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After lock-up nightmare, MPs want toilets with running water in cells

NAIROBI: If there’s one thing that knocked the airs out of the MPs in their three-day detention, it was the humiliation of squatting over a bucket and, in the full glare of their colleagues, taking a long call.

After that, they would clean up and when the cell door clanked open, one of them carried the bucket to empty the excrement in the pit latrine outside.

Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire said he felt dehumanised having to use a bucket toilet, for both short and long calls, during his stint in the cells. He said such mistreatment of detainees needed to be abolished.

"You can imagine answering a call of nature in front of your colleagues. It is quite unfair to undergo (this), and this is not because I am speaking as an MP but any other Kenyan. It is totally unacceptable," Mr Bosire said.

The MPs now say they want to use their legislative powers to reform and improve the condition of the facilities.

Speaking separately, the legislators bemoaned the situation in the cells, which they said were filthy.

They also criticised the attitude of senior police officers, which they said made the cells a "living hell".

Busia Woman Representative Florence Mutua said they were locked in a tiny room with no lights. Their toilet was also filthy.

Human Rights

"I can't imagine what my male colleagues went through using a bucket in front of others. This is infringing on human rights and decency. We need to know why some stations still use buckets as 'toilets'. MPs should advocate for cells to have clean toilets," she said.

Ms Mutua vowed to push for a change of environment at police stations across the country, through enacting a law in Parliament.

According to Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, Bosire was tasked with coming up with a bill to have mandatory minimum facilities in cells and prisons for debate and enactment.

"The bill will ensure police cells have modern toilets complete with running water and equipped with toiletries and sanitary pads for women," Mutua told The Standard.

The lawmaker said buckets usually used in cells as toilets for both long and short calls make the environment inside horrible. Mutua recalled seeing a woman with a two-year-old baby bundled into the same cells that she was locked up in together with her Kilifi counterpart, Aisha Jumwa.

"It was disturbing to see them and at one moment, we thought it was our responsibility as leaders to bail her out, but the situation could not allow us," she explained.

Fortunately, the baby was saved the trouble of spending the night in the filthy cells by relatives who bailed the mother out. "It would have been a nightmare for the child," said Mutua, adding that the cells must also be lit.

"I believe things happen for a reason. The cells are made for human beings, not necessarily those disobedient like the eight of us. Reforms must be expedited in police stations to guarantee Kenyans better services," the Busia lawmaker said in the National Assembly.

Machakos Senator Johnstonne Muthama and MPs Kuria, Ferdinand Waititu (Kabete), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), Bosire and Junet Mohamed (Suna East) narrated painful experiences they underwent as they spent three nights at Pangani Police Station over hate speech allegations.

The six male lawmakers were forced to share a 7 by 10 feet dingy room, with no running water but a bucket toilet.

Although Mutua and Ms Jumwa cooled their heels at the "posh" Muthaiga Police Station, they said the conditions were no better.

Freedom Songs

Kuria, who revealed they were kept warm in the cold Cell Four by freedom songs, termed conditions in police cells as deplorable and that something must be done to improve them.

"Other Kenyans go through all these hardships daily, but there is nothing they can do about it. Luckily as legislators, we have the power to ensure the next occupant of cell four at Pangani does not need to come up with 'Nobel prize' innovations as Junet Mohammed did," he said.

"There is a dire and urgent need to reform and improve facilities inside our prisons and detention centres," he added. Jumwa said the cells were unfit for human use and asked the Government to improve them.

"A lot of money is allocated for security in the country. We want part of this money to be used to rehabilitate the cells," she said.

MPs' 'miserable' date with reality
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?
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