, at the historic Kamukunji Grounds. It is composed of those who have come together to pursue social justice through  forming registered community based organizations that are referred to as social justice centres. These centres have created more civic spaces to convene the grassroots social justice movement, and in this spaces the focus is community organizing, the documentation of human rights violations, conducting a number of important campaigns, writing petitions and the referral of cases for redress to relevant authorities.

 

The Social Justice Centre Working Group (SJCWG) in Kenya is led by a steering committee of elected officials with a mandate to coordinate and connect the centres that are unified under the banner of the the Social Justice Centre Working Group. The working group is critical as it helps to consolidate and amplify the efforts of the various centres, and solidify the impact by working together in defense of social justice and human rights.

The SJCWG comprises of two representatives from each social justice centre. The SJCWG envisions a democratic state in Kenya founded on social justice and human rights for all. Its mission is to organize, educate and liberate, particularly the residents of the informal settlements. It also works to build their agency, empower them and amplify their voices in response to the social injustices and human rights violations they face on a daily basis.

History of the Social Justice Centre Working Group

Mathare Social Justice Centre led to the emergence of several social justice centres in Dandora, Githurai, Kayole, Mukuru, Ruaraka, Kiambiu, Kariobangi, Makadara, and several others in informal settlements in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. The Social Justice Centre Working Group opposes the dehumanization and oppression of the urban poor in Nairobi. And in 2017, over 500 residents from these neighborhoods, together with some members of civil society, marched to Kamukunji grounds. The Saba Saba March for Our Lives borrows its name from the Saba Saba Day public rally held on July 7 1990, at the Kamukunji Grounds, to protest former president Moi’s undemocratic rule, and press for constitutional reform by agitating for the repealing of section 2A of the constitution that would allow for the reintroduction of the multiparty system.

The social justice movement has helped to foster unity in the community, and this is based on the constitution of Kenya and a belief in human rights.

Objectives of the centres include: 

  • Build a unified social justice movement in Kenya to rescue the failed democratic transition, and create alternative political leadership for our social and economic liberation
  • To activate community agency on matters of human rights and social justice
  • To build solidarity among social justice centres
  • Organize joint campaigns, petitions and solidarity marches on cross cutting grassroots and national issues
  • Empower communities to advocate for their own justice and human rights
  • To expand the democratic civic space
  • To consolidate the efforts and gains made by the work of grassroots human rights defenders

How to form a social justice centre

The foundation of social justice movement building is first and foremost friendship. The camaraderie is vital as it guards against self-interest and opportunism among the members. The second is organizing protests against human rights violations, and documentation of the same in your area. The third is to establish a civic space for community organizing, participatory action research and community dialogues through the formation of social justice centres, and finally to anchor all the efforts in participatory action research.

  • Make friends with your community members through civic actions
  • Invite friends to informal discussions and debates about local and national issues at your home or neutral place in your community hall
  • Agree on an action plan on local issues that need action or intervention e.g. community security forums, the environment, CDF, local political leadership, drug abuse, participate in community based groups, youth and women groups, progressive political parties and social forums
  • Recruit members to the social justice movement in your area through active participation in activities that advance the agenda of social change, link the local struggle to the national and international struggles
  • Ensure constant civic engagement is maintained and make the community social justice centre a home for convening and organizing social movements in your area.
  • Register the community based organization with the sub -county social development office in your area.

The vision of the Social Justice Centres Working Group

The vision of the Social Justice Centres Working Group is to continue with the struggle for democracy and social justice: to build a socially just and democratic state with a mission to organize, educate and liberate the masses

Structure of the SJCWG

 

Achievements

  1. Saba Saba March for Our Lives in 2018 and 2019.
  2. Social Justice Centres National Congress in 2019
  3. Rapid growth of social justice centres across the country
  4. Through consistent and vigorous campaigns against extrajudicial killings, we have been able to give the crisis the weight and attention it deserves, stirring the nation to solution-oriented conversation around this injustice
  5. We have been able to give the victims of violations the courage, support, voice and platform to seek redress
  6. We have successfully engaged duty bearers and formed progressive working relations
  7. Through the documentation of human rights violations and linking the community to agencies and organizations that help them pursue justice, more people have been encouraged to come out and seek justice for violations against them, restoring hope for the rule of law
  8. We have managed to turn the community into human rights defenders and advocates for social justice
  9. Through mentorship and engaging the youth in activities and dialogues against crime, we have been able to change reformed youths to human rights defenders
  10. We have been able to tell stories and advocate for change through our campaign: arts for social justice.

