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anti-capitalism Campaign Against Drugs & Crime Mathare Green Movement People's Assemblies Social Justice Centres Solidarity

The Mathare People’s Assembly

The Mathare Local People’s assembly was convened at the Mathare People’s Park, and brought together community members and actors from across our struggles to identify various societal issues we are facing.

The Mathare People’s park is a transformed green space that was initially a garbage site, and which now hosts the Ukombozi Library, a children’s playing space, and a community park that offers the community food and a serene environment. It has also transformed young people from drug use and crime, and offered a sustainable form of economic livelihood through activities such as animal rearing and other methods of farming.  

Our assembly was influenced by the urgency to explore an inclusive alternative model that involves the community in addressing its challenges.

For a while, various societies have seemed to confront these challenges at an organizational or an individual level. The objective of the local assembly was to transform the culture of personal alienated approaches which have proven to be ineffective. The assembly also wanted to further grassroots democracy and power to the people.

Mathare happens to be one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, and is suffering from a myriad of social problems including: widespread poverty, lack of basic commodities, crime and chronic unemployment. All of these factors also lead to other grave problems.

The assembly brought 100 participants drawn from the six wards in Mathare, including Kiamaiko, Mlango Kubwa, Mabatini, Kiamaiko, Ngei and 3C.

The participants included children, local community groups, ecological justice organizations, students and elders. Among the grassroots organizations present were the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC), Ghetto Farmers, and Green Park and Mathare Community Park members.

Other participants who joined the discussions emanated from the different social movements in Nairobi.

After the introduction of the local assembly’s concept, the participants engaged in a general analysis of the Mathare society; the historical injustices and the current political and social conditions. Thereafter, the members joined the various thematic groups influenced and adopted by the assembly. These are:  

  1. The Ecological and Political Committee 
  2. The Drugs and Crime Committee 
  3. The Waste Management Committee
  4. The Water & Sanitation Committee

The thematic groups appointed a moderator and secretary, collectively examined the situation, and generated a list of possible solutions to explore. Below are the results from the committees:

Water and Sanitation Committee

 Challenges highlighted include:

  • The rationing and diversion of water in areas like Mlango Kubwa where water is diverted to Eastleigh 
  • Water-borne diseases
  • Poor healthcare infrastructure  
  • Effluent and affluent discharges: Mathare Hospital, for example, was seen to emit its waste directly into the river. Also, most of Eastleigh waste is poured directly into the river 
  • Corruption and water cartels 
  • Leaking sewers 
  • Poor waste disposal methods 
  • Poor housing, and people are constructing homes on the river.  

Proposed way forward

  • Participate in public participation sessions e.g. budget making processes 
  • Develop petitions to conduct an inquiry on water institutions in Mathare 
  • Policy development 
  • Creating awareness through community dialogues  
  • Mapping of polluters 
  • Consistent stakeholders meetings 

Waste Management Committee

 Challenges highlighted include:

  • Poor waste disposal 
  • Lack of awareness on waste management strategies  
  • Lack of collaborations and coordination between stakeholders in waste management  
  • Government lacked policies, incentives on waste management 

Proposed solutions

  • Creating waste management awareness programs 
  • Focus on existing networks to build and strengthen ecological network  
  • Establish local waste management plans and strategies 
  • Include children in waste management projects 

Drugs and Crime Commitee

Challenges highlighted include:

  • Poverty which leads to crime, drug abuse
  • Unemployment
  • Addiction 

Solutions proposed

  • Organize campaigns and seminars against drugs and crime 
  • Involvement of different stakeholders in the campaign against drugs and crime 
  • Establish local committees to fight against drugs and crime 
  • Establish learning facilities for children, like local libraries 
  • Creating of co-curriculum activities such as sports and art

Ecological and Political Committee

Challenges highlighted include:

  • Existing ecological injustices and pollution.
  • State violence including: 
    1. Harassment. 
    1. Extra-judicial executions. 
    1. Land grabbing. 
    1. High level of unemployment leading to crime  
  • Lack of political accountability. 
  • Existing gaps in policy development 

Solutions and way forward

  • Establish sustainable sources for economic activity for the youth 
  • Establish public assemblies as institutions to generate solutions for local problems  
  • Intensify political education in the parks and in community centres 

