Nigel Topping, recently appointed UK High-Level Climate Action Champion, visited Mathare Social Justice Centre to speak with MSJC members on ecological justice. He showed support for the Mathare Green Movement, a campaign to bring dignity to the lives of people through environmental justice.
Saturday 20th of February marked the launch of the Mothers of Victims & Survivors Network Report. The launch coincided with World Social Justice Day. Members of the Network convened at the Orbit Hall, Mathare. The Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network started in late 2017. It was formed for the purposes of documenting many cases of mainly extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, police brutality, and other inhumanities by the police.
The day was marked by talks and discussions by members of MSJC and community members. People joined in solidarity to grieve over those they have lost to police brutality and charted ways forward for accountability and justice. The report can be read and downloaded here.
By Lena Anyuolo
Music as a form of art has been used as a progressive tool for educating and organizing the oppressed masses. Reggae music has played a crucial role in educating the people towards self-emancipation, progressive organizing and a collective awakening to end neo-colonialism and imperialism. ‘Watoto Wanasay’ will be a segment of the reggae session that will allow children in the community to be seen and heard as critical members of the community.
The first session of the ‘Reggae Mtaani’ series was held on 14th November 2020 at Al-Jazeera, Kiamaiko. The host centre was the Kiamaiko Community Justice Centre. Reggae Mtaani is a community organizing tool that aims at bringing community members towards collective reflection and collective action against marginalisation. The organizing principles are self-emancipation, resistance, restoration, redemption, liberation and celebration.
The thematic topics discussed during the session at Aljazeera were forced evictions and land injustices, gender based violence, extrajudicial executions, constitutionalism, social justice, the language of our music and ecological justice. It was also a celebration of our history where we paid homage to freedom fighters, using this collective memory of the struggle to reflect on where we have come from and the task of our generation to realise ‘Ndoto za Mau Mau’ (the dreams of Mau Mau).
Under the segment ‘Watoto Wanasay’, we tackled children’s rights and gave children in the community a chance to have the mic to give their opinion on the positive changes needed in the community.
Reggae Mtaani also celebrated the unsung heroes in the community such as garbage collectors, community health workers, human rights activists and the women who run the coffee and jaba bases in Kiamaiko, which are valued as communal meeting spaces for relaxation, organising and psychosocial healing.
Reggae Mtaani deconstructed the negative stereotype often used to criminalize the youth using the narrative that falsely equates jabaration, reggae music and youth bases with ‘illegal activity.’ It showed the community that a congregation where reggae music is played does not have to be a funeral or a night club, but a space where our collective consciousness is raised for self emancipation, restoration, resistance, redemption and celebration.
Reggae Mtaani was conceptualized and brought to life through the collective effort of members of Social Justice Centres. The activity at Aljazeera was coordinated by: MSJC- Antony ‘Kanare’ Muoki, Kinuthia Mwangi, Lena Anyuolo; DJ Talanta: ‘The one hand DJ’ was the main deejay for the event; Githurai and Ghetto radio – Edgar ‘Liberator’ Ogutu who MC’d the event and provided key information on the logistics and structure of the day; comrades from Kiamaiko Social Justice Centre who provided the chairs and hosted the activity; Al Jazeera Group and Voice of Kiamaiko provided the venue, event marshals, and co-hosted the activity; the broader Social Justice Network in Mathare provided the sound system; and EBTI Sacco provided transportation for the equipment.
A notable success of the activity is that it was not funded, relying wholly on available resources from individuals, groups in the community and the social justice centres.
Besides members of the Kiamaiko community, the following social justice centres were also represented by their members – Kiamaiko, Ruaraka, Mathare, Ghetto Foundation, Kayole, Komarock, Githurai, Dandora and Kamukunji.
Reggae Mtaani will be a series of weekly reggae sessions held every Sunday in different ghettos in Nairobi. The sessions will be hosted by the various social justice centres within Nairobi’s informal settlements.