Email: socialjusticecentreswg@gmail.com

Moblie: +254720318049

  1. http://roape.net/2019/04/05/kenyas-war-against-the-poor-an-interview-with-gacheke-gachihi/

 

 

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Mothers of Victims & Survivors Network Launch, February 15 2020

 

The Mothers of Victims & Survivors Network will be launched on February 15, 2020. This is a network composed, primarily, of mothers and wives of victims of extrajudicial killings. They have been doing a lot of work over the past two years: supporting each other through court cases, documenting new victims, and strategizing together. This launch is a celebration of the work they have been doing and will continue to do so to make sure they can get justice for the many families whose members have been killed by the police. Come and support them at Mathare Social Justice Centre, on February 15 2020, between 10 am – 1 pm. Your solidarity will be much appreciated.

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Celebration of Shujaa Yash Ghai on Mashujaa Day — October 20 2019

Sunday 20/10/2019 marks the National Mashujaa Day. This is a day when the Kenyan people collectively honour all those who have contributed and continue to contribute towards achieving a better and more just Kenya.

The bulk of the population regard ‘a better Kenya’ to be one that has equity and social justice.

We from the Social Justice Centres mark this day as a celebration of resistance, the memorialization of struggle and a collective gesture of Ubuntu.

The work and life of Professor Yash Pal Ghai epitomizes the undying spirit that flames our hope for a better Kenya. He is our elder, our uncle, our teacher and our friend, and on this day we will celebrate him not only as the founding father of the Kenyan Constitution, but also as our comrade.

Yash has remained committed to the struggle of the people of Kenya at all levels: whether through making a progressive constitution or through being a strong supporter of the social justice centres and the struggles of all marginalized peoples in Kenya and beyond.

Yash and Jill Ghai remain, in particular, our pillar at Mathare Social Justice Centre. In Mathare and in other ghettos we honour him and will continue to honour him for being one with us in our struggle for dignity and justice. He has marched with us on the streets against extrajudicial killings, he has raised his voice against corruption, he always has a word and a kind gesture for our children and is always ready to challenge impunity.

We will celebrate him on October 20th, from 11 am, at Mathare Social Justice Centre, and from 3 pm together with the Defenders Coalition at Alliance Francaise.

Viva Yash! He is our hero and is a reflection of the true spirit of a real Shujaa!

 

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Rethinking Transitional Justice As A Site of Social Justice Struggles

By Gacheke Gachihi

“A small but powerful group of greedy self-seeking elite in the form of politicians, civil servants, and businessmen has steadily but very surely monopolized the fruits of independence to the exclusion of the majority of the people. “

We don’t want to create a Kenya of ten millionaires and ten million beggars” 

JM Kariuki, who was assassinated in 1975 by the Kenyatta regime, speaking in parliament on economics and social justice

Kenya has history of betrayal since independence, as the quote from JM Kariuki, who was assassinated in 1975  by the Kenyatta regime, states. It is a regime of political injustices and the betrayal of the struggle of independence by Mau Mau freedom fighter; theirs was a struggle for land and social justice. After the collapse of the International Criminal Court cases,  and the 2017 divisive election and post- election violence, we are back again in the transitional justice discourse. This time it is transitional justice through “national dialogue” led by religious leaders. This process is  named “reconciling and restoring Kenya through structured dialogue,” which is conducted as part of rescuing the stalled democratic transition. The  so-named dialogue was held at Ufungamano House from 11 – 13th September 2018. Ufungamano is a venue that has played a historical role in the struggle for democratic transition since the 1990 push for multi-party democracy, which was convened by interfaith religious leaders. There was also the Peoples Commission on Constitutional Reform Movement in 2001, that shaped a path for the opposition unity under the National  Rainbow Coalition of Kenya (NARC) Party. NARC had brought in a reformist government, led by former opposition leader Mwai Kibaki in 2002, and also brought about a new constitution in 2010, which was necessary after the political violence of 2007.