Proposed collective way forward

  1. Establish the Mathare Ecological Justice Network, involving various community parks, which will in turn aid in: 
    • Creating a sustainable base for young people through economic generating activities like farming and seed nurseries 
    • Engage more children in the parks — perhaps an adopt a tree program
    • Establish more green spaces to transform the local ecological situation and to act as spaces for community organising
    • Provide more safe spaces like art centers, community libraries and community retreat centres 
    • Curb land grabbing, encroachment and pollution of the Mathare River; #LetTheRiversFlowCampaign 
  2. Harmonise a collective ecological justice campaign by establishing ecological justice networks in the various informal settlements 
  3. Popularise local people’s assemblies as avenues to generate solutions for the peoples’ problems. Including in:  
    • Kayole. 
    • Githurai. 
    • Ngong. 
  4. Establish exchange sessions with the Indigenous People’s Assemblies and existing assemblies in Italy, Britain and Scotland. 
  5. Organise more workshops and seminars at the grassroots to discuss the creation of local people’s assemblies 
  6. Creating alternatives through bicycles lanes along Nairobi River, from Michuki Park to Ruai 
  7. Create a secretariat to follow up on the resolutions and a guide for implementation 

Report by: Wavinya Kavinya and Waringa Wahome

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Social Justice Centres

Community Groups Registration Act (2022) — Grassroots Deliberations

There has been concern from many grassroots groups about the oversight and governance of community-based organizations. The plight has since been crystalized by the enactment of the Community Based Registration Act No. 30 of 2022.

The legislation introduces regulations pertaining to community-based organisations’ registration, administration and financial provisions. 

Most CBOs are established within the community and are at the forefront in responding to societal needs. Before the Community Groups Registration Act, many community organisations were registered with few procedural requirements, allowing room for their effectiveness and the adoption of simple organisational models and structures.

On 15th August 2023, Mathare Social Justice Centre received a letter from the Mathare Sub-CountySocial Development Officer (SCSD/MAT/SHG/8/2023(007). The letter in part reads: “it has been noted by the Sub-County Social Development officer that your activities are more nurturing and protecting the fundamental Human Rights of the individuals, and families of the Mathare Community which is not in line with our community registration activities as per our new Community Groups Registration Act, No. 30 of 2022. We therefore as an office request your organisation to amend its group objectives so that they can be in line with our Act…”

On 19th September, a month after we received this letter, MSJC organized a grassroots workshop to address the Act’s attempts to undermine the Constitution and grassroots democracy, by interfering with the autonomy of community-based organizations.

The workshop was attended by 20 participants and contributors, including Prof Kivutha Kibwana, a constitutional lawyer and former Governor of Makueni County, and Charles Maina formerly of the International Justice Mission (IJM). They, notably, advised us on the constitutional and legislative framework that governs the new Act.

Other participants were the District County Commissioner and Sub-County Social Development Office represented by Chief Mugo, Mabatini Ward, the membership of the Social Justice Centers – Nairobi Chapter (which included Mathare Social Justice Centre, Kayole Social Justice Center, Githurai Social Justice Center, The Social Justice Travelling Theater, Mathare Social Justice Centers Network, Kiamaiko Social Justice Centre, Ghetto Foundation and  Ruaraka Social Justice Centre), Missing Voices and other legal advisers.

The participants went through the history of social justice centers and their formation process, looking into case studies from Mathare Social Justice Centre and Kayole Community Justice Center.

Mathare Social Justice Centre was registered in 2015 as a space to document human rights violations that were rampant around Mathare during that period. The Mathare Social Justice Centre was started in 2014, three years after the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.

It was noted that during the process of registration, the Office of Social Development had disapproved the registration of the name “Mathare Social Justice Centre,” on account of the “social justice” character of the organisation, even while MSJC had paid registration fee. This was contrary to Article 10 (2) (b) of the Constitution which provides that; “The national values and principles of governance include: – human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalized.”

Kayole Community Justice Center noted that they had great challenges with registration. They share that the Social Development Officer in Kayole denied them registration, and were only registered after Noordin Haji, the then Director of Criminal Investigations intervened after attending the launch of the centre. The organisation does not appear in the register of community based organisations despite them having a valid certificate of operation.

