Matiba's death epitomize frustration former detainees go through to get compensated

Kenneth Matiba in this picture dated September 1987. [File, Standard]

The State's delay to pay veteran politician Kenneth Matiba over Sh1 billion has brought to the fore the hurdles in the path of torture victims trying to get compensation.

Matiba’s claims are among over Sh2 billion the Government owes many individuals whom the High Court awarded various amounts for violation of their rights and cruelty at the hands of police.

Although Matiba was awarded Sh1.5 million in August last year for State torture and detention in 1991 during the clamour for multi-party democracy, his lawyer, John Mburu, said the figure had accumulated interest and now amounted to Sh1.7 billion.

“As of today, the Government owes Mr Matiba Sh1.7 billion. The amount was enhanced from Sh500 million to Sh1.5 billion and it continues to accrue Sh22 million interest per month from the date of judgment till full payment,” said Mr Mburu.

Lawyer Gitobu Imanyara accused the Government of neglecting Matiba and letting him die a poor man.

“This is a man who used his own funds to fight for democracy. Instead of those who have benefited from his efforts helping him, they are now shedding crocodile tears, yet they can’t even release the money Matiba was awarded for being tortured. Where is the Sh10 billion the Judiciary awarded victims of torture?” Imanyara asked.

While awarding Matiba the amount last year, Justice Isaac Lenaola noted that the veteran politician suffered a stroke on May 26, 1991, but remained in detention without medication for a week.

According to the judge, real justice could be expensive and the compensation was a lesson that such an injustice should not be visited upon anyone.

Justice Lenaola also noted that although the money would not help Matiba regain his health, which deteriorated as a result of the torture, it would compensate the business opportunities he lost and his rights that were abused at the time.

However, eight months after the landmark decision, the former Kiharu MP has died without enjoying the fruits of the hard and long fight in court.

Other former detainees are still waiting for the State Law Office to process their payments, now estimated at nearly Sh500 million.

Lawyer Gitau Mwara, who was also a torture victim and went through the torturous process of getting compensation, said it was not easy for the Government to pay torture victims and that sometimes took up to five years before the money was processed.

“We have a lot of obstacles when it comes to payment of torture victims. Nothing makes it more painful like going everyday to the relevant offices but being told that the Government has no money to pay you in express disobedience of court orders,” said Mr Mwara.

According to the lawyer, it was difficult to get immediate payment due to the process involved after the judgement.