The religious leaders through the National Dialogue Conference (NDC 1) are trying to restart the process following the calm that has been triggered by the famous “handshake” between the President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition Leader Raila Odinga. “In the recent past Kenya has witnessed  several events that have changed the pathway the nation is walking on following the 2017 general elections. One of the the major events was the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Hon. Raila Odinga.”  This is a quote from NDC 1 booklet. In addition, there is also a renewed drive for the fight against corruption, seen in the appointment of a new Director of Public prosecutions. The above quote speaks about a struggle to rescue a failed democratic transition over last two decades, and the pitfall of the constitutional reforms process in Kenya that tried to resolve the complex question of historical injustices and the land question through a limited human rights discourse that advocates for a liberal democratic transition and international criminal law (as happened with Kenya ICC cases in 2007-2008).

On  May 28, 2018, the Center for African Studies in Cambridge University organized activist scholars to reflect on “Rethinking Transitional Justice from African Perspectives.” This was a reflection on the potentials and pitfalls of human rights and transitional justice in Africa through grassroots social justice perspectives from Uganda, Somalia and Kenya. I participated in these discussions as the coordinator of  Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) and a member of the grassroots social justice movement. It was my objective to bring a perspective from the social justice centres in Kenya, towards rethinking transitional justice from below, and the possibilities of creating alternative political leadership by ending the cycles of ethnic violence and building a collective political and social identity in the struggle for a democratic state founded on social justice and dignity.

My reflections during this process was that transitional justice is a site of struggle for people to reclaim their dignity and social justice from histories of political violence and social injustices. This site of struggle has created a path for the social justice movement in Mathare and other informal settlements in Kenya to fight against the normalization of extra-judicial killings,  to demand their right to water, healthcare, education and housing for all as part restorative justice.

Mathare Social Justice Centre is a site to rethink transitional justice from below, through the social justice movement. As we do this we also combine efforts for ecological justice, organized around Mathare Green Movement, to plant trees as part of the memorialization of victims of post-election violence and extra-judicial killings, which occur every election cycle especially in Mathare and other urban poor areas in Kenya.

The Mathare Green Movement gives the urban poor youth and women affected by post-election violence a civic space for reflection and political education. It allows them to organize and regain their dignity, gain ecological justice and fight against a victimhood narrative framed by human rights NGOs in Kenya. This is a narrative that is framed by an international criminal law perspective that has been imposed by human rights and  legal scholars to resolve complex historical injustices and ethnic politics in Kenya since independence. My reflections at Cambridge university were grounded to challenge the limitations of a human rights discourse and liberal democratic transition. By building a path for a social justice movement that can demand reparations for victims of political violence; by ending a history of political violence, demanding restorative justice to victims of land injustices and longer intervention through a democratic state founded on social justice, people participation can address historical injustices and create a path for social and political justice and healing. The Social Justice Centres Working Group is part of the Kenya transitional justice network and the police reforms working group. All Social Justice Centres — from  Kayole, Mathare, Mukuru, Dandora, Korogocho, Githurai and elsewhere — have  been participating in police reforms through attending national security conferences and police reform dialogues  convened by the Ministry of Interior and the coordination of the national government. This process was launched by the president on 13 September  2018, at Kenya School of Government  in Kabete. The participation of the Social Justice Centres Working Group was part of the demand for police reforms  and our longstanding campaign against the normalization of police killings. These demands were part of the petition we delivered to the government during our March For Our lives on Saba Saba day,  7 July 2018, as we demanded for an end to police killings and urgent radical police reform. During the national security conference, which I attended as a convener of the Social Justice Centre Working Group, the president made a number of declarations. He placed the administration police, regular units and other security agencies under one command structure of the inspector general. This was done to create public accountability and the efficient deployment of personnel and resources. This was after protests and demand for police reforms by civil society and grassroots social movements. Article 238(2) (b) of the constitution provides for national security to be pursued within the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The police power to use force comes with responsibilities that must not be abused, as is happening in our urban poor areas and informal settlements like Mathare, Dandora, Kayole, Mukuru and many other places. After the security conference we issued a joint statement in support of the declaration, which we believe sends a clear message to all officers that are involved in unlawful killings and misconduct that they will be held personally responsible for their actions. Our  demand in the petition is also for the task force to review cases submitted to the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) by the Social Justice Centre Working Group, since it is their job to prosecute all unlawful actions by security agencies.