Participants reflected on the deregistration of Clarion, an NGO, which operated in the ‘90s on account of its human rights activities and protection of democratic spaces in Kenya. 

The Social Justice Movement was reflected on as a mass-based social movement whose duty is to safeguard grassroots democracy and protect the values and spirit of the Constitution. It was noted that the passing of the Act without public participation, and the letter sent to Mathare Social Justice Centre, was a direct attack on grassroots democracy and exposed the deliberate shrinking of civic spaces in our country.

Participants highlighted other legislations such as the Public Order Act and the NGO Act of 1990 that continue to muzzle the spirit and space of human rights and democracy in Kenya.

The discussions were then organised into different groups to allow the participants to interact with the contents of the Act intensively. This involved a thorough perusal of the Act; identifying constitutional contraventions and opportunities.

It was noted that there are now 21 registered social justice centres in Nairobi, and that people face numerous frustrations at the Social Development Office when seeking registration; there are also other Social Justice Centres which are pending registration, some of which the Social Development Office has denied registration. These are, for example, Mau Mau Haki Centre and the Social Justice Centers Travelling Theatre.

Deliberation points to note:

  1. Participants noted that before the legislation came into effect, there was no regulatory framework under which community-based organisations were registered. The new law is found to be restrictive as far as it limits fundamental human rights including the right of association. The justice centres have operated since 2015, and there has never been a complaint that their actions were in contravention of the Constitution or any law.
  • The Act contravened Article 1 of the constitution which provides: “all sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya and shall be exercised only in accordance with this constitution.”Grassroots organisations form the collective voice at the grassroots, and denying people the right to organise at a grassroots level is infringing on the sovereignty of the people of Kenya. The Act fails to acknowledge the supremacy of the Constitution by contradicting its values.
  • The Act contravenes Article 10 (2) (a) of the Constitution, which states that “The national values and principles of governance include: – patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people.”
  • The Act contravenes the values of democracy and grassroots organisation; community was not involved in any deliberation of it.
  • Further, Article 186 (2) of the Constitution, read along with the fourth Schedule – Part 2(14), clearly provides for the functions and powers of national and county government. Part 2 (14) of the fourth schedule reads; “the functions and powers of the County are; ensuring and coordinating the participation of the communities and locations in governance at the local level and assisting communities and locations to develop the administrative capacity for the effective exercise of the functions and powers and participation in governance at the local level.”
  • Participants noted that all community activities cannot be divorced from the aspiration to promote social justice and the realization of the potential of all human beings. The essence of registering a community-based organization is that the community is aware of its priority issues and can develop its solutions through programs that intimately involve the whole community. Through community-based organizations, the community can participate in governance at the local level.

Violation of Article 19 of the Constitution

  • Participants did an analysis of Article 19 which provides that the Rights and fundamental freedoms provided for under the Bill of Rights are inherent and inalienable rights and freedoms.
  • Article 19 (2) provides: “The Bill of Rights is an integral part of Kenya’s democratic state and is the framework for social, economic and cultural policies.” It further provides that “the purpose of recognizing and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms is to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realization of the potential of all human beings.”
  • It was noted that the activities of a CBO cannot merely be limited to economic rights (empowerment) devoid of social, political and cultural rights. Participants noted that civil and political rights are indivisible. Article 43 of the Constitution provides for social and economic rights, which are reinforced by Article 38 that provides for political rights and Article 36 which provides for the freedom of association.
  • That the Director of Social Development has the sole authority to decide who forms a special interest group was also identified as alarming.
  • There was emphasis on Article 24 which provides: “a right or fundamental freedom shall not be limited except by law, and then only to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, taking into account all relevant factors including the relation between the limitation and its purpose and whether there are less restrictive means to achieve the purpose.”

Violation of Article 36 of the Constitution

  1. Violation of Article 36 of the Constitution provides for the right of every person to associate, and which includes the right to join and or participate in the activities of an association of any kind. Such an association must be a voluntary association. Members noted that the social justice centres accept membership of voluntary individuals who live, work and interact with the realities of their communities. As such, Mathare Social Justice Centre, and all social justice organisations, are constitutionally permitted to exist as community based organisations based on the fact that they involve members of the community and exercise their mandate within the Mathare community in accordance with the laws and policies of the Republic of Kenya.

