Incident was nearly similar to one in King’ong’o Prison, where warders killed six inmates
By Kiundu Waweru
NAIVASHA, KENYA: One day four decades ago, warders at Naivasha Maximum Security Prison visited inhuman brutality on prisoners.
The details of that day, April 24, 1972, are captured in a book titled My Life in Prison, authored by John Kiriamiti, a self-confessed former criminal. As some people have said of Kiriamiti’s writings, the events of that day read like good fiction from an imaginative writer.
However, court proceedings that followed investigations into the torture of prisoners proved that it really happened.
First reports indicated a group of prisoners had been injured as they tried to escape.
However, news of what really happened leaked out and a preliminary inquiry was opened at the Nakuru Courts on May 17, 1972.
Kiriamiti narrates how he had been ordered, together with a fellow inmate, to take a table to the carpentry section from his polishing section. The prison had workshops for metalwork, carpentry and tailoring.
robbery with violence
Kiriamiti, then serving 20 years for robbery with violence, was only a few weeks into his sentence at the two-year-old prison that had an inmate population of 4,500.
According to an earlier article by The Standard, there were about 60 convicts in the carpentry section. Among them were Mwangi Mwaura, 30, and Mwangi Kairu, 25, both serving long terms for robbery with violence.
Kiriamiti recounts how a prison officer confronted one of the inmates, identified in court as Mwangi Kairu, for not having finished a sideboard he was working on. The officer hit Mwaura in the chest with a swagger stick.
“Don’t hit me in the chest again. Tell me what you want me to do but don’t hit me again,” Kairu said. The officer felt insulted by this, and went on hitting the prisoner. It was then that Kairu reacted, with his hands behind his back. He reached for a hammer behind him and as he brought it down to hit the officer, it dropped. Kairu was then restrained by two warders.
Kiriamiti writes that Mwaura then hopped from bench to bench, hammer in hand, and fell on the officer restraining Kairu. He hit the officer on the head. Other prisoners and the warders ran for dear life.
Mwaura then did a gory thing. Although Kiriamiti mixes up the names, compared to the court witnesses, he vividly paints the picture of what ensued.
Incensed, Mwaura hit the officer who had been sent sprawling with the hammer again and again, even though he was unconscious.
“He took a very sharp chisel, three-eighths of an inch wide, bent over his victim and struck into the brain using the hammer. Blood oozed out. The assailant took off his clothes, like a man preparing for an important job. He sat on the victim’s chest. As the blood oozed out, he scooped some with his hands and drank it, smearing his body with the rest.”
The court heard that on that fateful day, Johannes Nyokaya Saita, a senior technical assistant in charge of the carpentry section, walked into the workshop at 6.30am and found Kairu working on a cabinet.