Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kirimi found tortured..Power in numbers.. solidarity in Kenya, we can!

Dear Kenyans and all friends,

Memories we must not lose
but use to make our solidarity
beyond tribes
other borders
that greed creates.

I write this letter with the joy of the finding of Kirimi whom I wrote to in my earlier posting but also with the pain of where and how he was found after, as he has confirmed himself now, a police arrest.

Kirimi found tortured...
Beatrice wrote to a list-serve Kenyans for Peace thru Justice (KPTJ, set up in 2008) and to all who were active in finding him..

“ that Kirimi is safe. I have personally talked to him and it is true he was arrested by police at GSU round-about (Nairobi. He was then taken to Thika Police station and that tells us why the effort by Kamotho and all the others who tried to lacate him in all the police stations in Nairobi could not get him. He claims that he was sedated and later found himself in Narok (Suswa) and was not even aware that it was Saturday. He thought it was still Thursday.

Yesturday night around 8.00 p.m. he was taken to a room where he was badly tortured and he told me he is in a lot of pain.

He was released this morning and got in touch with RPP members. They are on their way to pick him and take him to hospital.

We all thank God for him and his young family.

To all those who helped in any way either information, such moral support and prayers. We say thank-you.

To comrade Kirimi, Pole and Keep strong. Aluta Continua!

I write with pain and joy in me, because Kirimi is one example of many Kenyans dedicated to a reformed country who has managed to come back to us alive due to extensive pressure from Human Rights Activists.

Now, some people in Kenya say they dislike us but that is good for us and terrible for them because to dislike human rights is to curse humanity.

I continue to be sad because the voices of the many more disappeared Kenyans continue howling at me from the Wagalla Massacre, Ngong’ Hills, Mt. Elgon to voices of people dying in the countryside because of famine that could have been prevented save that the maize had been sold out to neighbours at a profit and this sacntioned by people in government who happen also to be behind many businesses in Kenya. We have not forgotten the Kisumu massacre in 1969 after the assasination of Tom Mboya and the enemity and suspicion that bedivilled the two large ethnic groups of kenya since then, Kenyatta being Gikuyu and Tom being of the Abasuba, Luo. Subsequently Shikuku Martin and Seroney who dared ask in Parliament who killed Tom landed in detention. Shikuku remembers well how he told J.M.Kariuki they had to speak out for Tom Mboya and how then Kariuki, perhaps for being Kenyatta’s secretary found himself in a fix in Parliament. Shikuku says he had told him to speak out because if not, they would come for them next. J.M. Kariuki was assassinated in 1969.

We have our colonial backdrop of serious violence that was never healed. Reading books about Mau Mau, for example Carolne Elkins Britain’s Gulag, the end of Brutal Empire in Kenya, makes one frustrated because what happened in Kenya is no less than what happened in concentration camps all over the world. The British have been sued by Mau Mau for a part of this atrocity. We must not let our fathers and mothers down for having suffered to liberate us from this oppression. We must stay with the spirit of freedom as Kimathi to the very end. We have a wonderful history of resistance. We are proud of Mekatilili wa Menza, Harry Thuku, Koitalel Arap Samoei, Mary Nyanjiru and others who long before in the early colonial periods resisted the rape of our land for resources and the suppression of our various freedoms. We come from a background of dignity in resistance. Wanyiri Kihoro wrote The price of Freedom, the history of political resistance in Kenya, collecting all these voices. Voices of women do get left out and Philomena Chelagat and Sara Sarai Njomo are hardly heard of along with so many others. Field Marshal Muthoni too, J .Kang’the, James Beauttah, and others.

We have had poor leadership that opposed opposition at the cost of lives. When Kenyatta was in power, Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya (1969), Josiah Mwangi Kariuki (1975) and others we may never know were assasinated. Kenyatta’s era began the horrid tradition of intolerance. Fifteen years after independence in 1978, writers began to flee Kenya into exile. Micere Mugo, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Ngugi Wa Mirii (R.I.P) and many others went into exile. This was after detention without trial became normal. Kenyatta could not stand opposition and we know how he regarded Jaramogi Oginga Odinga who wrote Not yet Uhuru and others such as Bildad Kaggia who were not in politics to loot the country. George Moseti Anyona resisted for a long time.