On 29th August 2018, the international day for the commemoration of victims of enforced disappearances, we participated again in the security  sector reforms and national dialogue process meeting convened by the International Centre for Truth and Justice, as part of shaping and rethinking transitional justice from below, and framing a narrative of transitional justice through social and ecological justice. We are also building a movement of  victims and survivors in the struggle of transitional justice, so as to challenge the limits of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) established by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. We believe that it is a compromise by political elites and sectarian political interests to amend the constitution passed in 2010,  against the national interest of building a democratic state founded on social justice and human rights for all.

The Social Justice Centres Working Group is a collective leadership of registered community based organizations social justice centres established as  within poor areas of Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa and now Kampala. The grassroots social justice movement formed around the social justice centre model pioneered by Mathare Social Justice Centre, and intends to create a collective voice for grassroots human rights defenders and social justice activists concerned with issues relating to human rights violations and social injustices. The main objective is to build a social justice movement and the community solidarity necessary to contest and organize against the normalization of extra-judicial killings and all injustices.

The founding membership of Social Justice Centres Working Group includes Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), Dandora Community Justice Centre, Kayole Social Justice Centre, The Kamukunji Youth Empowerment Network,  Githurai Social Justice Centre, Korogocho Information and Justice Centre, Dagoretti Social Justice Centre, Kibera Feminist and Information Centre, Kiambiu Information and Justice Centre and Kariobangi Social justice Centre

In the last three decades the global North has imposed a liberal democratic transition model to resolve democratic governance crises in the South, and the pitfalls of this have exposed the limitation of a liberal democratic transition anchored on human rights theory and international human rights law. It has also failed to resolve historical, political and social injustices or put an end to the political and ethnic violence in Kenya. The social justice movement through the collective grassroots voice is rethinking transitional justice from a social justice perspective. One example of this, is that between March – April 2018, every Tuesday of the week Mathare Social Justice Centre convened meetings with community organizers and social activists to rethink the struggle of transitional justice, and to campaign against the normalization of extra- judicial killings as part of demanding accountability from Kenya police, and bringing historical justice to the victims of post-election violence of the last two decades. These convenings created a path for the first Saba Saba March For Our Lives that was in memory of the pro-democracy struggles in Kenya in 1990, and was a platform to demand accountability against the normalization of extra-judicial killings in informal settlements. These killings are a manifestation of the inherently violent neoliberal economic policies that have exposed millions of young people to the social injustice of police killings, mainly of of youth between age 13-24 years.

References

  1. Reforms will Create Accountability  https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2018/09/14/reforms-willl-create-accountability_c1818441
  2. Monopolizing Global Justice: International  Criminal Law as a Challenge to Human Diversity,  Sarah M.H and Wounter G Werner
  3. Our Economic Political Problems are linked: https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/analysis/columnists/Our-economic–political-problems-are-linked/4259356-4786730-rjk9k8/index.html
  4. Alarm as police kill 24 people in 21 days in Nairobi: https://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2018/11/08/alarm-as-police-kill-24-people-in-21-days-in-nairobi_c1847114
  5. In Kenya, grassroots efforts combat alleged police abuses https://mol.im/a/6580833 via @MailOnline
  6. https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/article/2001308391/how-slum-residents-are-fighting-extrajudicial-killings

 

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Reflections on the 2019 Pan African Women’s Day at MSJC

By Lena Anyuolo

On 9th August 2019, women in the Social Justice Centres, university students and children of Mathare gathered in the hall at Mathare Social Justice Centre to commemorate Pan-African Women’s Day.  The day was significant because sixty three years ago, on 9th August, 20,000 South African women led by Lilian Ngoyi, Lilian Joseph, Rahima Moosa, and Sophia Williams marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest the oppressive pass laws. The law required that native black South Africans carry an ‘internal passport’. This pass would determine which areas blacks were permitted to live and work in. It was similar to the kipande system in Kenya during British colonial rule. 9th August is now a public holiday in South Africa, celebrated as National Women’s Day in honour of these heroines.

