My take on the dramatic events we saw in the country last week.
Eight people, six of them men and two women are accused of hate speech, there is a public outcry. Then they are all dramatically rounded up in the city and are locked away at two police stations for three nights.
On any other day, this episode would have passed without incident – after all spending as long as one week in a police cell incommunicado is just the kind of thing thousands of Kenyans deal with all the time. But, these were not ordinary Kenyans – or so they told us – they were members of parliament – the August House.
Four days after the arrests, one of their lawyers, John Khaminwa made a most amazing submission in court. He pleaded with the magistrate to release these MPs since, in his words, ‘they were living in deplorable conditions’. He went further to state that the eight should not have been subjected to the conditions he described as inhumane since they were the representatives of the Kenya people.
Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu for instance, was said to have been forced to use his shoes as a pillow.
- 1 MP and bodyguard spend weekend in cells
- 2 MP Jumwa released on Sh4m cash bail
- 3 Jumwa spends another night in police cells in murder case
- 4 Ukambani ‘hustler’ brigade vows to shoot down BBI report
Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama’s sister complained loudly that the legislator had not changed clothes for 24 hours.
Kilifi Woman Representative, Aisha Jumwa said her cell was unfit for human habitation.
Each of the rest had their own tales too; from cold floors, to having ugali and cabbage for lunch, to being denied any visits by relatives and friends.
There is no doubt that detention facilities in Kenya, whether police cells or prisons are deplorable. As a matter of fact no one should live in them in their current condition. The truth is, they exist and people live in them.
Why would members of parliament expect any preferential treatment while thousands of Kenyans languish in these very cells without the luxury of a lawyer to argue their case? These ordinary Kenyans have no media to highlight their plight and no politician to give ultimatums to the government on their behalf? How many of these members of parliament have ever fought this hard for the so-called ordinary Kenyans to be held in dignified cells? How many bills of such nature are pending before either House?
It is gratifying to note that now the Kilifi Woman Rep Aisha Jumwa has pledged to pay for the refurbishment of the cell where she spent three nights. And perhaps the other seven should follow suit. But it appears many leaders in the country are still completely out of touch with the reality of those they represent and if locking them up occasionally is what it will take to put them in the shoes of the electorate, then so be it.
Perhaps the CORD legislators may want to stage nationwide protests regarding the state of our detention facilities next time.
That’s my take!