We Lived to Tell the Nyayo House Story

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Transcript of We Lived to Tell the Nyayo House Story

  • 8/10/2019 We Lived to Tell the Nyayo House Story


    The Nyayo House StoryWe Lived To Tell

  • 8/10/2019 We Lived to Tell the Nyayo House Story


    Published b y:

    Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES)Peponi Road, Peponi Plaza

    P.O. Box 14932,

    Nairob i, Kenya

    Tele fax + 254-2-3748338/9

    E-ma il: kenia@fes.de

    Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

    Citizens for Justice

    Design and Layout

    Sunburst Communications

    P.O. Box 43193 Nairobi


    ISBN 9966-957-03-0

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    Acknowledgements 4

    Dedications 5

    Prologue 6

    Introduction 9

    Chapter 1. The colonial Era 14

    Chapter 2. Independent Kenya 16

    Chapter 3. Following in the footsteps 21

    Chapter 4. The Air Force coup attempt 25

    Chapter 5. Mwakenya 29

    Chapter 6. We lived to tell 35

    Chapter 7. In the dungeons - Nyayo House 41

    Chapter 8. Life in prison 51

    Chapter 9. Exile 57

    Chapter 10. The role of women 62

    Chapter 11. Picking up the pieces 67

    Chapter 12. Aluta Continua 70

    Chapter 13. What next 73

    Appendix 1 78

    Appendix 2 79

    Table of Contents


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    We lived to Tell is a bo ok by t he Citizens For Just ice, which docum ents experiences of Kenya ns

    who w ent throug h the infamo us Nyayo House Torture Chamb ers. They tell harrow ing sto ries ofscary ho unding by security a gents, arrests, tort ure, jail and det ention. Their experiences reveal an

    intolerant, oppressive a nd paranoid go vernment tha t could not stand criticism.

    Surprisingly, the g overnments flag rant d isrega rd for the law and the b latant violation of t he

    survivors and victims human right s happened in t he g lare and wa tchful eyes of the d onor and

    internationa l community.

    Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) suppo rted the development and publica tion of We Lived to Tell.

    The Found at ion supports initiat ives tha t promot e democracy a nd t he rule of law. We support t he

    promotion of a tolerant culture where dialogue is encourag ed a s one of the w ays of resolving

    tho rny issues. We share in the declarat ion of the survivors that w hat they w ent through should

    never happen a ga in in Kenya ! How ever, the content s and o pinions expressed in this book are

    tho se of t he Citizens For Justice and n ot of FES.

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    It is not o ften tha t survivors of torture have t he courage, the foresight and the w herewithal to

    record their pa inful experiences in writing in Kenya . In a context where there is no culture ofread ing more than d aily newspapers (due to const raints including povert y, illiteracy and lack of

    stat e encouragement ), writing something a s painful and personal a s wha t is contained in this

    boo k is more than welcome.

    I have w orked directly for many years in huma n rights. Yet, each time I listen to, or read, the

    test imonies of survivors, I never fail to g et a surge of em otion. The same q uestions spring to my

    mind. For example, what internal mechanisms are needed to survive and tell such horrors? Can

    one ever prepare oneself ad equately for these horrors? What entity spares some and not others

    even in terms of the degree of ho rrors? What do the p erpetrators think as they commit thesehorrors? How do they insulat e th eir minds from their horrible work? Answers to some of t hese

    q uestionsat least from the survivors perspectiveare alluded to in this bo ok.

    It is said tha t healing after menta l or physical traumasuch as t he to rture described in this

    bo okbegins with telling the story in the survivors ow n words. Kenya t oday is packed w ith

    literally thousands o f people wound ed a nd sca rred d irectly by sta te terror. Arguably, virtua llyeveryone in the country has b een affected indirectly by the t rauma associated with sta te terrorfrom colonial rule, and th rough t he Kenyat ta and Moi regimes, due to the institut ionalized na ture

    of sta te t error, intimida tion a nd corruption. The lega cy of t his institutiona lized t error andcorruption affect s everyone: From the w ay w e think and act on rout ine issues of da ily life to the

    expectations of immediate salvation from t he sta te w hich ha d styled itselfand succeeded in

    internalizingthe notion tha t it w as mama na baba(father and mother) on every issue.