Creative writers were the keepers of the voice of the people in a world without opposition politics or even much human rights activism. But these were also mainly based at our Universities whose chancellors are our presidents. The universities dould not protect them and the question of who guards the guard had no answer.. quis custodes ipso custodiet as they put it in Latin will always puzzle in a world without Human Rights Defenders.

With the death of Kenyatta in August 1978, Moi stepped in and he said he would rule so well he would follow Kenyatta’s footsteps, indeed we still call him Nyayo which in Kiswahili means footsteps and he is still commenting and influencing Kenya’s politics. He is Kibaki’s friend and the two own a large part of our country and its assets as does the Kenyatta family.

Whereas Kenyatta simply bullied and used sadistic humor even as people singing to him as the father of the nation, Kenyatta aliteswa sana, Kenyatta haicia bendera many of the Mau Mau people know he betrayed them and Caroline Elkins tells it in Britain’s Gulag her book.

Moi formerly severed the umbilical cord of knowledge redeeming or liberating a people in his detentions of writers and academics of the seventies and eighties. In his days, education was turned into a blunt object even with his system so supported by J.J. Kamotho then education minister, the infamous 8.4..4 system.

People sang to him and one group did the Ewe mtukufu, mtukufu rais Moi ( You, Moi, the glorious). He KBC played it often. You pledged loyalty to him after the national anthem and he advised that KANU party cards almost be used as national IDs, and this made me sick!

With the the removal of ‘A’ levels where critical minds were formed before entering university and all this political interference, many of us lost interest in teaching literature which was merged with English lessons and I personally left a teaching job for among other things recognising I could not deal with the change with the level of thinking.

Reagarding the 8.4.4. system, I am not saying those who have gone through this system cannot think, I am saying that those who had lived in a different system could not cope with politically laden educational changes. The system can further be judged and assessed by Kenyans since we have not worked against it but kept it, paying for our children to be educated in it and to further go onto parallel degrees and so on, a topic for another day. That Moi reduced free space I can say without any doubt!

I wrote poems about Alexander Muge, Ouko and Wambui Otieno. I knew of two writers organisation in the nineties and I was a memeber of both but they had their difficulties. One was PEN Kenya which I would later revive in 2008 and the other was the Writers Association of Kenya. When I remember the Kibwana of this organisation and the one of today who advises government and who was a minister, I ask myself whether or not I understand and can accept metaphysics and its principle on non-contradiction. Kibwana has understood reforms in a way I cannot comprehend. The journals we published carried our poems of anguish on different topics. Some are: The return of African quarters by Tom Ochola, and Tangazo by Kineene Wa Mutiso, From Koru to Kipkarren, They did not listen ( KANU vs the people), among other political poems.

This was happening at time when there were hardly any citizen based orgnisations, whistleblowers and human rights activists on the scene to cause pressure. This was a time you were arrested for having so called seditious materials in your house.. could be a math book and no one would know.. you just went and suffered. Micere tells us about writers in exile in her essay here.,+creativity+in+Exile&source=bl&ots=dt5pvaCsJn&sig=tkv_d-Jgy4pZ76_v29Wb9m6QCVc&hl=en&ei=GvfTS8uQFpqJOJf36PUN&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CAwQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=micere%20mugo%2C%20creativity%20in%20Exile&f=false