The next vibration will be hosted by the Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC).
To all our comrades, men an women actively engaged in the struggle, we say this: “Continue Organizing. ORGANIZE. ORGANIZE. ORGANIZE!” AMANDLA!
See pictures from the first session below:
MSJC is still actively working to support Jacktone and Peter, whose cases are described below. Below is an open letter we have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions to demand justice for the two, and other Peters and Jacktones in poor communities.
To Noordin Haji
Director of Public Prosecutions
Ragati Road, Upper Hill
Re: Open Letter to the DPP — Unlawful Detention, Injury to and Charges against Mathare residents
Monday, November 2, 2020
Dear Director of Public Prosecutions — Noordin Haji,
Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) is an initiative by young members of this community to promote social justice. Against the widespread systematic violences in the area, a collective of young community activists in Mathare came together in 2014 to e nvision a centre that would promote more participatory forms of justice. Since then we have been involved in a number of initiatives, most notably our foundational campaign to document extrajudicial killings that resulted in the launch of our 2017 report titled: Who is Next? A Participatory Action Report Against the Normalization of Extrajudicial Killings in Mathare. This grassroots report ended up being one of the most comprehensive tallies of extrajudicial killings by the police in Kenya between 2013 – 2016: we documented over 850 deaths across by country by the police during this period.
We continue with this work even while the same officers who we have documented, over many years, as grave human rights violators, continue to illegally detain, injure and often kill residents across poor urban settlements. Particular to Mathare, we refer to Police Officers Rashid and Baraza; we have forwarded tens of cases to IPOA implicating Rashid in the killings of young residents, to no avail.
As part of this community work, we are actively involved in the cases of Jacktone Omondi (18 years) and Peter Wakaba (17 years) who were shot and injured by the police in Mathare on October 14, 2020, at around 7.30 pm. It was the swift and determined action by three young Mathare women activists, who alerted local networks and managed to get the young men medical care hours after they had been shot, that saved their lives.
From the information we have gathered from residents and witnesses since then, and heavily implicating Police Officer Baraza, Jacktone was shot as he was going about his normal day to day activities in Espana in Mlango Kubwa, and was rescued by women in the community– they took him to a safe space. Peter Wakaba was shot by Baraza in his leg as he was sitting and eating food, mushogi, in an outdoor space alos in Mlango Kubwa. Peter was then put in the back of a Probox car number KCP 361V, and taken to Tosha Petrol Station. His mother and other community members then went to Tosha Petrol Station to plead for Peter to be taken to hospital and to question why Baraza had shot him. Baraza responded that he was going to let him bleed until he died in the car. But after more protest by these community members, Baraza took Peter to Pangani Police Station, and he was told, even as his leg bled, to clean the cell. It was the inmates who protested that he should not be in the cell as he was bleeding, forcing Baraza to take him out and leave him close to the river in Mathare.
Thereafter, the three women activists, all of whom have lost family members to police killings in Mathare, managed to take both Jacktone and Peter to the nearby Medical Sans Frontiers (MSF) clinic, and hours later managed to get the two to Kenyatta National Hospital: they sat with them for twelve hours before they were admitted. Jacktone and Peter had surgery a day later on October 15, but unfortunately were treated like prisoners while they were in the hospital even if they had not committed any crime: they were chained to the hospital bed for the days they were there, and not allowed to shower.
On October 26, Peter Wakaba’s mother and a lawyer from Amnesty Kenya went to pay their hospital bill to get them both released from hospital, but their doctor refused as he said they did not have permission from Pangani Police Station. Between October 27 – 30, Peter’s mother received a number of phone calls from an officer called Mukisii telling her to go to the Pangani Police Station to get a letter that would get both Peter and Jacktone released from the hospital, but was unsure about whether to go. On October 30, Peter and Jacktone were released from Kenyatta National Hospital and taken to Pangani Police Station where they are currently being held, even when they have not committed any crime, and are still recovering from the police inflicted gunshot wounds.