    But nobod y suffered as much as the people who committed their lives to social chang e and

    transforma tion in Kenya and pa id the ultimate price w ith their lives and liberty. And to thesepeople, Kenya ow es a huge d ebt . They wo rked tirelesslysome before their encounter with therepressive state machinery and some afterin exposing and resisting the colonial heritage tha t

    is internalized in the post-independent sta te. Some may not ag ree with the metho ds tha t theseag ents of chang e ad opted in their efforts for chang e, but o ne can not help but adm ire their

    persistence, resolve and determinat ion, even ag ainst immeasurab le odds.

    Every struggle for social chang e has to undergo its own ad apta tion and transformations in

    keeping w ith the history, context and go als that it wishes to achieve, and one could a rgue that

    the process of coa lition buildingeven w ithout the lessons of coalition sustenancethat led to

    the h istoric elections of December 2002, had its roo ts in the work of the a dvoca tes of social

    chang e that paid such a high price.

    Repaying pa rt of t his deb t ow ed t o the people who suffered is not as ha rd as it may appea r. The

    first step is the formal acknow ledgement of the roles played and the t errible suffering tha t


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    occurred in Kenya in the d ecades past , by t he highest o ffice in the land. This also has the

    advanta ge o f signa ling that t he go vernment of the d ay is determined not to commit similarat rocities in the future an d that it respects those t hat made its rule possible by sustaining a

    culture of resistance, even in small wa ys.

    Second, it is imperative tha t the President heed the recommend at ions of the Task Force looking

    into the esta blishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliat ion Commission and establish one as

    soon as possible. And it is not enoug h to simply esta blish a Truth, Justice and Reconciliat ion

    Commission: It must be esta blished in a manner tha t lead s to its effect iveness, credibility and

    legitimacy. This can be d one through co nsultat ion by the go vernment w ith critical stakeholders

    who must include survivors of state terrorto ensure tha t the Commissioners appointed are

    credible, effective and a ccepta ble, having b een a pa rt of the strug gle for chang e in Kenya in some

    form. Only through a systematic way of testifying and highlighting the sufferings and courage o f

    survivors and victims can Kenya t ake a solemn vow that these mat ters are behind us and behind

    us forever.

    Moreover, no sterner or effective message can b e sent to potential perpetrators that these

    at rocities will never ag ain be to lerated, tha n throug h the process of a Truth, Justice and

    Reconciliat ion Commission. It is a truism tha t impunity bege ts a repea t of history and those w howould rather bury their heads in the sand, or focus on reconciliat ion without truth, are no bet ter

    than the perpetrators themselves.

    Third, even w ithout w aiting for a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, it is import an t tha t

    the g overnment b egin wo rking with survivors to beg in the formal process of healing the mental

    trauma tha t comes with this suffering. The age of counseling for human right s violat ions survivors

    and w orkers has not ye t ta ken hold fully in Kenya , and there are not many survivors who have

    go ne through counseling t o let out the pain, the d iscomfort and the d ifficulties that ca me w ith

    their experiences. Yet, without counseling, the journey to what is regarded a s normalcy forsurvivors and their families is prolong ed a nd ma de even mo re tenuous.

    Once ag ain, I salute the peo ple who se test imonies should enrich every Kenyanslife as they read

    this book. I salute those w ho could not cont ribute to the boo k because they paid the ultimate

    price w ith the ir lives. Through you Kenya is a be tter place for the moment, and we will not forget

    your w ork. We owe yo u.

    November 2003

    Maina KiaiChairman, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights

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    The Citizens for Justice wo uld like to tha nk all the people who participated in this project for

    g iving so g enerously of their time and sharing t heir experiences. We w ould pa rticularly like totha nk Wanjiku Matenjwa for compiling the research w ork, Beatrice Kamau for coordinat ing the

    project and to the researchers, Wachira Waheire, Tirop Kitur, Kamonye Manje, Onyang o C.A.,

    Silvanus Oduor and