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Man’s relentless bid to give a voice to the voiceless

By Steve Mkawale | Published Sun, August 5th 2018 at 00:11, Updated August 5th 2018 at 00:15 GMT +3
David Kuria, a human rights activist who has been fighting relentless battles with rogue police officers who violate people’s rights and crooked lawyers stealing from their clients. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

Bump into him on the busy streets of Nakuru town and he will strike you as a simple man.

But his scruffy, graying beard and face etched with sad memories tell a lot about his three decades of relentless battles with rogue police officers, crooked lawyers stealing from their clients and local authorities who oppress their subjects.

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A trained paralegal officer, the 55-year old popularly known as ‘Western’ has pursued more than 200 cases related to human rights violations to the bitter end. All without getting paid.

This has earned David Kuria friends and foes: people love and loath him in equal measure.

Political prisoner

Asked how it all started, Kuria takes us back to 1991 at the height of the clamour for multi-party democracy, when the independence party Kanu locked up its political opponents.

Kuria joined a group of mothers pushing for the release of their sons jailed by the regime. 

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“Thousands of Kenyans had been imprisoned under a myriad of laws passed since independence. They included people jailed in 1982 after a coup attempt and members of the radical Mwakenya group arrested in 1986,” he recalls of his entry into the world of human rights crusaders.

But little did he know that his relentless involvement in the push for release of political prisoners would leave him asthmatic, broke and physiological traumatised.

When we caught up with him last week in Nakuru town, Kuria was working on a case where a man suspected to have raped a 15-year-old girl was set free by Administration Policemen at Kabazi in Bahati constituency after he allegedly dished out a Sh8,000 bribe.

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It is in his tiny office space that he launches his numerous battles to save the oppressed.

Peter Njoroge is full of praise for Kuria after he saved him from jail after a neighbour framed him of making illegal electricity connections that killed his 13 year old daughter.
On May 9, Njoroge’s daughter Monica Nyambura was fatally electrocuted when playing outside their home in Kikopey.

His neighbour, who owns a kiosk that was illegally connected to electricity, claimed Njoroge was behind the illegal connection.

“My daughter was killed and the police arrested me for something I did not do,” he said when recalling the incident.
Kuria wrote to the Office of Ombudsman , the Independent Police Oversight Authority (Ipoa) and Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) asking them to relook the case.

Njoroge was released and an investigation into the incident launched.

Another recent beneficiary of Kuria’s pro-bono representation is the family of a 10-year-old girl who was defiled by a second year student of Egerton University in 2014.

When the Officer Commanding Njoro Police Station released the suspect, Hannah Wanjiru, the girl’s grandmother, asked Kuria for help.

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With his help, the suspect John Nduati Kamau was arrested and is now serving a 20-year jail term. 

Poor health

“This is what I do. I fight for the rights of the down-trodden and the voiceless,” he says.

But Kuria, a father of five, has on countless occassions spent cold nights in police cells in the name of fighting for others.

“Between 1992 and 2002, I was arrested several times for my involvement in human rights issues and charged with incitement,” he says.

At the height of crackdown of dissidents, he was linked to an incident where veteran politician Koigi Wa Wamwere, Geoffrey Gatungu (GG), Ngengi Njuguna, James Maigua and Charles Kuria Wamwere were accused of storming Bahati Police Station to steal guns.

“I was locked up at Kericho GK Prison for months before being released unconditionally. I have never recovered from that incarceration and I am of poor health owing to a breathing problem,” Kuria recalls.

Despite the challenges, the paralegal trained human rights crusader says he does not regret being involved in the fight for justice for poor members of the society.

As a result, Kuria has grown up with political awareness and social conscience, which made him more determined to give a voice to the voiceless. 

“As a paralegal, I have fought against all kinds  of human rights violations, from police brutality, oppression of children and women labour to persecuted religious minorities for more than 30 years,” he says.

He has established the Nakuru Human Rights Network, a regional rights lobby group.

“The rights and freedoms for the person are just as important as the air we breathe,” he says.

He has received a recognition award, Giraffe Heroes-Kenya, for his commitment and meritorious service to the community.

 


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