Ambiguity of the Act

  • It was noted that the Act was ambiguous in so far as it did not specify the ministry responsible for enforcing and overseeing the implementation of the Act.
  • The Act provides for the Office of the Director, which shall be an office in the public service. It also provides for the Social Development Office, which is an office under the ministry responsible for social development, which is the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection.
  • The Act does not provide for a transition clause to guide the CBOs that were registered before the Act. There was a lack of a coherent policy guiding the registration of community based organisation then, which would interfere with the process of interpretation of and reference to the new law.
  • Participants noted that most community-based organisations, whose objective is human rights oriented, have experienced similar procedural challenges in recent times with the concerned registration institutions
  • Participants challenged the monarchical status of the Director of Social Development as provided for by Section 3 of the Act.
  • The financial provisions as stated in the Act are unclear and restrictive of community organizing.
  • The definition of civil society organisations deliberately limits how a CBO can interact and relate with other organisations.

Overall, participants agreed that the legislation has made the mistake of over-regulation, which limits the rights and freedom of individuals and communities. They agreed that CBO’s should have a policy of self-regulation in order for all Kenyans to participate in governance at the local and community level. After all, these organisations exist to do what the government has failed to do at the grassroots.

In the definition of a community group, one participant posed a question: when the Constitution provides for social and political rights and sovereign people organise and debate around those issues, are they political?

Therefore, the activities proposed by the CBO registration forms have not been constitutionally developed. This then requires a review process on the development and implementation of the policy itself. 

What is to be done?

The Community Registration Act cannot exist without scrutiny; there should be discussion of the issues raised above about its legality and constitutionalism.

Participants resolved that, to address these key issues, the strategy and tactics required would be both short and long-term and would be applied in a two-line strategy: the legal strategy and the creation of an alternative leadership mechanism. The workshop then formed two committees to oversee the process. The committees are: 1) the legal committee and 2) committee against the shrinking of civic and democratic spaces.

Short Term Response

  1. A response letter from the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) was to be sent to the Sub County Office of Social Development.
  2. Committees were to map out other community based organisations whose registration was pending and those denied registration on account of human rights objectives.
  3. There was a need to have a collective response to the Sub-County Social Development Office to understand which objectives and activities of Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) are not in accordance with the Act, and which specific sections of the Act that are contravened by our activities.
  4. The Social Justice Centre Working Group was to convene meetings at the community level to created awareness about the   Community Groups Registration Act.

Long Term Response

  1. File a constitutional petition challenging the legality and constitutionality of the Act and its provisions.
  2. Map strategic collaborations and partnerships, and hold frequent discussions on policies that affect organisations in the community.

Report prepared by Waringa Wahome, coordinator of the MSJC Legal Empowerment Network

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People's Assemblies Social Justice Centres

Tackling Social Injustice with People’s Assemblies?

A Report of the People’s Assemblies Forum held in the Mathare Social Justice Centre’s Creative Hub on August 11, 2023

Why People’s Assemblies?

The people’s assemblies arise from the need of the people to administer and generate solutions to the problems ailing their society. The concept is a people’s driven approach towards creating grassroots strength, solidarity and democracy from a point of popular power to a pool of global solidarity. The assemblies might take different organizational and practical models in diverse communities and in various organizations, making it a viable model for decision making, identifying challenges and building a collective spirit in confronting the social, economic and political issues that exist.

Purpose of the Forum

The people’s assembly forum held in Mathare was an avenue to explore, discuss and generate action points to form, design and structure local, citizen and people’s assemblies in Mathare and other areas within Nairobi. The existing social movements, local groups and institutions are a fundamental element in steering the initial processes. The forum thus drew participants from various established local groups, social movements and members of the community, to examine and deliberate on the model and whether and how it fits into their organizational framework.

Participants in the Forum

The forum targeted 30 participants representing organizations, local groups and members of the community. Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) is one of the social movements organizing around accessing social justice in Mathare and broadly in the whole country. It has worked in close collaboration with other Social Justice Centres in Nairobi, some of which were present at the forum. They include: Githurai, Kayole, Mukuru, and Kasarani Social Justice Centers. Other organizations included the organs of the social justice movement: The Social Justice Centre’s Travelling Theater, The Ecological Justice Network, The Revolutionary Socialist League, The Communist Party of Kenya, the Young Communist League, and Shantit-Mathare (a youth-led group). This was in collaboration with women led assemblies, Grassroots to Global and assemblies from Scotland.

