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!
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?
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.
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.
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:
The rapid growth of social justice centres across the country: in Nairobi, Lamu, Kwale, Kilifi, Kakamega, Mombasa and Kisumu.
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.
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.
We have also successfully engaged duty bearers and formed progressive working relations with the Police Reforms Working Group.
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.
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.
Convener Social justice Centres Working Group: Wilfred Happy Olal (+ 254722746164):
Co- convener Social justice Centres Working Group: Faith Kasina (+254 723133329)
Secretary Social Justice Centres Working Group: Njoki Gachanja (+254779081479)