People who spoke out found themselves in the dark Nyayo Torture Chambers of what you call Nyayo House today.. ( I refuse to call it a house) a building that is being used to frustrate history as in my view, its basement cells must be preserved as Kibaki promised when he came to power and not turned into those neat parkings I saw there. There is an effort to obliterate history here. Many, people as we know and as we read in We lived to tell, a double- stapled book of limited editions ( again history endangered) many of them are still with us. Shem Ogola, Cornels Akello Onyango, Wachira Weheire, Tirop Kitur, Professor Edward Oyugi, Professor Katama Mkangi, Peter Njenga Karanja, Florence Nyaguthie Murage, Wafula Buke, Adongo Ogony, Ng’ang’a Thiongo ( died in March this year), Raila Odinga, Koigi Wa Wamwere, Onyango Oloo, Paddy Onyango, Njeru Kathangu, Apiny Adhiambo, Njuguna Mutahi, Mugo Theuri, the late Mkangi Katana, Kamonye Manje, Onyango C.A, Oyugi Mbaja, Karimi Nduthu, Silvanus Ombuor and Gitau Wanguthi. Imanyara Gitobu, Kang’ethe Mungai, Titus Andungosi, Wahome Mutahi, Mwandwiro Mghanga,Rumba Kinuthia ( I saw the inscriptions RK) when I visited the cells and he tells he did that), Wanyiri Kihoro, and others are still with us and many of them active. Wanyiri writes that detained without trial were: Paddy Onyango ( Patrick Ouma), Katama Mkangi, Gathitu Kariuki, Gacheche wa Miano, Wanyiri Kihoro, Gibson Kamau Kuria, Israel Wasonga, Mirugi Kariuki (R.I.P) and Paul Ong’or Amina, the most hard working journalist before and after detention. Otieno Mak’Onyango, Obuon Guya and Samwel Okwany were adetained for long periods an set free.

Published by Imanyara Gitobu, the Law Monthly had a special souvenir edition in March 2003 in which it noted also: Peter Young Kachara, James Opiyo, Morgan Muthamia, Jimmy Achira, Cyrus Muraguri, Pascal Wandera, Henry Ngila Kitwa, Stanley Waweru Kariuki, Salim Ndamwe, John Khaminwa, Mohamed Ibrahim, Ken Matiba and Charles Rubia.

History and their deed later will show us how much each of them have stood up for reform but we owe them much collectively and singly for those days in pain for freedom. People of all ethnic backgrounds died in these days.

Neither the list of those mentioned nor of writers is exhaustive. People like Gakaara Wa Njau wrote much about Mau Mau but writing in our challenged Mother Tongues have left them largely unknown and we hope that this will be remedied. We are sure there are many unknown heroes and not just soldiers whom the world gives monuments to. We also know that there must be literatures hidden in old and dusty cupboards since the days of fear. We know that many who would have been writers killed their creativity with fear handed down to them by dictatorship.

We will all remember that some of them such as Koigi wa Wamwere and others remained incarcerated for so long that their mothers at freedom corner and other old women after a year of organised activism in 1991- 1992 stripped naked a traditional curse that would lead Moi to no good. This is a powerful part of our history and we know that it was organised by women. Wangari Wa Maathai did not strip but she was there and badly brutalised by police who pulled out her hair. Njeri Kabeberi was also there and what is important for this article is that Njeri and others then formed Release the Political Prisoners lobby now headed by Steve Musau.

Kirimi who disappeared and was tortured actually works against torture. This means that they want resistance broken. They forget the sprit of Karimi Nduthu, who was killed in Moi days, and who was also in RPP is not dead. This for me is headline news and is what Kenyan media should headline today but they will be, almost always following the most recent utterance of one politician or the other... at least my memories are made of such bad matches in that field but they are our friends for we need them. I know radio will be doing better even when am far but not print media so thank goodness for internet!

I believe as I said one day in a speech that I had prepared for RPP that we must recapture the spirit of the mothers of freedom corner and move on with our freedom. I want to keep closer to what we have done with our recent history since it will soon be the 50th year of independence.