History of Assemblies in Kenya

To make sure the participants knew the full potential of the forum, the participants went through the history of the assemblies in Kenya. With a case study and introduction of Bunge, the Peoples Parliament. This is an assembly’s model that formulated and demanded major social and political reform processes in the history of Kenya. The setup was said to be an open conversation in Jeevanjee Park, a green space in Nairobi where people debated ideas, invoked public participation, and agreed on the best direct action strategies to apply to the imminent needs of the society. Some of the impacts included leading the campaign against the high cost of Unga (flour). There were no doubts that the initiative saw through important social impacts and constitutional gains in Kenya. This was the model that led to the inception of the social justice factor and the formation of the Social Justice Centres. The objectives were targeted towards influencing citizen-led processes and inspiring the spirit of direct-action by local people. There was visible insistence on the need and urgency to build power from below, to protect our democratic gains, and advance local, people-led action.

Different Types of Assemblies

The participants went through the different types of local assemblies as being: 1) The People’s Assembly; 2) The Citizen Assembly; 3) The Delegate Assembly.

They further explored the formations, structure and design of the various types of assemblies, the impact and the levels of interactions in each of the assemblies. Assemblies serve as an alternative to the fragmentation and compromise of individual organizations. Organizations are embedded in the actions by the people. The participants delved into the impact and organization of the past and contemporary assemblies in Kenya and internationally with a case study of the East African women-led assemblies (including the Ogiek, the Sengwer and many other communities), which are organizing assemblies around the land question, and have successfully made challenges and won in the African Court of Justice. The forum went further to assess the questions of land in the Democratic Republic of Congo, political conditions in Uganda, and the assemblies in Scotland. The activities included practical learning experiences such as group discussions and site visit to the Mathare People’s Park. An ecological justice park reclaimed along the Mathare River. For an expanded version of the presentation given on all this, please see here.

Local assemblies are among the alternatives towards building a pool of popular power from below. There exist countless hurdles within our individual organizations and in communities that can be flattened through a collective approach such as people’s assemblies. People’s parliaments envision and design how our society should look, and we see our assemblies as reclaiming and building on that tradition.

Focus of Deliberations

  1. Building Local Assemblies

The participants saw the process towards the formation of the local assemblies as best to commence from an organizational level. Thereafter, identifying the issues for diagnosis and planning the local assemblies. The issues for the assemblies to focus on were to begin from the direct lived experiences affecting local people. In this case, issues of pollution and environmental degradation appeared to be the primary questions at play. This being agreeable, artistic and creative organizing, like the community theatre, were seen as reliable ways of communicating complex ideas and building broader engagement. This was to be achieved through organizing consistent, structured meetings building towards the assembly, developing clear internal structures (e.g. working groups to look at different aspects of the process, clear and transparent internal decision making processes etc), organizing dialogues with different actors, and outreach sessions to popularize the assembly.  The organizations were to guide through the process, in effect forming the basis of a steering group with accountability to the process and all those involved in it.

2. Building National Assemblies

The path to building national assemblies to discuss national matters, was to come from the various local assemblies organized in community spaces. The local assemblies will then project their ideas through to the national assembly. This would require utmost consistency, vibrancy, commitment and a resounding strengthening of our ties with the local and national issues. It would then be important to agree on a structure to apply to that, which will be the subject of ongoing popular education through community theatre and community dialogues, which can feed into a broader conversation about the kind of national assembly Kenya needs and wants.

3. Challenges

In achieving this, various issues to handle and prioritize in the planning of assemblies were highlighted. Many of these challenges impact much more than just the assemblies, but we present them here, together, with some suggestions on how their impact can be addressed within the planning and running of the assemblies themselves:

