Locked MPs get taste of grim life in filthy cells
The damp, smelly and filthy cells at Pangani and Muthaiga police stations played host to unlikely guests as eight CORD and Jubilee lawmakers spent their first night of incarceration at the facilities.
And in a classic case of reversed roles, wives and sympathisers of the detained MPs thronged the police stations yesterday morning, but were rudely shocked as the police officers, who normally would salute them, blocked them from accessing the suspects.
MPs Johnstone Muthama (Machakos), Junet Mohamed (Suna East), Aisha Jumwa (Kilifi), Florence Mutua (Busia), Timothy Bosire (Kitutu Masaba), Jubilee coalition’s Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Ferdinand Waititu (Kabete) and Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) have been locked up as police investigate them for hate speech.
Hopes of their reunion with their families and warm baths in their heavily guarded homes were dashed after an application by CORD lawyers to have their five colleagues released was rejected by the High Court.
There was more drama when the wives of the MPs were ordered to surrender their phones before being allowed in. Junet’s wife, Faiza, sneaked in a phone and managed to take a picture of her husband but her tricks were thwarted by hawk-eyed cops who snatched the gadget and deleted the images before giving it back to her.
Asked how the waheshimiwas (honourables) were, Faizah said: “They (CORD MPs) are bare-foot and held in one cell while those of Jubilee are in a separate one. Police have refused to allow us to give them food, clothes and other needs and we don’t understand why they are doing this.”
Jemimah Muthama, who described the millionaire Machakos lawmaker as a meticulously clean man, had brought him a change of well-pressed and aired clothes but was crestfallen when she was turned away with them.
“He is a clean man but he is still in yesterday’s clothes. The smell in there is choking, “ Muthama’s wife explained in shock.
She added that Muthama and his colleagues had not taken a shower since Tuesday. Police had told them they would have State-provided meals just like other suspects detained there.
“They are in the same suits they were in when they were arrested. They don’t have shoes with them and they look sickly,” she added.
Waititu’s and Kuria’s wives, too, were at the Pangani station but they declined to talk to journalists.
The same devastation was experienced at Muthaiga, where MPs Aisha Jumwa and Florence Mutua have been detained for similar reasons.
“I have seen Jumwa and she is actually suffering. She has not had a meal for 36 hours and she is fasting,” said ODM Chairman John Mbadi.
The two police stations were like a theatre of a political play gone wrong as a crowd of relatives and friends of the legislators camped outside both police stations, prompting officers at the Pangani station to at one point threaten to disperse them with teargas as they pushed them out of the compound.
Anti-riot officers were mobilised as Kitui Senator David Musila argued with the OCS seeking to have his party visit the MPs. He was accompanied by Mbadi, Gladys Wanga, Thomas Mwadegu, Fred Outa, Rose Nyamunga, Patrick Makau, Willy Mtengo, Kyengo Maweu, Simba Arati and former Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu.
“I have used all languages that the OCS understands but he is adamant. I don’t know why they are doing this to the MPs,” said a visibly agitated Musila.
The Officer Commanding Station at Pangani, Benjamin Kaselo, said he was under instructions “from above” not to allow anyone to visit the detained MPs.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi also came to the Pangani station where he was allowed to see and speak to all MPs, but Jubilee lawmakers Kimani Ichungwa and Alice Ng’ang’a came visiting separately and were turned away.
Special arrangements had to be made to accommodate the lawmakers in the police station, which has only four cells. Alive to the bitter rivalry between CORD and Jubilee, the police allocated each coalition a cell while the remaining cells were reserved for petty offenders and women.
It took the intervention of Ngilu to allow in the spouses, who had been camping at the station since morning. But Ngilu was not allowed in.
Lawyer Harison Kinyanjui, for the Jubilee legislators, too was there but was not allowed to see them.
Pangani is considered one of the most dangerous and filthiest cells in the city as they serve suspects from Mathare slums and larger Eastleigh area.
Muthaiga, too, has separate cells and accommodates suspects from Mathare slums. The female MPs spent their nights in separate cells, officers there said.
The MPs had a chilly night as the station did not have blankets and mattresses when they were booked in. They slept on the hard floors.
When they were brought to the stations, they were asked to surrender their valuables, including cash and mobile phones, belts and one shoe at the report office.
“The MPs asked to be held in separate cells. They did not mix with the other petty offenders who were being held here,” said an officer.
A group of MPs who had come to console them later left the station with their supporters out of frustration.
The relatives, however, stayed in the station until late, hoping to get a chance to see the incarcerated leaders.
The CORD team led by lawyers James Orengo and lawyer Okong’o Omogeni went to the High Court, where they teamed up with Harrison Kinyanjui and Francis Munyororo (for Jubilee), and applied to have their clients released on bail.
However, Justice Joseph Onguto declined to issue the orders. He said the court will give its reasons today.
And in an interesting turn of events, Jubilee MPs requested the court to be enjoined as co-petitioners in the suit filed by CORD since the issues raised were similar.
Justice Onguto asked if they wanted him to give his conclusion immediately, to which they agreed.
“In brief, the application is hereby dismissed and the court will give its reasons tomorrow (today) as to why it will not give the orders sought,” said Justice Onguto.
Orengo and Omogeni had claimed that they had been denied access to the police stations where their clients were being held. They said their clients were arrested without any warning or issuance of summons to appear before a police station.
They claimed that Ms Jumwa and Ms Mutua were mothers with young children and had not been allowed to access their relatives.
They claimed that their clients had been held for 18 hours without food, water and access to medication.
They have sued the Inspector-General of Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
The leaders fear they will continue to be held in violation of their rights.
While opposing their release on bail, State Counsel Leonard Maingi said some of the suspects had pending matters on hate speech-related offences and should not be admitted to bail.
“The chief magistrate reviewed the evidence brought before the court and found appropriate reasons as to why the suspects should remain in custody,” Maingi submitted.
He said Kenyans ought to be safe away from fears of being attacked in their homes.
“Some of the suspects’ conduct threatens national security and that is one of the reasons the Chief Magistrate took into consideration for denying the eight suspects bail,” he told the court.
He urged the judge to dismiss the request since specific orders were given that the eight MPs be subjected to pre-trial detention. The State Counsel denied that any rights had been breached as alleged by the suspects.