Citizen Journalists to document abuses: Isiolo

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The Isiolo IFA team have raised a red flag that Merti, Kinna, and Isiolo Towns are some of the most violated areas by security forces, including the police, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), and Conservancy Rangers’ activities. There are many cases of disappearances, harassments, and extrajudicial killings. Most of the atrocities committed by security personnel and conservancy rangers are not documented, making it hard to establish facts and achieve justice.

Smartly armed citizen journalists can make a big difference in these areas.

On 26th June 2020, IFA Isiolo Team organized citizen journalism training to help document and tackle these abuses. The training was held to equip like-minded partners and community members for the documentation of injustices and occurrences in their areas.

During the one-day training, seven women and six men were instructed on how to record usable images, video, and audio using their smartphones. They also learned how to most usefully and strategically share the recorded materials.

Intimidation, threats, and confiscation of their phones were some of the fears expressed by participants while documenting abuses. IFA shared with them tips on safety and security to guide them during documentation.

The participants, who come from the most affected areas in Isiolo County, also had a chance to interact with an Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) officer, who informed on how to report cases to them, and talked about victim and witness protection which they provide.

A WhatsApp group was formed so that the members could regularly report and share incidences from their areas.

Story by IFA Isiolo Team

 

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Brutal House Raids by KWS in Kakamega

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Until now, Kakamega Forest was known for its tourism. It has proved to be a major tourist attraction in Western Kenya, covering 45 square kilometers, home to diverse wildlife including birds and a large variety of indigenous trees and plants. Local conservation forces - the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) - have taken a lead role in protecting the forest. They played a major role in ensuring that the communities living next to the forest coexist peacefully.

However, behind the mask of the beauty and benefits of the forest lie tales of pain, loss and death by the neighboring communities.

Boniface Shipaka Madegwa and wife Adelaide Ingato Kowan stay in Ekhondolo Village, Shinyalu Constituency, next to Kakamega Forest. On 22nd April 2020, they were woken at 5.30 am by eight KWS officers in the company of two residents of the area. The KWS officers broke into the house through the back door and found Boniface half-dressed. They handcuffed him, slapped him, and pushed him outside. He was brutally beaten and injured by the ten intruders who accused him of being involved in an illegal firewood and charcoal business. Adelaide, four months pregnant, was shockingly assaulted with a kick to the stomach, causing her to eventually miscarry. No firewood or charcoal was found in their house.

Then, on 27th April 2020, in the neighboring Shamiloli Village, another illegal house raid occurred, resulting in a fatal shooting.

 KWS Officers at 7.00 am subjected a family to an unwarranted house search. The Officers again levied accusations about logging trees for firewood and charcoal. They arrested three of the family members. When the neighbors attempted to intervene, the officers reportedly shot in the air to scare them away. 26-year-old Kevin Litsalia Yakhama was hit by a bullet. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

The cases have been reported to the Shisasari Police Station, and the affected families continue to wait for justice.

Story by IFA Western Team

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Breaking Those Barriers: It’s time to Create a Social Movement for Positive Change in Kenya

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The killing of George Floyd by police in America has awakened a sense of human rights violations among black and people of colour everywhere, particularly in America and Europe. The killing of Floyd sparked a wave of protests that shook the world- people defied the stay at home orders, even in countries worst hit by Covid-19. The protests, unified in approach, depicted the hunger of thousands of people from all races and walks of life in these critical and challenging times. 

For over a century now, black Americans and other minority groups have faced rampant human rights abuses that include prejudice, discrimination, and biases in almost all spheres of life.

This display of solidarity broke the boundaries of nations, upholding the fact that all humans are born free and aspire to be free no matter the bondage and distance.

Echoing Lucky Dube’s lyrics: “Breaking those barriers was not an easy dream, yesterday your mouth was shut couldn't make a sound... but it’s such a good feeling today when I can hear them across the ocean”.

The solidarity protests across Europe expose the soft underbelly of African activism on social movements for positive change. In America and Europe, injustices are mostly based on racial discrimination; in Africa, the rich and the political leaders violate the rights of the poor who remain the majority. 

Why then didn't Africa hold solidarity protests with their brethren in America?

The answer lies in the lack of social movements across the countries that make up the African continent. Do African countries have social movements that aspire for positive social change? In Kenya, we must critically admit to a resounding no!

In 2017, doctors in Kenya went on their longest strike ever. They had a long list of grievances; nine to be precise and only one was for their direct benefit – a salary increase. The rest of their demands were for the patients’ benefit. Kenya has a doctor-patient ratio of 1:16000 which isn’t anywhere near the World Health Organisation’s 2018 recommended ratio of 1:1000. But the doctors were left alone to protest by themselves because of apathy by the general public – the very people who stood to benefit. This has also been seen in countless teachers’ strikes, where teachers found themselves alone in the streets - despite the fact their grievances included the teacher-student ratio.

That reminds me of the 2017 protests around election malpractices that the opposition coalition NASA led, demanding the opening of election servers to establish the real figures and address the question of who won. The protests finally ended up being termed ‘illegal ODM protests’.

Finally, the government directive of Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) transportation of all cargo from Mombasa port to inland depots has evidently affected the economy of Mombasa; yet, those directly and indirectly affected have not found it incumbent upon them to have and maintain solidarity social change protests.

But why the elusive social change movement in Africa and particular Kenya?

We have become spectators of our protests on various social media platforms and in real-time. We post all our successes during the protests, but not our challenges – making the would-be recruits, allies and stakeholders preview a victory that never was.

