Venue: Mathare Social Justice Centre, Time: August 22nd, 2 – 4 pm
Kenya is said to be in crisis again: too much public and private debt, too much poverty, inequality, unemployment, stress, fraud, corruption, state violence; the list goes on. These are crisis phenomena typical of neoliberal capitalism in Africa and elsewhere around the world. And yet, the public debate in Kenya hardly ever makes reference to the ‘C’ word; instead, things are explained with reference to development, “bad governance,” democracy, poverty, selfish elites, too many youth, and a drunk (or high) executive. And those who insist on speaking about capitalism are told: “we are better than those slow ujamaa people in Tanzania, where did socialism get them?”. We are tired of these discourses, and so AIAC, MSJC and ROAPE are convening this grounding to think together about why ‘C’ is so absent in our conversations, and yet what the capitalist roots of the Kenyan crisis might be. We do this also to privilege the local ways capitalism is understood and experienced, as well as the people-centred actions taken to fight it.
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 the night of Thursday May 2, a fire happened in Kiamaiko close to Huruma Nursing. Lots of property was destroyed, and the residents were unable to salvage their belongings. One persons was taken to hospital with injuries, and the rest of the victims have been unable to build back their houses, and many of them continue to sleep outside in the rain. Also, the children who were affected have not been able to go back to school. These victims (see the list below) need urgent assistance, and we ask for any food stuffs, clothes or goods you can give to help them build back their lives. Rahma Wako of MSJC and also of Kiamaiko is collecting funds to support those affected. Rahma can be reached at this number: 0716261113. See the list of victims and pictures of the fire and its aftermath below. We thank you, as always, for your solidarity
Since the November 7th press conference organized by the Justice Centre’s Working Group to militate against the recent surge in extrajudicial killings in poor urban settlements like Dandora andMathare and around the country, threats to various members of this Working Group have increased. In particular, on various social media sites, personalities such as the notorious Hessy wa Dandora (and other Hessys and their fans) have made direct threats to human rights defenders linked to the Dandora Community Justice Centre (DCJC), and also known police officers have issued threats against MSJC’s field coordinator Kennedy Chindi/JJ. Some of these threats are on Facebook and examples are below.
This is a situation made worse by the Governor of Nairobi who supports the violent police actions, that have also increased over the last two months.
Even while the Police Reforms Working Group (PRWG) and the Justice Centre’s Working Group(JCWG) marched to the Dandora Police Station on November 16th to lodge formal complaints against the intimidation and threats, these continue and we also continue to steadfastly agitate against the extrajudicial killings and the threats against us.
We ask for solidarity for members of the Justice Centre’s Working Group at this time, and for the public to come out strongly against these extrajudicial killings.
Fire has been a constant problem for the people of Mathare. On the Christmas eve 2017, Hospital ward/Kosovo experienced one of the biggest fires in the history of Mathare. Over 500 hundred houses burnt down and over 3000 people were left with absolutely nothing. Luckily, no lives were lost.
After the fire, there was a one week mobilization of resources both in cash and in kind to help the fire victims during these difficult times. Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) joined local churches and other organizations to do what they could for those affected, while also encouraging others to support the victims though clothing, bedding, food and even cash donations. It was especially saddening that the Country of Nairobi did not do anything for these victims. .
Saturday 29th December 2017 was the day a team came together, coordinated by Jude Muchiri, to visit the fire victims with all the resources they had put together. The day started by sorting and giving out clothes, and over 400 people were able to pick shoes and clothes donated to replace those that burnt in the fire. Then a group of community volunteers prepared food for the fire victims: that is breakfast, lunch and super. Over 200 people were fed at a community social hall which was also being used as a temporary shelter for women and young children who were displaced by the fire.
After this the team catered to special needs groups such as the elderly, disabled and people living with HIV, and gave them each a food package to last them a week.
The last activity of the day was visiting Humble Heart Centre Home that was started by Mr.Naphtali Njoroge and his wife. Mr.Naphtali started this centre after he lost 3 of his children to a fire in 2005, his wife also sustained serious injuries in this fire that killed their children. His centre is home to 30 children who were left homeless after fires. The team left him with a lot of food for the children and put plans in place to visit and support his centre in the days to come.
We have more solidarity activities planned for the fire victims over the next few weeks together with other residents, well wishers and community organizations in Mathare.
From MSJC we send a big thank you to all the people who sent in their contributions, and did all that they could do reach out to the people of Mathare. Please receive our deep and sincere gratitude. We also ask that the government finds a permanent solution to dealing with fires in Mathare. In 2017 alone, we have experienced four fire tragedies! We ask that the county assembly treats this as an epidemic in Mathare and other poor settlements across Nairobi.