The Ecological Crisis : This is an ongoing challenge for all of us, but it impacts, particularly, those already dealing with high levels of poverty and social alienation. In relation to the assemblies, we see the need to be able to provide sheltered spaces for the assemblies to happen within and will focus on this in our fundraising efforts..
Extrajudicial Executions : Again, this is an ongoing challenge, and could potentially keep people away from assemblies. We will address this to the extent we can by ensuring a strong communications strategy, which attempts to keep the assemblies in the public eye and by building a network of other communities also holding assemblies, as a way of building mutual care and additional public visibility. We will also self-document the assembly process and have a working group dedicated to security.
High Cost of Living : This is one of the issues that the assembly may address directly, but it also impacts on whether people will engage with the assembly. We can potentially address this by fundraising to provide food for those who attend and also potentially include workshops on mutual aid as satellites to the main assembly.
Crime and Unemployment : The intention of the assemblies is to find shared solutions to the root causes of many issues, including crime and unemployment. We will attempt to either address these directly as subjects within the assembly, or, as above, create satellite workshops giving people space to think through and collectively address these issues alongside it.
Tribalism : Tribalism has become highly politicized, so it’s vital that we come to a shared understanding on how the assemblies will approach it. While accepting the cultural importance of identity, we see the assemblies as operating underneath this, at the level of our shared, human interests and will develop our communications strategy along these lines.
Lack of Water : We will fundraise to ensure we can provide clean drinking water for those attending the assemblies.
Lack of Communication : As is clear from the above, a strong communication policy will be essential to the success of the assemblies. This will focus, not only internally on those living in the area each assembly is focusing on, but also externally, towards the wider public and (for the national process) internationally. It is essential that we develop our own clear strategy for this, building as much as we can on personal relationships of trust, since mainstream and social media are largely captured and are likely to be used to work against the assembly process.
Corruption : Again, this is an issue that may be core to the question the assemblies are directly addressing. We will want our process to be as clean, clear and transparent as possible and to ensure that good internal communications can identify and report on any attempts to unfairly influence the process.

Challenges might arise from groups and individuals seeking to use such an assembly process to advance their own interests, and from a lack of communication between those engaged in advancing the process. This requires us to build a strong shared commitment to addressing social injustice, and to commit to building the structures to overcome injustice and division. 

Resolutions

1. Planning of the first People’s Assembly in Mathare, in one of the community sites, around the issues of ecological justice and state violence.

2. The need to popularize Local Assemblies towards building the National Assembly.

3. The importance of utilizing community spaces, such as green spaces, to protect and advance grassroots democracy.

4. The urgency to unify organizations within our communities and build unified approaches to local assemblies towards addressing various challenges.

Report prepared and compiled by the coordinating committee: Gacheke Gachihi: Mathare Social Justice Centre; Kinuthia Ndung’u: Communist Party of Kenya; Justin Kendrick: Scotland People’s Assembly; Eva Schonveld: Grassroots to Global.

Moderators: Njeri Mwangi: Mathare Social Justice Centre; Eva Schonveld: Grassroots to Global. 

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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.

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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
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Disability Walk Mathare

We had a protest to raise awareness about the injustices that those who are disabled in our community face. But we also demand justice!

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MSJC Kids Club Theatre

MSJC Kids Social Justice Club has a community theatre component. Recently, they did theatre about how drugs and crime are affecting youth. This was part of political education against crime, drugs and human rights violations. Viva MSJC Kids Social Justice Club!

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Meeting with Huruma Police Station OCS

June 3rd 2021

Below are pictures from a meeting with the Huruma Police station OCS, Officer in Command of Station (OCS). It was organized by Kiamaiko Community Social Justice Centre (KCSJC) and Haki Africa. It was attended by MSJC, the Boda Boda Riders Network, the Security Committee in Huruma and Kiamaiko, and religious leaders.

We discussed human rights violations, crime and drugs, and how to strengthen the partnership of security agencies in Mathare. More community dialogues and a campaign against drugs and crime will be organized by the Social Justice Centres Network in Mathare in the future.

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May Day 01.05.21 Protestors March Towards State House

Revolutionary Greetings to all the workers of the World. Today as we mark International Day of the workers, we express our solidarity with all the workers in Kenya and beyond. On this day, we in Kenya choose to reflect on the State of the Nation and what the pandemic has meant for thousands of workers in the country.