We have seen how a history littered with abuses has been part of the questioning of the integrity of the Chair of the brought a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Comission, TJRC, which has ended on the rocks and muted. This is an organ we can only count on if we are ready to stare at the truth of our history in the face. We cannot use tainted mirrors, broken ones and mirrors that are not to do this in the name of Commissioners. Kenya must be free and during the hard time we got into in 2007/2008, we heard many saying that “The truth shall set us free”, something we like saying only during such crises but which we forget on a day to day basis.

I know that we have not had time to heal well from our recent violence of 2007/08 which thrusts its roots deep into our country’s history. But it is not too late for us to start working for our own healing and that of our country. Let us be Kenyans who watch out for freedom and for one another.

We who have suffered many arrests, and please take note of the fact that many of us do not belong to any organisation or NGO as many KENYANS tend to believe but just try to be alive to our situations with a conscience for justice and peace try to to form solidarity cells among us. We call them Afinnity Groups and in short Afi which also includes a check on our afya, so to speak. You do not need to register or have formal meetings.. just talk to some friends, neighbours, family about Kenya positively and decisively. We promise to be alert in our own hearts, not oaths, we look out for one another and we move in whatever way whenever we find anyone in trouble which affects and afflicts their freedom. We add our voices to good causes.. we are ready to reform. We do not look at tribal bearings or speak hate speech, we vote, we dream, we are Kenyans for a better future, we reform ... make a group right now. Touch you neighbour, never again allow a politician to define for you whom you must love and hate, let humanity take over.

Kirimi Kenneth and all of us take our strength from Mandela’s Long road to freedom and other books written by many people named above who also encourage us. We know that many who were detained by Moi have died in abject poverty. We know there is a way out of poverty for our nation.

We are the spirit of Freedom Corner and we take a share of the blame for our youth who die condemned for being this or that when we know full well they would not behave like that if they had food and jobs. Let us walk together in greater solidarity still!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

a letter to Kirimi who went missing and suddenly life is not the same again

22nd April, Nairobi,
Jevanjee Gardens

Kirimi Kenneth Mbaya, a human rights activist who works with The Release Political Prisoners office in Nairobi has gone missing from 22rd April to date. It is said that he was arrested probably by what the witnesses describe as Kwekwe Squad. This name sends shivers down Kenyans’ spines. The main role of the Kwekwe Squad was to look out for young men believed to be members of Mungiki, and get rid of them. Hundreds of young men have died ruthlessly in Kenya for the last three years under this kind of policing for the fierce squad is part of the dreaded Kenya police force. The government says this squad was disbanded and replaced with another. Many citizens differ with that and say the squad is intact and continues to kill.

Dear Kirimi,

You might have seen the said white land rover coming your way near the General Service Unit or GSU College as we call it here in Nairobi and thoughts quickly flew through your mind. Perhaps since early that morning and before, you had misgivings. Insecurity is so common now in Kenya and young people have felt dispossesed for a long time. As they grabbed you, your mind could have dashed to your wife and children. As for the struggle and comrades, I know your heart and mind are never far from that.

You might not have realised that there was somebody watching or you might have, as they bundled you up into the back of the white van. But wherever you are, I wish you knew how much your comrades have done in search of you. Since you were reported missing, many of them have not slept. They have been to your home after searching all police stations and found your anxious wife with your children aged 9 and the other three months. She said that you never go overnight without telling her.

She knows what many Kenyans know when a young man goes missing like this and is not to be found even in police registers. At such times we fear the worst. But we have faith and hope Kirimi, that it was not for nothing that somebody managed to see what happened to you and reported it quickly. On the wings of the foot soldiers who have travelled accross Nairobi to the different police stations which almost come to over a dozen, are the people who are farway or only available on internet. Since the news came, they have been really active trying to spread their wings further and further, making a wide net so that you can land safely.

Frontline Defenders have sent an alert, and it has gone all over Kenya to police bosses and also all over the world. I made sure it went to the BBC because I have it from someone that when we were arrested and beaten in the past, the BBC report caused a lot of jitters in home offices and they did not want to hear that story again, and they acted fast. It is a shame we still can do under cover as a nation what we would not like others to see.