This letter serves to alert the DPP about any false charges that may be brought against Peter and Jacktone, even when they have done nothing wrong. We ask that you stand firm and question any charges that may be brought against these two young men by Pangani Police Station. In addition, there are many Peter and Jacktones, and, therefore, this letter is also a request to the DPP to commit to supporting poor communities such as Mathare that are struggling under a systemic terror enacted by police officers like Rashid and Baraza. We are closely following the case of Duncan Ndiema, and ask that the DPP take similar swift action against other police officers in Mathare, and elsewhere, that are terrorizing poor communities.
We can no longer live with police instigated unlawful detentions, charges, killings and violence in our community.
Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC)
You can download this letter here: MSJC Open letter to the DPP – November 2, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has made worse many of the social justice issues we do advocacy around. It has also unearthed many other issues that tend to be overlooked in our push for social justice. For example, following the outbreak, it became clear world over that the ‘work-from-home’ approach to the crisis was a luxury that many could not afford and that many families were sleeping hungry due to the pandemic. In response, as a social justice centre and in collaboration with our partners (both individuals, government, non-governmental organisations and the broader social justice movement), we received food donations that have helped feed many families most affected by the pandemic. While distributing food to the needy in our community, we noted that not only had the pandemic severely affected people’s livelihood, it had affected teenage girls and young women in unique ways that we had not dealt with before. Specifically, we noted that, often, most of those sent to collect food packages were young women and teenage girls no longer in school due to the pandemic. Often, the girls would collect the food packages and request for sanitary towels. After noting a pattern of teenage girls and young women needing help with menstrual products, we mobilised within and included sanitary towels in our packages. We also started talking to the girls to understand their experiences of the pandemic. It was from these initial talks with individual girls and young women that it became clear that young women and girls were a group uniquely affected by the pandemic and whose needs brought together many issues of social justice that we’ve long advocated for. Among the issues that became clear were that:
- There was limited awareness on menstrual health management (MHM). Many of those that provided food packages did not for instance include sanitary towels.
- Menstrual health was not a priority in many families. With many parents out of work, most families prioritise food and shelter over other expenses.
- COVID-19 has both exacerbated and highlighted the need for a menstrual health focus. Access to menstrual products has been deprioritised by the government and parents, while most young girls and women would have access to these while in school, many are now forced to stay home as their parents cannot afford sanitary towels.
I was in this regard that we started holding weekly meetings with girls on menstrual issues that has since expanded to include broader social justice issues.
Our target group is young girls and women aged 12 to 22 years, as most of them have an understanding of menstrual health matters and can speak for themselves about issues affecting them in their communities.
Linked to broader social justice issues
We saw menstrual health as linked to many social justice issues and campaigns we’ve started since establishing MSJC. For instance, among the issues flagged by participants was that it was difficult for them to have proper menstrual hygiene when their families have to buy water during this difficult period under the pandemic. Related, the participants noted that it was often embarrassing to dispose used sanitary towels in the community as the community lacks basic sanitation facilities. Further, the issue of menstrual health is about lack of political accountability in that despite the 2019 Menstrual Hygiene Management Bill, many women and girls still lack access to affordable menstrual products. Some of these issues were highlighted by participants in the following MSJC menstrual health campaign video.
The Objective of Dada Talks
- To create confidence among young women and girls (ages 12-22) for them to better express themselves when faced with challenges in the community.
- To understand and harness some of the young women and girl’s ideas in better managing menstrual health. E.g. some have great ideas on making reusable sanitary towels and other reusable menstrual products.
- To push government to change its approach to menstrual health by ensuring access of menstrual products, initially availed in schools, in communities during the pandemic and beyond.
- To create a safe space for young women and girls to express themselves.
- Hold weekly sessions with a group of 25 girls from Mathare on various topics that are affecting girls in communities.
