Since 1902

State won’t compensate political prisoners’ mothers who stripped naked

Three women who stripped naked protesting against their sons being held as political prisoners will not be compensated by the government for injuries they suffered at the time.

The women had joined others in a hunger strike at Uhuru Park and All Saints Cathedral in the early 1990s when armed police officers used force to remove them.

Court of Appeal dismissed the compensation case by Priscillah Mwara Kimani, Lucy Waturi Kimani, and Esther Gathoni Gicimu, who claimed to have been clobbered by police in 1992 and driven back to their homes in Kiambu County before finding their way into the cathedral in Nairobi.

Following the ruling, they will continue nursing physical and psychological injuries after they failed to produce in court evidence in support of their claims.

It is a strike the late Nobel Laureate Wangare Maathai took part in that saw some women hold nude protests for 10 months in a bid to prevent police officers from arresting them, a move seen by part of society as a curse to anybody who dared arrest them.

Teargas, batons, and guns

In the judgment, Justices Mohammed Warsame, Patrick Kiage, and Alice Murgor said violation of constitutional rights could not be proven based on mere allegations, adding that the women had a burden to prove they were tortured and as a result, it led to their suffering either physically or mentally.

The women had claimed they were attacked along with fellow mothers, sympathisers, and friends by more than 100 officers attached to the General Service Unit with teargas, batons and guns.

According to documents filed in court, Priscillah claimed to have been injured in the eyes and fled to the cathedral where they camped and did not go to the hospital for fear of being arrested.

Lucy, who had no medical reports, claimed she was injured, arrested and taken to her home by the officers while Esther was driven to Muthaiga Police Station then to her home in Ting’ang’a, Kiambu with a message that she should never return to Nairobi.

The AG’s office had argued that the three women failed to prove any of the conditions they were required to prove on a balance of probabilities by dint of the Evidence Act. The court was told that the case before the High Court did not meet the threshold of the definition of torture.

The three had filed a case at the High Court 22 years after the incident that took place between March 1992 and January 1993 in Nairobi, a case in which they wanted the government to compensate them Sh12 million.

Then High Court Judge Isaac Lenaola dismissed their case in 2016, saying there was no evidence that the women were at Freedom Corner and All Saints Cathedral on the material day.

Aggrieved by Justice Lenaola’s decision, they lodged an appeal on 16 grounds that were later on consolidated to four issues: whether the affidavit and oral evidence of brutal attack on the women by the GSU officers at the freedom corner on March 3, 1992 and the cathedral was torture and whether there was any constitutional or statutory limitation in filing petitions.

They also raised the issue of whether the judge ought to have been guided by similar cases.