On the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year, the country was launched into uncertainty and panic as the world we knew was halted by the mysterious virus. World over, governments got into swift action to alleviate the effects of the pandemic on its people cushioning them socially and economically.  Here in Kenya the uncreative, plutocratic government employed their clownish antics barking out measures on a daily basis with no concrete scientific backing or connection to the realities of common mwananchi. To date, they continue to do so with little progress to show, tangible or otherwise. Behind the scenes they continue to feed their insatiable appetite of external borrowing and looting public resources, pushing further the already strained economy to its death bed. One year on, the government continues to tighten the noose on the necks of Kenyans with zero investment towards relieving the plight of the masses. We are now held hostage in our own country under unscientific, below the par unrealistic measurements. What started as a health crisis in other parts of the world landed in Kenya as a political and security issue with boots and guns released to the masses instead of white coats and vaccines.

Thousands of workers have lost their livelihoods around the country yet in the fallacious manifestos, the two Godfathers of corruption, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and William Ruto together with their ODM partners in thievery under the leadership of Raila Amolo Odinga, promised to create jobs especially for the youth. In their classic lameness, they continue to mock the youth in Kenya by dangling the carrots of kazi Mtaani and ridiculous wheelbarrownomics, indignifying further a disgruntled populace. How can a government loathe its people that much? That in the middle of a pandemic and with the massive job cuts they continue to loot the country coffers while locking the economy that mwananchi depends on? The constitution of Kenya under article 43 demands that every Kenyan is entitled to social welfare, quality healthcare and education, decent housing. What we have however witnessed is a dilapidated healthcare system, a confused and clueless school curriculum that has affected the quality of education our children get and a shamelessly odious external borrowing only for the funds to line the pockets of the hoggish cabal. 

We the people of Kenya, stand in solidarity with all the workers. We remember and honor the frontline workers that have died in the line of duty, abandoned by a government that was supposed to protect them. We have at heart and mind those that have been inhumanely left homeless through the evictions and destruction of their homes. We remember those innocent Kenyans that have bore the brunt of a ferine police force that has traumatized and oppressed thousands during this pandemic at the nod of their masters. We stand with all hardworking Kenyans that have lost their live hoods and now live in strenuous conditions that take a toll on their mental health. We stand with Kenyans, young and old, who have had enough and are keen to forge an army to take back our country.

In the same breathe, we the people demand:

  1. That Uhuru Kenyatta and his political groupies unconditionally unlock our country with immediate effect. The pandemic is not a political opportunity or security issue. It is a healthcare and behavioral change issue and thus should be treated as such. The dusk to dawn curfews and partial lockdowns are not only unscientific but unrealistic.
  2. That the government rolls out a well elaborated social welfare plan to cushion vulnerable Kenyans during this pandemic.
  3. Stop all the inhumane evictions being witnessed around the country.
  4. Stop aiding police brutality and extra judicial killings. All murderers in uniform must be brought to book and punished severely.
  5. Fully implement article 43 and restore the dignity of Kenyans.
  6. Lastly but most importantly, we call for the resignation of Uhuru Kenyatta and his cronies. You have failed the country and treated the constitution with disdain, refusing to live by its spirit and attempting to subvert the will of the people though the illegitimate BBI. You have lost all moral authority to lead this country. Pack your bags and go.

To all progressive Kenyans, We call upon you, invoking the spirit of our fore fathers and freedom fighters, to arise and take back our country. We cannot live in fear anymore. When we lose our fear, they lose their power. Arise Patriots Arise. Aluta continua.

Find the full statement for the May Day Protest here:

 Statement By Police Reforms Working Group:

We, the Police Reforms Working Group-Kenya (PRWG-Kenya), are alarmed and utterly dismayed by the illegal arrest, detention, and killing of Collins, a youth from Mathare in Nairobi County on 29th April 2021. This is the latest killing of a Mathare youth allegedly by a most rogue police officer known as Baraza, who operates in Mathare and Pangani areas within Nairobi County. 

Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) meticulously documented Collins’ abduction in a timeline shared on Twitter. MSJC sent pleas for help to the National Police Service, the Inspector General of NPS, the Director of Criminal Investigations without recourse…

Find the full Police Reforms Working Group Statement Here:

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Drugs and police in Mathare, by Lucy Wambui

Lucy Wambui, is an activist based in Mathare and member of MSJC.

Drug use among young people in Nairobi’s slums is on the rise. Youth also face arbitrary arrests by the police, resulting in jail time which turns them into hardcore criminals in a vicious cycle.