- Those trained where possible to mentor others in their respective neighbourhood in the community as the centre is yet to develop a capacity to host more than 25 girls and young women.
- Air documentaries of women trailblazers to inspire the young women and girls
- Conduct community outreach where possible to reach the young women and girls unable to participate.
- Expose the girls to other people outside Mathare.
- To have cells in every ward in Mathare Constituency creating awareness on menstrual hygiene and providing a safe space for young women and girls to convene.
- To have better access to menstrual products provided by the government
- Confident girls and young women that know their rights
See pictures from some of our sessions below!
Over 15 months between March 2019 – August 2020, MSJC’s disability justice campaign worked on a report highlighting the many grave injustices that people with disabilities in informal settlements live through everyday. Like our other reports, this one was anchored in participatory action research and built on previous conversations and community dialogues on disability in Mathare that we have organized over the last two years.
It is our hope that this report contributes to getting dignity and social justice for some of our most marginalised community members. And we hope you will hear their words, experiences, desires and demands and take up their call for justice. As we know and as they say: Tuna Haki Pia!
The report can be accessed through this link: https://www.matharesocialjustice.org/disability-justice-report-tuna-haki-pia/
Please share widely!
Nairobi, July 8, 2020
Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta
President of the Republic of Kenya
Re: Citizens’ Demands
WE members of the Social Justice Movement in Kenya;
PURSUANT to article 1 of the Constitution of Kenya 2020, which recognizes us as Sovereigns and the source of all State authority,
HAVING wished to present to you our petition on the 30th anniversary of Saba Saba yesterday;
HAVING been violently disrupted by policemen sent by your administration to violate our constitutionally protected rights and freedoms including the right to peaceful assembly, expression and protest;
FURTHER HAVING addressed various offices within your administration and received no meaningful attention;
UNDERSTANDING that you have violated the Constitution on numerous occasion including failing to protect the lives of all Kenyans especially those of us from poor and neglected informal settlements;
RECOGNIZING that you have taken everything from us including our dreams for a better future through institutionalized corruption;
HAVING little to live for under your administration;
READY AND WILLING to die for Justice, our Constitution and our Communities;
DO NOW wish to address you and demand as follows;
1. THAT you should understand that you are our leader and not ruler
2. THAT we are sovereign citizens and not your subjects
3. THAT implementation of the Constitution is not a choice but a duty for you and all of us
4. THAT you have no right to mutilate our Constitution for narrow and selfish political interest to the detriment of the rest of the 50 million Kenyans
5. THAT we demand that stop the BBI process immediately; implement the Constitution in full; no excuses! Tekeleza Katiba sasa!
6. THAT you must direct the BBI budget to services that Kenyans really need especially provision of water, food, sanitation and healthcare
7. THAT you must respect and Implement the Bill of Rights without any qualification or exception – Kenyans rights are not a privilege for you to regulate; they are an entitlement and we are ready to die for them
8. THAT you must stop killing us – terminate and prosecute all the Officers Commanding Police Stations that have contracted extrajudicial killings in Nairobi and across the country; terminate and prosecute all the Police officers who have participated, abetted or aided extrajudicial killings; terminate and prosecute all the Police officers who have concealed and/or compromised investigations on extrajudicial killings
9. THAT you must stop playing the game of musical chairs with criminal police officers; you must stop transferring them from one police station to another; we demand that they every rogue police officer must be terminated, prosecuted and those found guilty jailed; all of them
10. THAT you must stop criminalizing youth and poverty; stop it immediately
11. THAT you must stop weaponizing COVID 19 against Kenyans; stop police harassment and extortion of Kenyans; we demand a proper record of all resource that have been raised to help Kenyans deal with the pandemic; and we demand prosecution of all those who have stolen resources meant for communities and Kenyans from the local level to the national government
We are tired of being victims and being terrorized by criminal state violence! If you do not respect our existence, expect our revolt!
