Dear Kenyans and all friends,
Memories we must not lose
but use to make our solidarity
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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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 http://www.wworld.org/about/board/micere_githae_mugo.htm, 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.
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!