We recycle tactics that have been overused for decades and failed. 

Authorities don’t mind the protest rituals anymore because they follow a predictable script that is easy to control.

We have not created a culture of taking responsibility for the protest failures, acknowledging these failures, and fixing them.

Spurring Positive Social Change and a Solidarity Movement among Communities

For a decade now, IFA has been doing a unique form of community mobilization through human rights film screenings and post-screening discussions in the most marginalized areas of the country. The discussions have resulted in organizing Community Action Teams (CATs) that plan appropriate redress mechanisms to engage the relevant duty bearers. IFA has been encouraging the communities to be at the forefront of resolving their issues- with IFA playing an advisory role.  Communities have been able to organize and demand accountability for diverse issues such as land grabbing, environmental degradation, infrastructure, health, education, water, police brutality, and extrajudicial killings. Our focus on the counties places IFA in a unique position to create a National, East African, or even African positive social change movement.

How We Would Do It

With over 80 grassroots networks led by Community Action Teams (CATs), and having organized protests for the last ten years, IFA is now in the position to evaluate the failures of past protests, acknowledge and fix them.

IFA can start planning protests differently – we can move away from the adversary and predecessor script. It must refuse to be guided by its opponents – meaning those in authority - on how to protest against them. This includes:

  • Teaching protesters that social transformation is as painful as it is necessary before acting.
  • Organize exchange programs between different CATs that have led different protests in different areas and causes. Differences must be discussed to find out the common denominator and interrelationships. This will help create an understanding of solidarity in each other’s cause, despite the social, cultural, political, and economic differences between them. 
  • Develop a pluralistic approach to protests.  Protests work by themselves, but should be combined with other tactics. They have the potential to change and transform social movements into a formidable force. Sudan for example, is a perfect case study on how music and theatre play an important role.

 

The protests IFA have helped communities execute to date, have been successful in achieving set demands; but the overall objective of positive social change remains elusive if responsive and proactive governance is not realized. That is why clear points of intervention in a pluralistic approach need to be identified.

Tactics like die-ins, flash mob displays, dances, exhibitions, chanting of protest slogans, teach-ins, stand-ins, and ride-ins all help eliminate a great deal of fear from the protesters. IFA should increase its outreach to its unique rural network across Kenya to encourage communities to use these tactics.

By SK Wandimi

Written with the IFA Central Team

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Abdinasir Tarole

22-year-old Abdinasir Tarole, is assaulted by a Police Officer from Merti Police Station while waiting for his Aunt and Cousin to close shop.  A police vehicle pulls over and one officer known to him as Boniface Chacha alights and grabs him by his collar; asking what time it is. Tarole says its 6:39 pm. The officer pulls Tarole away from the shop telling him they were looking for young people like him. The officer hits him with the butt of his gun. Tarole falls to the ground, while the officer runs back to the vehicle and speeds off. Tarole is later taken to Merti Sub County Hospital, and he is referred to Isiolo Teaching and Referral Hospital the following day, nursing a fractured leg. The IFA Isiolo Team documents his story and helps him record his case with the IPOA Office in Meru. He is later allowed to fill out a P3 Form at Merti Police Station after IPOA intervenes.

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Josephine Nyabate Nyang'au

Josephine Nyabate is flushed out of her house in Riomweri Village, Kisii at 3 am by Police Officers from Birongo Police Post, in the name of conducting an illicit brew raid. When they do not find anything, they take her to Birongo Police Post 5kms away. Josephine is detained at the station the whole day without food or water and is released the next day after having to bribe the officers with Ksh. 15,000.

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Mohamednoor Boru

Mohamednoor Boru is assaulted by a police officer at Merti Centre in Isiolo Town, while standing outside a shop with his friends at 6:30 pm. A police officer Boniface Chacha from Merti Police Station grabs him by his collar and throws him to the ground. The officer then drags him to a waiting police vehicle. Inside the vehicle, another police officer stomps on him and upon reaching Merti Police Station, he is locked in a cell without being booked in the Occurrence Book. Boru is released the next day without any charges. He reports the matter to the same station but no action is taken against the officer. Boru has now reported the incident to the IPOA Office in Meru.

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Anne Featured

Anne

Anne lives in Kijijini Mtwapa, Mombasa County. On her way home from work at 7 pm, she’s verbally harassed, struck on the face and tackled to the ground by a police officer. Anne pleads for mercy, but the law enforcer doesn’t hear her cry and continues hitting her repeatedly. She is now nursing her wounds and also suffers from trauma.

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Rashid Featured

Rashid

A few minutes past 7 pm, and Rashid a Boda Boda rider drops his passenger home in Mombasa. On his way back he encounters a Mtwapa Police Base Land Cruiser on patrol. He gives it way, but one officer hits him with a baton while the car is still in motion. Rashid loses control and hits the ground, bruising his left hand and several parts of his body. He doesn’t report the incident because he knows the same police who attacked him are the same people he would be complaining to.

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Elijah Manani Mageto Featured

Elijah Manani Mageto

Elijah Mageto from Nyabioto, Nyamira County is viciously attacked by twelve Police Officers on patrol at 7:05 pm. Elijah is making his way home and is about to enter his compound when they pounce on him, handcuffing both his hands and legs. They hit him and torture him by squeezing his private parts. They later take him to Manga Police Station where they detain him for three days denying him access to any medical attention. He is released after being forced to pay them Ksh. 5000. He claims to now suffer from erectile dysfunction due to the bodily harm meted on him.
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