The theme of the day was ‘Discussions on Building a Vibrant Women’s Movement’. The program consisted of  the screening of the documentary film, ‘Taking Root’ , which is a biographical account of Wangari Maathai’s political and environmental activism. Afterwards, the forum was opened up for discussion on the lessons we drew from the film. Collectively, we were inspired by Wangari Maathai’s courage and persistence in defending the forests, public land and the environment, and her activism in the Release Political Prisoners Campaign when she led mothers and wives of political prisoners in peaceful protests for the unconditional release of their loved ones. The protests took place at Freedom Corner in Uhuru Park and later at the underground bunkers in All Saints Cathedral for 8 months.

The speakers of the day were Njoki Wamai, a professor of political science at USIU. She gave a talk on the history of women’s resistance in Africa by sharing the stories of Mekatilli, Muthoni Nyanjiru and Winnie Mandikizela and Queen Nzinga.

Julie Wanjira, the convenor of the Women in Social Justice Centres and a member of Mathare Social Justice Centre, led the session on reflections on revolutionary African Women who are a source of inspiration for the men in the gathering. Josina Machel, Winnie Mandikizela, Lilian Ngoyi, Faith Kasina (Kayole Social Justice Centre) and Carol Mwatha (Dandora Social Justice Centre) were remembered, honoured and celebrated.

This was followed by reflections by the women representing the various groups at the gathering (the Social Justice Centres and university students) on their experiences in the movement in the struggle for social justice and liberation. Representatives from Kiamaiko, Kariobangi, Mathare, Mukuru, Kariobangi, Kayole, Dandora and Komarock Social Justice Centres and the Revolutionary Socialist League all gave their reflections.

A solidarity statement from RICT was read by Irene Asuwa. The Embassy of Venezuela in Kenya sent their greetings which were delivered by Fredrick Kasuku.

The final session was for resolutions. It was agreed that every month, the women in the Social Justice Centres, through their representatives, would organise a women focused political engagement. This could be a documentary screening, community dialogue or political class/discussion with the aim of radically politicising the movement to fight for social justice and liberation. Secondly, the representatives were to give feedback on the social justice issues they face in their communities, and use these as the basis of organising the women in the communities so as to build a strong Pan African Women’s Movement.

The original Pan-African Women’s Day is marked worldwide on 31st July. The Pan African Women’s Day was organised by the women in the social justice centers and the Revolutionary Socialite League. See pictures below from this day.

 

 

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Social Justice Centres Social Justice Centres Working Group Solidarity

Social Justice Centre Working Group (SJCWG) meeting with Andrew Gilmour: Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

On May 13 2019 Social Justice Centre Working Group representatives met with Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and head of OHCHR in Nairobi Marcella Favretto. They met at MSJC, and also in attendance were families of victims of extrajudicial killings.

Overview of the Discussion:

  • MSJC members explained the history, development and recent growth of the Social Justice Centre Movement.
  • Brief summary of the movement’s aims and current work being undertaken locally.
  • Andrew Gilmour presented with MSJC’s most recent reports – “Maji Ni Haki” and “Who Is Next?”
  • Successes mentioned, including – the recent conviction of police officers in Ruaraka and the new women-led Kayole Social Justice Centre.
  • Social Justice Centres in attendance identified and Social Justice Centres Working Group structure explained.
  • Main challenges explained, including – threats of violence against Social Justice Centre volunteers, lack of government action, youth stereotyping and the criminalization of poverty.

Main requests put forward (for action by the UN):

  • Capacity Building (5 year plans are not enough – new centres need funding and scholarships for young, local activists would ensure sustainability)
  • Protection for Volunteers (too many volunteers have been lost – an effective protection mechanism is needed since the current process takes weeks and members end up paying out of their pockets for protection)
  • Connection with UN Agencies (there is a disconnect between agencies and grass roots organisations – agencies need to be active on the ground in cooperation with social justice centres and centres need greater representation and access to agencies)
  • Support for Families of Victims (victims’ families are champions of change – they educate people, activate the community and seek justice, so must be supported, for example by providing them with lawyers and protecting them when they attend court, as well as providing sustainable support for them in other ways)
  • Saba Saba Partnership (UN support would give the Social Justice Centre movement a greater platform at Saba Saba March 2019)

During the discussion, there was also a personal account by Mama Victor (coordinator of mother’s of victims of extrajudicial killing) of her struggles. There was also the introduction of other family members of victims and the financial, psychological and legal challenges they face. Furthermore, examples were given of cases being taken to court and the ineffective nature of IPOA discussed. Further discussion about general challenges faced by social justice centres and the lack of cooperation between grass roots social justice centres, UN agencies and embassies, who only fund mainstream organisations.

