It’s cabbage and ugali as police cell reality sinks in for 8 hate speech suspects

Waititu and Kabogo
Waititu and Moses Kuria

There was no VIP treatment, no beds, soft pillows or full-course meals — just ugali and cabbage — for eight prominent politicians locked in police cells for alleged hate speech.

The floor was hard, some made due with shoes for pillows. There was dirt and mosquitoes. The toilet was termed stinking and “dehumanising’.

These VIPs used to the good life got a taste of reality, what thousands of ordinary Kenyans experience every day. The seven MPs and one senator were remanded on Tuesday night for four days, as police investigate allegations of incitement. Bail was denied yesterday. It was feared they might interfere with witnesses.

The men got a rude shock at the Pangani police station where they were denied visits by spouses and family and served common fare for lunch and supper. Two women reps were locked up at Muthaiga police station.

Barely an hour after entering Pangani, the politicians started making frantic calls to senior officers, pleading to be relocated to Kileleshwa cells, which they deemed better suited to their status. They publicly complained.

“We allowed them to call whomever they wanted and returned them to the cells. They made many calls to friends, relatives and even senior police officers,” said an officer, who asked not to be named.

Settling in

At around 11 pm Tuesday, it became evident they were unlikely to leave and eventually retired to sleep on the hard floor. Some of them used a shoe as a pillow, as reality sank in.

By yesterday morning, the suspects appeared to have gotten used to their new digs. MPs Moses Kuria and Ferdinand Waititu had removed both shoes, while MP Junet Mohamed and Muthama decided to keep one on.

Police demand that all suspects remove one shoe before entering the cells. At around 8am, Waititu was the only VIP still asleep by the time senior officers came for a routine check and headcount.

When Muthama spotted the senior officers, he quickly informed them Waititu was sick and needed medical attention. The legislators complained they were being held without reason as they were yet to plead to charges in court.

Muthama is said to have complained the station lacked clean drinking water and said the toilets were stinking and “dehumanising”. He asked the station commander to provide them with the daily papers.

They only got food from the police canteen. The menu is bread and tea for breakfast, cabbage and ugali for lunch and supper.

By yesterday noon, none of the politicians camped outside the Pangani station had been allowed to see the suspects. The same applied to women suspects at Muthaiga.

On a typical day, all the high-flying suspects would might be anticipating a sumptuous meal

at a five-star hotel, washed down with wine and expensive spirits. Today they’re dispirited.

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