We demand and expect to hear from you within the next 7 days, failure to which we shall be back in the streets… and this time we shall not get out of the streets until something yields!
For and on behalf of Social Justice Movement in Kenya; (see downloadable version here: SJCWG Citizens Demands)
Convener, Social Justice Centres Working Group
Convener, Social Justice Centres Working Group
All Sovereign Citizens of Kenya
National Assembly of Kenya through the Speaker
The Senate of the Republic of Kenya through the Speaker
President of the Supreme Court and The Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights
SABA SABA MARCH FOR OUR LIVES: TEKELEZA KATIBA
Members of the press, comrades in the struggle and community members, today we are gathered here at Kayole Community Justice Centre, to launch a series of activities geared towards our annual March in quest for justice famously dubbed as “saba saba march for our lives”.
The previous marches have been organised around injustices that we are faced with collectively from the communities that we come from, nothing has changed only that this time round we aren’t marching to the historic Kamukunji grounds but rather to Harambee avenue to present our grievances to the head of state whom the buck stops with, and is constitutional mandated to safeguard our wellbeing as a nation and not a chosen few.
The following are the issues we need to bring to his immediate attention
Police Brutality, Extrajudicial Executions and Enforced Disappearances
Despite the extensive input deployed towards police reforms, the police force remains a scare and a threat to the existence of many innocent lives in our informal settlements. The rise in extrajudicial killings in our settlements is a worrying trend that has left many citizens disheartened. The deliberate shooting of innocent lives and petty offenders without a second thought is the reality we are faced with on daily basis. The saddening bit is that only those cases highlighted by the media are the ones given attention whereas justice is denied to the larger section of the victims.
Equally, a worrying trend of enforced disappearance is emerging within our informal settlements as the new form of dispensing justice to suspects by the police. Such trends have been observed in Dandora, Kariobangi, Korogocho, Githurai and Kiamaiko. In this regard, we are still yet to receive any substantive information on the Kiamaiko three who disappeared on March 24th on their way from Thika.
Those who are lucky not to have fallen victim of EJE yet aren’t off the hook; they are faced with the scare of assault, extortion or harassment in the hands of the very ones bestowed with the duty to protect them.
Violation of Article 43
Despite the Constitution granting every citizen with rights to basic needs, i.e. water, food, shelter, housing, health, education and social security, we continue to witness the violations of these rights by the government.
Many of the informal settlements go for weeks without water, a basic commodity for survival. Those unlucky are force to walk for long distance in search for water, tagging along their children whereas the other half are left to be exploited by water cartels who sell them water at a fee which is quite expensive. Our attempts to raise this matter with various stakeholders fall on deaf ears with some of our colleagues ending up being arrested and charged in court.
Notwithstanding the scare presented by the covid-19 situation, with the recent demolitions in Kariobangi and Ruai, the government has rendered over 5000 families homeless, turning many to scavenging for food for survival.
Better healthcare still remains a mirage and a privilege of the rich. The status of our local facilities need immediate ICU like attention by the state and the county governments.
It is also important to note that the current pandemic we are faced has resulted in many being rendered unemployed, which has expanded the already bulged basket of the unemployed. Yet the intervention given by the government offers little or no hope to those unemployed, who are struggling for survival in the informal sector, but rather hope to medium sized businesses with sizeable capital. The already overburdened citizens are faced with an increase in VAT and the introduction of hustlers/mama mboga tax.
Funny enough, there are no jobs for the youths other than clearing trenches, but commissions and committees are formed to accommodate the old political allies of the states
Shrinking Civic Space
All indications are clear that the democratic curve in the country is gravitating towards dictatorship despite the previous milestones we have made to secure the space.
The unlawful takeover of Nairobi County by the NMS and bestowing it to the military, the silencing of parliament by executive and the struggling judiciary are all indicators that our future as a nation is worrying.
