Stephen Kinuthia Mwangi, our committed administrative coordinator, was arrested twice this week for no reason. This second arrest was done at this doorstep confirming that the police had been surveilling him for sometime. We believe that this is because of the work we have been doing at MSJC to highlight the executions and harassment of poor youth in Kenya by the police. We ask you to support us by sharing Stephen’s statement with relevant organizations, and also to advocate for ways to make Kenya safer for grassroots community activists and human rights defenders. If there are any other ways you feel we can improve the security of our members, please do get in touch with us at MSJC.
During his most recent arrest on Sunday June 25th, one police man, in reference to the Willie Kimani, told Stephen: “we knew Willy and he died for the same arrogance as yours.” We cannot let Kenya continue to be a killing field. Please do support us at this time and spread the statement below and join us in our work to keep all our communities.
MY SECOND ARREST THIS WEEK AND HARASSMENT BY THE POLICE
I would like to document that I was arrested today, June 25th, morning in Donholm outside of my apartment by plain-clothed officers. They had no elaborate reason for their suspicion or need for arrest. This is the second time in five days that I have been hand-cuffed by plain-clothed officers, and the fact that this arrest was done outside my house confirms that they have been following me.
On Tuesday, I was arrested late at night while I was going home on a boda boda. The driver and I were detained at the Kariobangi roundabout for four hours before I was able to convince the police officers to let me go.
Today while arresting me, one of the officers grabbed me by the shoulder while the other one was talking over the phone and mentioned to someone over the line ”ndio, tumempata…” It seems that they were reporting my arrest to someone else. This got me really scared and I asked to be let loose with an explanation for the statement by the officer on the phone. I called Prof. Yash Ghai, whom I had just talked to, and let him know that I was being arrested. They demanded to search my belongings. I had with me a black polythene bag where I had put some shoes I had bought at Gikomba Market earlier in the morning. Although hesitant, I let them search. They demanded to take me with them to the station for a search. I refused. One of them, growing angry hand-cuffed me and pushed me forward away from the gate. The caretaker and bystanders had now started to get concerned and were watching from a distance.
The led me towards the road, asking about what I do for a living and why I had the ‘Machozi Ya Jana’ t-shirt on me. By this time, I had been made to remove my camouflage jacket and they had removed everything from the pockets (keys, coins, a paper I had done some notes on and two phones) . I demanded to make a phone call to an advocate or a relative and they refused. At this point, it got clear to me that they were serious and didn’t mean to abide by the provisions of Article 49 of the constitution – The Rights of an arrested person. I decided to create a scene; I grabbed a boda boda rider whom I frequently use and asked him to go to Mathare Social Justice Centre’s office and let JJ know that I have been arrested and the officers claim to be taking me to central police station. The short-tempered one dragged me by the road and pushed me in front of a moving car. Luckily I crossed back and held on to the other officer who seemed to listen to me. They made me walk while still asking whom I work with, and especially, why I think I can tell the officers what to do. They called me arrogant and let me know they can do with me as they wish. By this time my phone was constantly ringing but the officers refused to give it to me.
They led me past a church, behind Greenspan estate and I refused to move any further. The officer with a temper kept pushing and trying to drag me. All the while I kept asking to make a phone call and to be notified of the place they were taking me. They made me stand and talked to me for about 20 minutes. They let me know that they knew Willy and he had died for the same arrogance as mine. That they could still carry me away in front of everybody and kill me far off, and that they did not care about my knowledge of the law. One of them even threatened to take my phones with him. At this point I let them know that I have already told Yash Ghai that I had been arrested and if they didn’t have any documented allegations against me, I had a right to be set free. They talked to each other. I was given my phone and I talked to Gacheke who was dialing. I confirmed with him the arrest and he wanted to talk to them. They declined. They let me know that they are experienced, have handled tougher people than me and could arrest me whichever way they wanted.
After this, they let me go. I walked back and called both Gacheke and Yash to notify them of my release.
Although I am still disturbed about the event and how to interpret the words and actions of the officers, I know that my experience is not an isolated case. The coordinators of our Illegal detention, police brutality and EJE campaign, Anthony Mwoki and Muchangi Nyaga, constantly face threats and harassment from the police. Anthony was recently arrested and driven around in the boot of a police car on April 19th, see the details here, and also has an ongoing case due to the false accusation of possession of marijuana. The nature of arrest, custody and policing by the Kenya Police is a traumatising experience and has unfortunately been too normalized and condoned by society at large. How I could be arrested outside home and in broad daylight without public intervention explains both the fear of the police and the impunity of a police force that has decided to operate by instilling fear and targeting young people and Rights Defenders with malicious prosecution, torture and executions.
I cannot tell what today’s events would have lead to, but it is clear to me that the police had taken their time to follow me and perhaps had other motives that were most probably prevented because I created a scene, that I mentioned Yash Ghai and that my phone was constantly being called.
I believe it has been prompted by the work we do at MSJC, the case that was established against a police officer at Pangani police station officer after I video recorded her soliciting a bribe from a mother whose son had been illegally detained, and also our EJE advocacy work that recently culminated in a landmark report called: Who is Next? A Participatory Action Research Report Against the Normalization of Extrajudicial Executions in Mathare.
Because of this unwarranted and violent profiling I will be reporting this incident to IPOA and other relevant authorities, and ask for your help following up this situation and creating more accessible avenues for HRD’s like myself to seek protection.