Mwakenya movement and dark days of single party rule

By Kenneth Kwama

Kenya: Not much was known about the Mwakenya Movement - an outfit that was accused of fanning anti-government ideals in the early 1980s until police launched a crackdown against its members, which made life difficult for many.

People were arrested on the grounds that they were part of the illegal movement, which sought to overthrow former President Moi’s government. This set off a trigger that saw hundreds tried and tortured in 1980s.

While little was known of the Mwakenya Movement, what stood out during the crackdown was the unyielding manner in which the crackdown targeted everyone in the society. Nobody was spared, not even teachers and secretaries, making it a hot news item for newspapers.

On August 16, 1983, The Standard carried a story on page three titled ‘I refused to type seditious document’ detailing the tribulations of a typist with the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), who found herself in court as a witness.

She had allegedly been requested to type a ‘seditious’ document titled ‘The Bloody Sunday’, which referred to the 1982 coup attempt.

“Millicent Atieno Omamo was testifying at the hearing of a case in which Anne Kisaka Nangulu has denied that in November 1982, she printed a seditious publication entitled ‘The Bloody Sunday and Its Aftermath.”

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The prosecutor in that case was Bernard Chunga, who was hounded out of office after the National Rainbow Coalition unseated Kanu from power in 2003. Chunga had been appointed Chief Justice by the Moi regime and it was speculated that it was a reward for the meticulous manner in which he prosecuted Mwakenya cases.

Despite the fact that he had never served on the bench, Chunga bypassed senior Court of Appeal judges, who merited the post. He was removed through a tribunal and it was the first time in the country’s history that a tribunal was set up by the President to investigate the conduct of a judge.

Not one to be pressured to resign, he ignored the public outcry even as it became increasingly evident that his days were numbered. He eventually resigned after the tribunal was set up by President Mwai Kibaki to investigate his conduct.

In the 1983 case, Miss Omamo had originally been accused of being in possession of the same document without authority, but Chunga later withdrew her case.

“The witness said she never read the contents of the document given to her by Nangulu, who worked as a clerk for the AFC. She said she went on leave and left the document at her desk, which had been occupied by Nangulu. Police officers found the document during her absence while the desk was still being used by the accused,” reported the paper.

The movement later fizzled out, but the ferocity with which Chunga was bundled out of office is a pointer to how Kenyans felt about the whole idea.

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Mwakenya Movement single party rule