Citizens are denied the right to assemble and organise whereas a section of the political class are favoured and accorded the to right to assemble.
We do believe that the solutions to all our problems are entrenched in the Constitution and we demand for its full implementation and nothing else.
Saba Saba March for Our Lives.
Just like the previous two marches that have been very peaceful and nonviolent, we assure the Kenyan citizens that this year’s march shall equally be peaceful. We request the police to grant us our constitutional right to march against injustices and present our petition to the office of the president. We also ask the police for protection like they have done in the previous marches.
Social Justice Movement
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
On Tuesday, June 30 at 11 am, Rashid, the known killer policeman from Pangani police station came to Mathare Social Justice Centre with two of his colleagues; Rashid and one of the other policemen were in civilian clothing and the other police officer was in a full blue suit.
After introducing themselves, they said they had come to “lodge a complaint” against a person called “Ali” who had supposedly been discrediting Rashid on social media. Because of this they demanded to see the leadership of the organization. Jennifer, our administrative officer, and Lucy Wambui, an MSJC human rights monitor, were in the office, and said they did not know Ali. It is important to note that Lucy Wambui’s husband, Christopher “Maich” Maina, was killed by Rashid in 2017. A witness to Maich’s killing was also killed by Rashid in 2018.
After saying they did not know Ali, thereafter Rashid said that he knows that many people come to MSJC to complain about him, and he wants to speak with our leadership to share “his side of the story.” Him and his colleagues also asked for tea, and Rashid emphasized more than three times that he wanted to be served by Lucy Wambui.
As a police officer, Rashid is certainly aware of the legal avenues to lodge a complaint, therefore we consider his request an excuse to enter our space and intimidate us. Above all, since MSJC has been documenting the killings of youth by the police in Mathare since 2015, a large number of these killings which have been done by Rashid himself, we can only interpret his visit to the MSJC office to “lodge a complaint” as a threat to our members.
What’s more, as the Social Justice Centres work on planning the Saba Saba March For Our Lives against police killings, enforced disappearances and all forms of state violence, his visit at this time also counts as intimidation as we build towards this important March.
We demand that the National Police Service ((NPS) and Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) take this threat on MSJC seriously. We also urge other relevant grassroots and civil society actors to stand in solidarity with MSJC at this time.
We continue strongly in our commitment to demand justice and dignity for all victims of police violence.
Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC)
Mathare Social Justice Centre Statement after Huruma Police Station Officers threaten Human Rights Defenders Rahma Wako, Demtila Gwala Wairimu and Kimani Mburu
27 May 2020
Mathare Social Justice Centre strongly condemns the threats directed at three human rights defenders who are members of two social justice centres: Kiamaiko Community Justice Centre (KCJC) and Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC). These activists are: Rahma Wako, Demtila Gwala Wairimu and Kimani Mburu.
These three committed human rights defenders (HRDs) have been involved in human rights activism in Huruma ward and Mathare Constituency as a whole for over a decade. More recently they been involved in demanding justice for Yasin Moyo, the 13-year-old boy killed on his balcony by the police on March 30, demanding answers after the disappearances of Michael Njau, Adan Mohammed Sibu and Samuel Mungai, and supported the family of 2-month old baby Asnat who required hospitalization and breathing support after the police threw a teargas canister into her house on Friday May 22.
Since they created awareness about these cases, and especially since they took the family of Asnat to Huruma police station to record a statement on Tuesday May 26, these three activists have been receiving threats from officers at the Huruma Police Station.
We demand that the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and the National Police Services (NPS) investigate these threats and help maintain the safety of the three activists. In addition, we call on all citizens, activists and organizations who believe in social justice to demand an end to the police victimization of all Kenyans and support grassroots organizations and social justice centres as we work to ensure the safety of Rahma Wako, Demtila Gwala Wairimu and Kimani Mburu. (statement also available here MSJC statement after threats to 3 HRDs – May 27 2020)
Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC)