The killing of young people in Mathare and the normalization of this injustice is what sparked the emergence of MSJC. For the last nine years, MSJC has campaigned against extrajudicial killings and the cleansing of young people in informal settlements.
First it is arbitrary arrest, followed by extortion, enforced disappearance and the final stage is death. This has been the fate of hundreds of men in Mathare. Our Who is Next report documents over 800 killings by police in Kenya from 2013 – 2016.
Our campaign has been successful in ending the normalization of EJEs in Mathare. But the killings have reduced, not ended. The police have changed tactic and they now profile young people as criminals on Facebook and then they later kill them. They then parade their dead bodies on Facebook like trophies. A very colonial practice.
See here a screenshot from the vigilante police group: “Nairobi Crime Free.”
On the evening of 23rd May 2023, a notorious Facebook page with the name ‘NAIROBI CRIME FREE’ made a post threatening seven known young people from Mathare 3C. See above. The post is made through one account believed to belong to the page’s admin, known as Saigonpunisher James. The post was directed to warn the group of seven, who are members of Vision Bearers Youth Group.
Vision Bearers Youth Group is a self-help group in Mathare 3C area that was formed in 2017 to rehabilitate youths who had reformed from the difficult life of crime and violence in Mathare. The group’s main programs are acrobatics and traditional dance, garbage collection, food programs for kids and urban farming for food security where they work closely with the MSJC ecological justice campaign. Vision Bearers have 18 members, both men and women, and their future plan is to have a piece of land that they can use for ecological farming and to have a small community library.
Last week there were politically instigated skirmishes in Mathare, and almost 50 houses were burnt, and up to ten people were injured. It is alleged that the violence started because of a stolen boda boda from Number Ten area, but politicians and the police took advantage to fuel the violence that was going on. It is during this crisis that Saigonpunisher James, of the vigilante NAIROBI CRIME FREE Facebook group, profiled and threatened the young men from Vision Bearers Youth Group, saying that they were thugs who are terrorizing Mathare residents. These assertions were to mislead the public and to justify the premeditated murder of these young people.
To fight this police impunity, on Friday May 26 2023, MSJC, together with Vision Bearers Youth Group and Haki Africa, hosted and presented a petition to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). This petition, available below, focuses on the lack of response by security agencies in addressing reports of delays in the administration of justice, resulting from incidences of ethnic skirmishes, profiling of youths, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, drug abuse and crime in Mathare. The right to life is absolute and it is our right to live with dignity even as we strive for social justice in Mathare.
Our collective petition gave the following recommendations to the ODPP:
- Map and order the Inspector General of Police to investigate the faces behind pseudo social media accounts allegedly being used to profile young people as a strategy for preparing the ground for their possible execution and/or enforced disappearance;
- Order for the investigations of all cases petitioned during this forum to determine any incidences of culpability of any member of the criminal justice system with a view to instituting legal action against those found responsible for compromising the criminal justice system;
- Investigate alleged involvement of political leaders, local elders and security agencies who are responsible for inciting the youth to get involved in conflicts and insecurity, including use of ethnicity as a card for polarization and incitement;
- Investigate allegations of failure by authorities to address the problem of hard drugs trafficking and use, which the community considers as a factor which influences youth involvement in crime;
- Apply your experience in collaborating with the CSOs fraternity to propose mechanisms for building and sustaining trust between communities and grassroots human rights defenders on one hand and security agencies and other criminal justice actors on the other hand, hence providing a space for effective use of community-led intelligence as a tool for fighting crime in Mathare;
- Criminal justice actors in Mathare should agree on the formation of community peace and security committees with representatives from local communities, CSOs and government representatives to work together to fight crime as well as promote community cohesion;
- Involve more youths and women in peace and security initiatives including those who are reforming from crime since they can be effective peace and security champions;
We thank HAKI Africa and Noordin Haji of the ODPP for making the time to visit our community. We hope together we will prioritise the right to life, dignity and justice struggles of all of whom are under threat of police and state impunity.
The full petition is available here:
Pictures of the visit are below: