Training Women Leaders in Kisumu

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On 25th June 2020, InformAction held community action training for an all-woman team in Kisumu Town. Twelve women leaders from ten informal settlement areas in Kisumu County went over the basics of how to motivate communities to organise, petition and protest about issues in the counties.

The group for training had been formed during the International Women’s Day event organized by IFA, which brought together over 200 women from informal settlement areas in Kisumu County.

The training kicked off with a film screening We Don’t Beg, We Demand, and followed with an interactive question and answer session.  Participants realised that the majority of women do not take part in the county budgeting process, which has meant that their development projects were not included in the County Budget. In fact, they noted, the public participation meetings were usually held in faraway locations which made it particularly difficult for many of the women to access the meetings and participate.

The women leaders were then taken through topics such as community organizing, planning, and advocacy. Group presentations provided an opportunity for the participants to give input on key community issues.

Participants noted with concern that gender-based violence against girls and women had risen during the Covid-19 pandemic. They felt that the conditions of the pandemic and the government response to it made it particularly difficult to address GBV cases.

By the end of the community action training, the women resolved that they would develop a joint action plan around the ten informal settlement areas in Kisumu County. They planned joint activities to mobilize women into a social movement and address their issues.

 

Story by IFA Western Team

 

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Torture and Killing in Meru National Park

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On the morning of 12th May 2020, Musa Samo left his home to tend to his livestock and was never to return to his wife and children. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Officers from the Meru National Park killed the 36-year-old herder. A post mortem later showed Samo had been tortured and shot multiple times.

The officers claimed that Samo was killed during an exchange of fire, but the motorbike rider who ferried Samo that morning says the KWS had laid an ambush on him.

The rider - who sought anonymity for fear of his life - told IFA that upon reaching Goticha area, 6kms from Kinna Centre, he spotted KWS officers hiding in the surrounding bush. They had barricaded the road, which is used daily by herders and women fetching firewood. Kinna Town, in Isiolo South Constituency, Isiolo County, is predominantly occupied by the Borana Community.

KWS officers shot at the motorbike. After the shooting, they dragged Samo aside leaving the rider to flee on foot. He says they shot at him as he fled for his life. It was 9.45 am.

The KWS officers kept Samo captive for 6 hours before he was found dead.

When Samo was traced by members of the community, they crowded around KWS officers demanding to know why Samo had been killed. According to Suleiman Ahmed, a resident of Kinna, KWS Officers cocked their guns at the crowd. Ahmed and other locals had found them loading Samo’s corpse into the back of a Police Vehicle.

And as if that was not enough, they placed the abandoned motorbike on the corpse while taking it to the mortuary. The dead also need respect”, said Mr. Ahmed.

A post-mortem done at Nyambene Sub-County Hospital revealed the body had first-degree burns inflicted by a hot object. His face had a bullet entry hole on the left maxilla area that exited on the right mastoid process. His left arm had three bullet wounds, and his left humerus bone was completely fractured.

The report further indicated that his left limb femur was completely displaced with left knee dislocation. His right femur was also fractured. Samo died of excessive haemorrhaging caused by multiple bullet wounds.

Samo’s wife of ten years Fatuma Kampo, received news that evening that ‘a bandit’ had been killed by KWS officers; she never thought it was her husband. The grieving widow is now left in confusion and destitution to fend for herself and her children.

Many men from Kinna have disappeared without a trace in the past few years, with the KWS claims of poaching.

Another person living close to Hawa Bonaya Park says many children have been left as orphans and women widowed due to the atrocities committed by the KWS officers from Meru National Park.

The government has done little to address or investigate these audacious abuses – which have a long history. In 2015, one person was killed and 11 others seriously injured in Kinna, after KWS officers fired live bullets at demonstrators. Residents were demonstrating accusing the KWS of abducting three community members. They demonstrated at the Meru National Park main gate, after a week of searching for the three.

Samuel Chirro, officer-in-charge of Kinna Police Post, under Laare Police Station, later stated that Samo was killed after he fired at the KWS officers, who had asked him to stop. He also said that KWS officers under the command of Corporal Caleb Momanyi, recovered one AK47 rifle with 49 rounds of ammunition and 9 stones of bhang (Cannabis Sativa) from Musa Samo.

According to the motorbike rider, he and Samo were neither armed nor had any bhang with them.

Story by IFA Isiolo Team

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The Reality of the Standard Gauge Railway

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The start of operations at the dry ports of Naivasha and Nairobi by the Kenyan government signaled disaster for the economy in Mombasa County.

Mombasa business owners have experienced a slow and steady business shut down with the closure of most freight companies. The general public is faced with the reality of a difficult future, as most of the smaller businesses have also been affected. With government orders that all cargo docking at the Mombasa Port must be transported to the dry ports using the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), many container freight companies resolved to transfer their operations to Nairobi and Naivasha, because they are unable to meet the costs of operations in both in Mombasa and Nairobi.

Many are directly impacted by SGR transporting cargo to Nairobi and Naivasha - including transport business owners, long-distance truck drivers, clearing and forwarding agents, and other local business persons like the food vendors and Boda Boda riders.

On 3rd December 2018, long-distance truck drivers had delivered a petition to the Mombasa County Assembly to raise the red flag about job losses due to this new SGR directive. But nothing has come of it since. The petition remains in the hands of the Assembly, which ­seems incapable of acting and protecting the rights of the Mombasa people.

The spotlight shone on Mombasa when affected residents decided to come together and hold protests every Monday. The protests lasted 14 weeks before the matter was presented before the Senate Committee – but this has also not yielded any strong resolutions. The SGR continues to exclusively transport the cargo containers.

Protests against the SGR monopoly came to a halt with the coronavirus pandemic and a ban on gatherings. So activism continued virtually. Some of the affected people have held virtual press briefings and featured in radio shows decrying the SGR monopoly. The vision of an open transport business operation plan is being maintained, where business owners can decide on which means of transport to use for their cargo.

The repressive actions of the government, using the name of Covid, have led many to believe that the government is using this period to enforce illegal directives and get clean away with it.

 

Story by IFA Coast Team

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The Power of a Petition: More Success in Wamumu

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Two years after the Wamumu community in Kirinyaga, delivered a petition demanding better infrastructure and public services, they finally got clean drinking water.  The petition was used by the community to keep up the pressure on their Member of County Assembly (MCA) – and the MCA used the same petition to push the County Assembly for funds for a water project.

Wamumu Ward is in Mwea Constituency, Kirinyaga County. The area is a big producer of horticulture and rice and also home to the infamous Gathigiriri Mwea G.K Prison.

In May 2018, the IFA Nyeri Team visited Kirinyaga County, with a focus on Mwea Constituency. After mobilizing the community and holding film screenings and discussions, it emerged that Wamumu was one of the most neglected communities in the area.

The community elected a Community Action Team (CAT) made up of eight community members that drafted a petition demanding proper roads and drainage, better health facilities, better schools, and clean drinking water.

After the CAT delivered the petition to the County Assembly of Kirinyaga on the 5th of June 2018, the roads were graded and culverts put in place within a week.

 

 

Constitution: Everyone has a right to clean drinking water

But clean drinking water for the community had remained a pipe dream. Though Mwea is home to several rivers like Tana, Thiba, Nyamidi, and Rupingazi, it still encounters endless water shortages for domestic use. Water for irrigation is abundant and is supplied through canals in the vast Mwea Constituency.

Following the petition delivery, the CAT from Wamumu did not relent in their pursuit for clean water. The community was fed up with consuming the contaminated water from the canals, and kept pursuing their Member of County Assembly (MCA) about the water priority.

The community’s confidence grew strong after they saw some of their demands met like the improvement of medical services and availability of drugs at the dispensary, which was in a miserable state before the petition. The dispensary previously had no drugs in stock and lacked key medical equipment.

Finally, the MCA used the same petition as a bargaining tool in the County Assembly to ask for an allocation of funds for the water project, and the project was funded in phases. The water pipes were procured by the county government, while the community was only too happy to volunteer their labour.

On 22nd May 2020, the MCA launched the Wamumu Water and Sanitation Project. Today, the Wamumu Community drinks clean tap water.

The petition had given the community a voice.

 

Story by IFA Central Team

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Forced Evictions: Havoc and Horror during the Pandemic

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When the government tells people to stay at home because of the virus and not go out during the curfew, how can it then throw people out of their homes? What are  people supposed to do?

With all eyes on Covid-19 in Kenya, all sorts of injustices against the weak have been made possible.

On 23rd May 2020, over 200 families in Utange Village, Shanzu, Mombasa County were forcefully evicted from their homes when their houses were demolished by the Police with hired goons. They were driven out of a piece of land which they have been living on for more than 30 years. Out in the cold, huddling together, nobody could be more at risk of contracting the coronavirus….

 

 

This land ownership dispute has been in existence for a while now with the residents suffering police harassment, demolition, and forced evictions on the 9th of March. The residents fought the eviction while putting up temporary houses for themselves.

The residents assert they never received any notice to move before the violent evictions began. According to the residents, a ‘rich individual’ has laid claim to the piece of land, but has no genuine Title Deed to show for it.

When the residents went to Court for the first time, the Court issued orders stopping the forced evictions. The affected families are now baffled as to why the Court Orders have not been upheld.

IFA advised the families to take action and write a joint petition to the Bamburi Police Station demanding an end to the harassment and violent evictions.

But the signs are ominous. The Kenyan government appears to be making use of the pandemic to wreak havoc and terror on poor populations. In Nairobi, the government ordered bulldozers into Kariobangi informal settlement, demolishing over 600 homes and forcefully evicting at least 5,000 people.

Story by  IFA Coast Team

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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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