Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stop threats to the life of Gacheke Gachihi, a reformer in Kenya

Stop threatening reformers!

With Women of Bunge la Mwananchi and Dr. Willy Mutunga in Huruma 2009

Most of the suffering and war I see today in the world is about power. That is why I will always be happy when people resist power that is about only power. A number of organisation including Bunge La Mwananchi that Gacheke Gachihi has worked with were started to resist injustice and to reconize it in its many presentations. They speak out.

When I see that little boy with swollen eyes lying on the ground in Syria and saying 'this is what the government did to me', then I remember that as a poet I have said elsewhere that all governments are beastly. They are worse than the ogres of yore. Then I remember that too many people take things lightly when power is abused, until it is too late. Governments
 can eat their own and pretend that nothing happened. You do not have to look too deep to see that, even when countries are not at war, the people suffer.  You will know it was too wrong to be silent when it is too late. There are people who are always actively questioning things even when they are not in the limelight. Look at these Kenyan resisters:

There are many potholes on the way to a stable environment of human rights in Kenya. It is time Kenya reformed and followed the rule of law yet we seem to be afraid.  Negative ethnicity is directly forbidden by our constitution of August 2010. 

Last week Gacheke posted on a the Kenyans for Peace Through Justice regarding songs carrying hate messages. They are full of spite for all other presidential candidates for the next General Election in Kenya except the man who comes form their area and speaks their tongue. The songs are in praise of Uhuru Kenyatta who is seen to represent all the Gikuyu. A sad state of affairs. The Kenya National Cohesion Committee is trying to deal with it, but the words cannot be arrested, they have already been sown all around. It is alleged that John De Matthew, Kamande wa Kioi and Njoroge  are paid to sing these songs. They are then broadcast in the Gikuyu radios in the country. This means they are singing songs telling people of the Agikuyu to vote for their own child, Uhuru Kenyatta. This means that they are particularly against Raila Odinga who for them represents the face of Nyanza. But memories of how corruption and power was used to fuel high level hatred between ethnic groups are very present. Gacheke has fought all such negative things for long. He has reasons to be concerned about this situation all the time. 

Death threats

There are many voices that are not wanted. Gacheke is one of them. Ngunjiri Wambugu who runs an organisation for change was recently on radio dicussing his views in Gikuyu when the owner of the radio, Uhuru Kenyatta, rang him during the program to ask him 11 questions. That is not a sign of a free press. It is about money and power. But back to today, Gacheke sent me and many people an sms telling us that a police woman told him that the days of his life are numbered. 

“Dear friends at 1pm i received call from Huruma Officer Commanding the Station (OCS ??+254722883236) that my days are numbered, this is a direct threat to my life..tomorrow at 9am I will go to huruma police station to record statement I need your support, Regards, Gacheke”

When I received this message I hastened to my Timeline on Fb to see what else I had missed while discussing literary matters with a friend on the message page. I posted my reaction of both shock and distaste and copied the number on to the message. Social media means openness. Days of darkness are gone. And there is power in sharing no matter what they say about Julius Assange and wikileaks.

I then called the number of the police officer because the phone number of a public officer is for the service of the people. I thought the most important thing was that the officer had to know that we were all aware of what was going on. Exposure of a threat like this in Kenya helps.

I was not smiling as the joy of celebrating Mario Ballotelli’s goals had lived in me and had just been stolen from me, nipped at the bud! Why, I remembered a young man at Huruma where Gacheke lives, was shot dead by police as he went towards his home after playing football one evening. I remembered how people told me he was just one in a long list of young people who had been killed like that. I remembered too that we should not be silent because the threat to the rights of one is a threat to all.

I want to record here that after the first unanswered call, my  call was returned.  It was a woman’s voice and she told me immediately that she recognized my voice. She said her name was … Ringera and that she had come across me in the course of her duty. Later she explained that she was the Deputy OCS in Muthaiga when the Central Intelligence  Department arrested 9 of us in a case that was dismissed after 4 years and called “The Republican of Kenya vs Philo Ikonya and nine others.”

I have been out of Kenya for two and a half years after arrests and harassment and was quite surprised. But for her it was very easy, she told me where she first saw me.  I asked her what was going on. She said it was so bad that she could not discuss it before sending me a text. I asked her to tell me as I was sure later she would be too busy to answer phones but she said she could only text it as it was horrible and then I could judge for myself. I really expected a bombshell. She told me she was aware of the situation, had spoken to Gacheke, but if I could please wait and she would text me a message in which I would see how terrible things are and then I could call her back.

The message is one that Gacheke had circulated earlier.

“Dear comrades we invite you to sunday protest at Huruma police station at 9am, against corruption, illegal detentions…in the station and high level crime in Huruma Mathare..Regards Gacheke”

The message simple and to the point does not break any law. But this message was being treated as criminal. I called back. I did tell her all this is on facebook and for her part she said she had received very many calls about this and that her telephone rang all the time. " I have even been called by some people called by ... she named ..raia..." I heard raia,..  which means citizens and there is an organisation that is caleld Uraia.  She was happy to speak and said she would answer all her calls as she is in the service of all. She said that police in Kenya no longer shot people dead, but I know a different story. I said to her that what she had confrimed to have said to Gacheke is not acceptable, such words coming from her are very dangerous and she said that these days Kenyan police do not kill people. But we all know a different story. She also said that if she wanted to kill him she would not warn him. She said he is not well behaved. She had many points of objection and reasons for her action but NOTHING can justify threatening anyobody with DEATH or any other harm and in their training, police are taught that. What is service for all? 

She complained about Gacheke. She indicated that somebody is giving her information on what Gacheke is doing or planning to do. She says she will not change and has never changed.

Gacheke is known to be a quiet and effective worker. He hardly exchanges hard words with anybody. He rarely even writes as long a message as the one he wrote on the singers and their antagonising Gikuyu songs. It was clear that he did so because he is deeply concerned about ethnicity and the complicity of politicians to divide the people. I say this because Ringera, who reminded me of herself in Muthaiga and who emphasised that she cannot change. "I am still the same one you saw there... ". made reference to Gacheke's case being a political affair twice. I fear that Gacheke will be framed for one thing or the other and will be arrested. Not so long ago, for the first time in his life in Huruma where he has always lived, he was robbed of his documents. 


Muthuri Kinyamu said...

We have to keep talking about these untouchables. Now with social media everyone has a voice! Thank you for sharing this because I have already passed it on to my friends.

Wa2 wa BackStreet said...

The rot is deep. It takes the courage of ppl to bring it out fear not evil for there is light at the end of the tunnel

2017, Kenya post- election deadlock is old; who did not see it coming did not want to, and the child is dead

       Mathare Math in voice...for Raila Odinga     His mouth is open with fear. The palms of his hands with fingers open. This is a fla...