Questions asked by Andrew Gilmour:

Is there local support for extrajudicial killings? How does the community and public view petty crime?

  • Constant community dialogue has won over the communities’ support for the work of social justice centres in opposition to extrajudicial killings.
  • Discussions about youth profiling and criminalisation of poverty has educated people in the community.
  • Regarding the general public, the government justifies the police’s actions as being due to instability within informal settlements. This view is accepted by many people.
  • Social justice centres also had to hold meetings with the media to prevent the spread of negative perceptions among the public, following the killing of 11 people in three weeks in Dandora.

Is the police force recruited from the same communities suffering from extrajudicial killings?

  • Yes, partially, but police officers are often stationed in other areas very far from their own communities.
  • Unfortunately, once a “killer cop” comes under a lot of pressure in a certain community, or is convicted, another replaces him. This rotation of“killer cops” is very evident.

Does Rashid wear plain clothes?

  • Yes, but everyone knows his face, as well as those of other “killer cops” in the various other communities.
  • However, the government denies knowing these police officers exist.

What dialogue is there between social justice centres and the police?

  • Social justice centres have raised issues with the local police and even with the government cabinet.
  • They say they will follow up various issues but fail to, also claiming that issues are being exaggerated.
  • In fact, the police post MSJC meetings, statements and volunteers’ faces on their facebook pages saying that MSJC are interfering with police work.

Does #StopTheBulletsKE refer to just the bullets of extrajudicial killings or also bullets of other violence?

  • All bullets.
  • Social justice centres are often accused of supporting criminals but in fact support the rule of law, as well as the constitution.
  • Centres tackle criminal violence by organising dialogues with the youth to direct them away from crime towards alternatives.

How many cases are currently in your file of extrajudicial killings and are other types of killings recorded?

  • There are currently 35 cases, just in MSJC’s file for Mathare.
  • Only extrajudicial killings are recorded.

Are extrajudicial killings the biggest issue social justice centres deal with?

  • The Social Justice Centre movement began with the issue of extrajudicial killings and although attempting to tackle other human rights issues, extrajudicial killings have remained their focus and are the main challenge faced by the communities represented.

How many people do social justice centres represent and have other centres been visited?

  • Millions are represented. Perhaps roughly 5 million.

Who, from the UN, has sat in this room before me? Excluding Marcella.

  • No one.
  • Getting access to the United Nations agencies is very difficult.
  • Social justice centres publish reports but very little happens. This disconnect needs to be addressed so that the UN reacts when new reports are published.

Specific actions Andrew Gilmour promised to take:

  • To follow up on the case of Rashid, Mathare’s infamous “killer cop”.
  • To explore how the UN can support Saba Saba March For Our Lives 2019.
  • To raise the issues discussed during the meeting with prominent people such as ministers, ambassadors and NGOs involved in human rights in Kenya at a dinner meeting, the same evening.

Further comments made by Andrew Gilmour

  • Since the police are angry that social justice centres’ work brings attention to them, volunteers show “extraordinary courage”, putting themselves at risk.
  • The Social Justice Centre movement, as a whole, “seems to be such an effective network”.

The work being done by social justice centres is “incredibly inspiring… exceptionally impressive… far more people need to know about it

Thereafter, final comments were made by Andrew Gilmour, followed by a speech of appreciation by Social Justice Centre members.

We are grateful for the solidarity visit by Andrew Gilmour, and always for the solidarity shown to us by the courageous Marcella Favretto. See pictures from the day below.

 

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2019 SABA SABA Launch Press Statement by the Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCWG)

On Wednesday, June 12, the Social Justice Centre’s Working Group (SJCWG) had their initial event marking the launch of Saba Saba activities. This was both a press conference and a legal clinic at the Mukuru Social Justice Centre. Below is the press statement that came out of this event, and we look forward to all being part of Saba Saba activities that will culminate in the march for our lives on July 7 2019.