But right now Kirimi, it is your person that worries me. I wonder where you are as I look at your photos, which Fwamba N. C. Fwamba has circulated to us. I have this knot somewhere in my chest, not throat. It is a kind of oppressive force, when I think of you and the circumstances you are in. I think of so many young people who were disappeared in Kenya in the last three years. Records which the government has rejected puts them at 600. A shocking and worrying figure.

I still hear stories of villages in Central Province where young people, boys almost ceased to exist. It is an eerie feeling I get. I get it so deep down because my struggle as well as yours has always been so that people who are even younger than us, our children may inherit a better nation. At his point, I have to say sorry to your three month old child and to your nine year old. What they are registering right now from their mother’s anxiety and your absence is something that may scar them forever.

From that level, I think of the many people who are deeply angry and scarred in my country because human rights do not have the reverence they deserve. I think of the confusion created because of poor leadership. This confusion made many ordinary people feel that it is fine for a state to kill whoever they suspect is offending, and without due process. May this not be your fate Karimi because I know your work. May we find you alive and untortured for looking at you clear eyes, I cannot see how later I can face anybody with an explanation of whatever kind.

It is long since we spoke Kirimi. I remember your focus and your clear vision, a sense of direction which many of our leaders lack and I look at your youthfulness and ask myself what does anyone have to fear in a person like you? You speak out for justice. I deeply apologize to you for this state of affairs. Perhaps since am almost twice your age, if I had worked harder in the past we would not be where we are today. Perhaps if Moi had not detained artists without trial, caused them to go into exile, detained both Matiba and Rubia, when they spoke about multi-party politics, fear of one another would not be as high as it is. As a leader one's duty must be to create positive thoughts and to sow them in every individual that is open to receive and to woo the closed ones. I know this. I know that a leader can never be the first to suppress free thought and organising and am not condoning crime. I am saying there is a due process to be followed when people offend others in society.

I want to emphasise one thing. Matiba in his time used to attract the youth of Kenya like a magnet. He made us sense opportunity and we began to dance even before the opportunity came. I still remember Mwangi, in raggged clothes telling me with a bright soul and a smile what it felt like to visit Matiba and to be not only received but treated like the biggest dignitary on earth!
Now Mwangi crouches around Nairobi and like many, hardly wantst to spend too much time in rural Murang’a in case he too goes down or disappears without a trace.

If it is true as some say that Matiba was used by Moi and the intelligence to mix Kenyans up, I forgive Matiba, for they destroyed even his health and caused him bankrtuptcy, but to the other politicians who use young people, women and men old and young for a bait for their votes and to return to power shed blood, I join the old women at freedom corner who cursed Moi and now curse all in power with the ancestors on my side and say to them, "may you suddenly find that you are the pawn in the bait and may you be the ones that are trapped and our people set free!"

Karimi, to you I send hope. I want to send you hope as I remind you that you are not alone. I hope to see you soon, but you know I also had to leave for a while. This struggle has been so hard because it is not black and white, and am not only referring to color here, as was apartheid.

It has been so hard for many in Kenya and in the world to understand that Kenya’s soul is tattered. They were surprised when in 2007 Dec, people killed one another after an election gone awry because the presidential votes were not counted well and the results of the winner were not announced. I must say that I too had thought we were over with the worst when I saw the long queues of innocent faces like yours coming out to vote and be counted.

This taught me not never to underestimate Kenya. We aim high and we want to be a paragon nation in the world. A place of more justice and human rights. A place where women are not raped and men sodomised in villages and where children are secure. I know some will shake their heads but let them read or visit Githunguri villages and ask why everyone wants to be home well before dark. And I know it was like that sometime back in Ting'ang'a and it may never have stopped. Serious alcohol abuse and sodomy and rape that makes one recall Gomorrah.

We know we can and we shall never even stop to think we cannot. Why should we? Our ancestors collectively, be they Turkana, Malakote or Luo or any others say like Mekatilili of the Giriama believed in this and owned their dignity. We know we can for there was a time in the seventies when Kenya was referred to as the Switzerland of Africa. How can we stop and we have children?

