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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

An activist's story for African Liberation Day – Not Yet Uhuru!

Today marks African Liberation Day founded in 1958 when Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah convened the First Conference of Independent States. The day symbolizes the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from the shackles of domination and exploitation; first from colonial powers and today from dictatorial regimes.

However African social justice activists still face intimidation and outright violations of their basic human rights. The story below written by George Nyongesa of Kenya’s Bunge La Mwananchi is just one of the many examples that respect for human rights is still elusive to Kenyans.

It is also tragic to note that even though African Liberation Day was founded over half a century ago, unfortunately it is as the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga titled his seminal autobiography: (it is) Not Yet Uhuru. Today also marks the first anniversary of the death of Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, one of Africa’s champions in the struggle for human rights, justice and democracy. To pay tribute to the lives of the late Tajudeen and other social justice crusaders who have transitioned, surely African leaders should today hear the call of the citizens who are demanding social accountability. Not in 1958, not tomorow, but Today. We demand Uhuru Today …

Mr. Shitati a Bunge la Mwananchi member arrested distributing copies of Katiba!

Dear Kenyans and friends of Kenya,

I would like to bring to your attention the arrest of Mr.Nathan Shitati, a member of Bunge la Mwananchi, by 4 CID officers. At the time of arrest Mr. Shitati was distributing copies of the proposed constitution and talking to a group of people on the streets of Nairobi around Prudential Building next to City Hall. The copies of Katiba that he was distributing had been picked from Uraia.

Mr. Shitati, aged between 60-65 years, was picked out of a group of close to 100 people and was driven away in a motor vehicle bearing number plate KAJ 945U to what we later learnt was Central Police Station.
I was informed by those present during the arrest, that the arrest took place at around 1.30pm ( Monday 24th). While arresting Mr. Shitati, the arresting officers remarked that he was to be a lesson to the rest and ordered the rest of the group to disperse or they would be arrested too.

When I visited Central Police Station to inquire about the charges against Mr. Shitati, I was taken on a run-around between DCIO (not sure of his name); Mr. Francis Muguai, the Officer Commanding Police Department, (OCPD); and Officer Commanding Police Station (OCS), (not sure of his name too).

In my meeting with the DCIO in his office, he could not say anything more than: “the matter is with the OCPD” and “why cant you people keep quiet?” Realising the futility of dealing with the DCIO, I and others who had accompanied me to follow up the matter, went to the OCPD’s office, where we knocked, entered and greeted him but he did not respond. I went ahead to tell him what had brought us to his office. He kept quiet for almost 10 minutes just watching TV. When I insisted to know what offense Mr. Shitati is alleged to have committed, he jumped from his sit almost hitting me with his baton and shouted: “did he have permit to hold a meeting”. He then ordered me plus the people I was with out of his office.

At around 7pm an unidentified police officer in uniform came to me and told me that Mr. Shitati was going to be taken tomorrow morning to City Court for charges of CREATING PUBLIC NUISANCE. On learning this, I decided to go back to the OCS, who just waved us out of his office saying we should just wait for Mr. Shitati to be presented in court because that matter was above him. I tried to persuade the OCS to release Mr. Shitati on bond on grounds that he was being charged with a petty offense and he is an old man and sickly. But the OCS just remarked that “that there is something called occupational hazard”. The police could not let me confirm from the Occurrence Book (OB) if the charge of public nuisance is what is recorded there.

It is very sad that Mr. Nathan is spending a night in a cold, filthy, police cell for exercising his constitutional rights of assembly, association and expression. It would be interesting to see what is defined by police officers as a public nuisance. If it turns out to be true that Mr. Shitati shall be charged at the City Court then it is worrisome that nowadays CID officers can arrest and charge people under City By Laws which is traditionally the docket of City Council Askaris.

The kind of (mis) treatment that we received at Central Police Station is unacceptable and smirks of something else more than the alleged offense that Mr. Shitati is being charged with.

While I am shy of drawing conjectures it is important that I inform you that Mr. Shitati is a well known grassroots leader and a YES activist. Mr. Shitati is not new to the streets. He is part of the large group of citizens that meet during lunch hour and after work on the streets around Prudential House to discuss public interest topics and it is surprising that he was arrested for distributing copies of the proposed constitution.

We invite you to stay vigilant with us and if you can, join us in court, possibly at the City Court or High Court tomorrow Tuesday 25th May, 2010 at 8.00am. We still have not firmed up on legal representation and will also possibly require to raise cash bail to secure Mr Nathan Shitati’s release from custody tomorrow. Therefore, if there is anyone or oganisation out there who can help us in this matter please get in touch at the below contacts.

Yours in organizing for change,

George Nyongesa
Bunge la Mwananchi


Africa Image said...

Oh Africa when can we act as human beings for once? Police officers are acting as if they have no brains. Why?

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