Those who have lived in Mathare know the various challenges faced by the many people that call this place home. When I say Mathare, I mean the whole six wards in Mathare. We lack basic services and needs; there is poor sanitation, a lack of proper housing, and a lack of jobs mostly for our youths. Many of us also count ourselves lucky if we have food every day.

At the same time, youth between 9-30 years are now increasingly using drugs. And I want to highlight why they are into drugs, where they get the money for drugs, and how this makes them a target of police abuse of power, including: extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, extortion, and arbitrary arrests.

The connection between drugs and crime among the youths in Mathare is seen, for instance, when they involve themselves in criminal activities like petty robbery in order to get money to buy drugs. Criminals also use drugs as a form of boosting confidence before they get into crime. At the same time, due to arbitrary arrests happening daily within the slums, youths are detained on allegations of drug use and trafficking, which land them in jail. After they are released, they come out being hardcore criminals, involving themselves more in crime.

Being born and brought up in a family that sells and uses drugs creates an environment for one to get into crime as well. This is even if your family are selling “illegal” alcohol and drugs to make ends meet; there are barely any jobs for us from Mathare, and our mothers selling chang’aa has enabled us to eat and go to school. But the addiction that comes about, even when one just started with small doses, can change one’s life completely. For example, Sandra, a woman I know said:

I am a mother of two and I am in my late twenties. My addition started when I was just a young girl. My mother used to sell chang’aa [illegal alcohol] and sell shash [marijuana]. I first indulged in drugs when I was just eight years old and I would take the drugs unnoticed and use them without anyone knowing. My thirst for money and harder drugs increased, and I started spiking the drinks of the clients who came to drink in our home, and I would steal from them any valuables I would find like watches, money, phones, and any other thing that would equate to cash. That’s how I got myself into crime and to date I still go to the big bars and clubs, and when I see an easy prey, I spike their drink and run away with anything I could lay my hands on. The desire for money and addiction to drugs is what makes me do this. I blame my mum for this because were it not for the environment she brought me up in I would have studied, and I would be a better person in the society.

But depression and life situations also can influence us to use drugs. Halima (20), a single mother from Mathare also shared that:

When I was just a small girl my dad was killed by the police after he was labeled a criminal. After my father was killed, me and my brother were raised by a single mum and life was not easy for us. At the age of 15 I got married and got a child. When my child was two years old my brother got arrested and jailed. My husband had a road accident the following year and died. I was left to raise my kid alone and this drove me to depression, and I started using drugs. It got so serious to the extent that I was not able to raise my kid and my mother-in-law took him to raise him.

We can see that the government also has a role to play, they create and sustain this negative environment. When I interacted with most youths here in Mathare, I understood why the Kenyan authorities and young men in the slums play a cat and mouse game: they are like water and oil, they can never mix. According to most youths in the area, they say that instead of police officers maintaining law and order and protecting life, they make crime increase. The police are the ones who provide guns to them to go and commit crimes, and police get money from drug dens, ensuring that drugs are always sold where poor people can see them, where poor people live.

At the same time, the police are arresting youths daily using fabricated charges, and some end up being disappeared and others are killed by police. This makes youths get into crime and use drugs because they have given up on life, and they don’t know who will be next in the hands of a killer cop.

The protection of drug peddlers is also enabled by many people “in high places,” who protect them and protect their interests. These people have both interests in drugs and in crime and stopping any of these businesses would definitely cost them a lot. These peddlers include politicians, the police and the so-called local business community.

It is said that politicians are the ones who own these drugs, and they have to protect the people who sell them to ensure that there is regular flow of cash. These politicians are the ones who benefit most from criminal groups, and the ones who do nothing when we are killed. They use the petty drug dealers to cause mayhem during campaigns and other political functions, by just giving them some drugs and little cash that can make them go wild. And the police know both the politicians and those who sell drugs. But for them they make it a profit: they go to these dens daily collecting cash, which people call ushuru [taxes] or tango, and if they target anyone, they target the young men peddlers trying to make ends meet not the politicians.

The taxes they get, given out by the peddlers and other members of the “business community,” are costs for protection, making sure that drugs can be sold another day. And it is the poor who suffer the most because of these profits, like Halima and Sandra, when their families are torn apart.

Original article can be found at Africa is a Country here.

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