It was through this event that we learned for sure that the kind of power our politicians crave for and exercise is raw and ugly. 1, 533 people died in a short time, many of them shot from the back. Thousands were placed in camps and some are still there. Some fled to Uganda and have remained there. Kenya, formerly the host of refugees from the neighbourhood has been hurtling down. You have been standing up for justice and now they have come for you like they have done for so many. We speak out even at the risk of it because we know what governments can become if people cow down and do not speak.

Karimi, I hope to wake up from this sad reverie and find that you have been found. In the meantime we shall keep your wife company with something for her to buy bread and milk for she fully depends on you.

When you are found, let me tell you this early, because if you are not, it will be hard for me to remember anything with the pain, when you are found. Please read or re-read parts of Mandela's Long road to freedom. No one may treat you as such, but you are the Mandelas of today and our prison is no longer an island. IT is life. Mandela makes allusion to life being prison often in this book, and what he went through with his family leaves one with so much pain. Read this book or keep in mind these thoughts before you have a long chat with your mother, your wife and family members. And remember to ask others to read these thoughts often and not to stop at the pain but to see the victory. Not to stop and wonder at Mandela but to start real organising of our lives so that we can be free in our land.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Have we healed our souls in Kenya? Our Land?

Song... and freedom, 2nd April 2010

In the days of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, song was key and many songs were sang by the people and also by musicians. I am listening to one of them just now in Amandla and the singer is saying, "The song says we have washed the land and this is what we have been doing for so long?

All countries that have experienced much bloodshed and my Dear Kenya has, and others will not immediately and suddenly be non-violent places. I smile when a CNN journalist interviewing a local one In Cape Town asks about violence today, you know, just before the World Cup and none of the two remember that the high expectation of the world that there be no violence in South Africa is unreasonable. Glad the local journalist said that this is what is portrayed in the media.. South Africa as a violent place but she failed to ask or comment that to expect no violence in South Africa after her prolonged struggle is strange but there we go!

Nonetheless, the thread here is that South Africans have really worked at all levels for peace and against injustice! It is true that shamefully racism is not over and what used to read "No blacks" may easily have turned into the polite "Management reserves the right of admission, " the kind of discrimination which is acceptable all over the world, but our sisters and brothers in the South did a wonderful thing with song and spirit in that land!

I often long for that kind of singing to sweep my country Kenya also and to cleanse it! I find that when it comes to national song we are not strong! We have a beautiful tune in our national anthem but many feel that the beautiful words to which it is set have been abused by politicians for too long! And somehow that it does not belong to us. Just recently, some Kenyans pointed out that the Kiswahili version is actually a different song so that it would seem we are not united even in this song! Kenyans sing a lot and everyday there are new secular musicals as well as perhaps to many gospel ones. But the thing is since the murder of J.M. Kariuki in 1975, I have not heard music that questions status quo or even proudly asserts our struggle for human rights, and justice and all else!

I must say we have sang! Indeed we were arrested in 2007 in August because we were singing our liberation song which not too many Kenyans know.. we were singing we will not kneel down to oppressors and killers.. Sophie Dowallar fo the 5Cs with Diana, have kept a small civil society group of singers going. We sing well when together and this should become part of the national music scene but the group struggles for support. This is what makes miss the singing of others...Well, maybe they exist in our various languages but we need to meet in Kiswahili. If nobody had sang a la Hugh Masekela , Bring back Nelson Mandela.. what a gap there would be! But also we saw it in Sarafina and other places that South Africans sang freedom back to their land! I love the women who sing to the terrible Vervoed.. you can hear this on Amandla! South Africa has always inspired me to think much more is possible! So much more in Africa. I love the country and the people and their languages! I hope as Xenophobia once reared its head that South Africans will not allow themselves to leave out the rest of Africa! Or not to feel part and parcel of one another.