2019 SABA SABA LAUNCH PRESS STATEMENT

The Social Justice Centres Working Group is a network and the collective leadership of all Social Justice Centres, and that was formed one year ago during the Saba Saba March for our Lives in 2018. This event saw various Social Justice Centres come together to protest the normalization of extra – judicial killings in the informal settlements. This was the first time all poor communities from Nairobi came together to demand an end to police killings. Over a thousand people came together during the March to demonstrate against state killings of young men in informal settlements. The theme for the day was all lives matter. Indeed, all lives matter.

There are now twenty three Social Justice Centres in different parts of the country whose activities are unified under the Social Justice Centres Working Group (SJCWG). We saw the need to consolidate the efforts of the various centres and solidify the impact by working together. Together we are united for dignity and to continuously struggle against an oppressive state.

Since the Saba Saba March of 2018, we have made a lot of progress together. In this regard, we have seen:

  1. The rapid growth of social justice centres across the country: in Nairobi, Lamu, Kwale, Kilifi, Kakamega, Mombasa and Kisumu.
  2. Through consistent and vigorous campaigns against extra-judicial killings, we have been able to give the crisis the weight and attention it deserves, stirring the nation to solution-oriented conversations around this gross human rights violation and social injustice.
  3. We have been able to give the victims of violations the courage, support, voice and platform to seek redress. This is seen, in particular, in the strength of the Mothers of Victims and Survivors of Extrajudicial Killings campaign that has close to 50 members.
  4. We have also successfully engaged duty bearers and formed progressive working relations with the Police Reforms Working Group.
  5. Through documentation of human rights violations and linking the community to agencies and organisations that help them pursue justice, more people have been encouraged to come out and seek justice for violations against them, restoring hope for the rule of law. Also, dozens of cases are now ongoing against suspected killer cops.
  6. Furthermore, the Social Justice Centres have been participating in writing the universal periodic review that documents Kenya’s human rights record.

The Plan for Saba Saba 2019

Due to the rapid growth of Social Justice Centres emerging in Kisumu, Nairobi and the coastal region, this year the Saba Saba March for our lives will take place in the three regions with concurrent and joint activities. The main events will be:

  • A Social Justice Centres National Congress that will bring all justice centres together to chart a roadmap for the next year.
  • Art for social justice exhibition and concert that will memorialize victims and survivors of extrajudicial killings.
  • March for our lives on July 7, with the theme #Stopthebullets to symbolically demonstrate all the bullets Kenyans are facing. Such as the killings of women, lack of water, normalization of extrajudicial killings, lack of access to health and education, an inadequate and corrupt leadership.
  • A survivors convening that will bring together all survivors of human rights violations to meet with duty bearers.
  • A media breakfast that will bring together activists and media personalities to discuss models of documenting and reporting human rights violations.
  • Saba Saba memorial lecture at the University of Nairobi in reflections of struggle for democracy in Kenya

Today, this press release and legal aid clinic, marks the start of the events leading to Saba Saba day, and we are grateful for all the support we have received from our comrades, communities and supporting justice organizations.

We welcome you all to these events and to be part of the struggle that is anchored and will be taken forward by all of the Social Justice Centres.  Organize, Educate and Liberate towards building a democratic state in Kenya founded on social justice and human rights for all.

Contact :

  1. Convener Social justice Centres Working Group: Wilfred Happy Olal (+ 254722746164):
  2. Co- convener Social justice Centres Working Group: Faith Kasina (+254 723133329)
  3. Secretary Social Justice Centres Working Group: Njoki Gachanja (+254779081479)

Email: socialjusticecentreswg@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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EJE Campaign Social Justice Centres Working Group

More Threats to Social Justice Centre Activists from Online Police Vigilante Groups

We did all we could to protect Kelvin Gitau, and we thought we had succeeded after we managed to get him released after he was detained and driven in a police probox boot for the whole night. Two months later Rashid, the most infamous killer police officer, made good on his promise to kill Kelvin Gitau. He was killed on April 16 in Mlango Kubwa. Four other youth were also killed that day. After we spoke about this, we are now getting threats on Facebook from online police groups. We have reported these pages to Facebook, but they continue. Will Hessy, Nairobi Crime Free and other online police vigilante group continue threatening activists for fighting against killer cops? We do not want to bury any more youth!

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