Deportations from Kenya: The good, the bad and the ugly


Deportations from Kenya: The good, the bad and the uglyDr Miguna Miguna has vowed to fight his deportation to Canada — a country that had given him refuge when he escaped the Nyayo terror of the 1980s.

Looking at the past deportees, not many have been lucky to return. Perhaps Miguna will return; perhaps.

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But forget the recent deportations of mercenaries Artur Margaryan and Artur Sargasyan — or the two election experts, US’s John Aristotle Philips and Canadian Andreas Katsouris, who were to help Raila Odinga manage the election data.

Kenya has always thrown out foreigners — but the case of Miguna is rather strange since he was born in Kenya.


By earning a deportation order, the political activist and lawyer has joined a long list of individuals who have been forced out of Kenya since independence.

Some have been lucky to return. But as we shall see, deportations in Kenya have at times been personal, political, settling of scores — or just sheer abuse of power.

We learnt it from the British who, in the 17th Century, used to “transport” convicted people to serve in distant colonies — and they made sure that the convicts never returned.

Here, in those penal colonies, and as long as the deportees could engage in profitable service, they were pardoned and hence avoided capital punishment.

The practice had actually been borrowed from the Romans who always forced convicts to serve in warships.

From then, the British had enacted the Transportation Act of 1718, which gave the country’s courts powers to transport convicts to distant colonies, and that is how it populated America by transporting more than 50,000 people between 1718 and 1775 and others to Australia.

Actually, Britain used this transportation as “an effective instrument of colonisation”, according to historian Glen Nicholas.

The French took deportation a notch higher in 1810 when they included political offences as punishable by deportation; but had one problem: they had nowhere to send their convicts until they found a place now known as New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie), a remote island located 1,500 km off the Eastern coast of Australia.

It was on this island that the French set up an execution machine — never seen before — which would tattoo the body of an offender with the law they had defied — until they die!

That is according to historians. Those who were released, and the island had more men than women, were never allowed back home.

Instead, they were given land to settle and ended up marrying local girls.

The Americans are perhaps the boldest ever since they used deportation laws to stop Chinese from settling in America in 17th Century.

For records; Barack Obama’s Administration deported more than three million people!

The first deportations in Kenya happened during the colonial days when the British were struggling to pass the railway by the Nandi and Kipsigis regions and they faced immense resistance from locals.

Here they deported some of the leaders of the Talai community to central Kenya and then passed a bill that removed the entire Talai clan from the Kipsigis’ country.

Others deported during the colonial days included Waiyaki wa Hinga, who died as he was being deported out of Dagoretti, and Harry Thuku who was deported to Kismayu after the 1922 Ordinance to Provide for the Deportation of Offenders and dangerous Persons.

In those days, it was left to the court to determine if a person was about to commit a breach of peace and then recommend to the governor that such a person be deported.

After independence, the onus for deportation now fell on the national government and to the minister for home affairs. Here are some of those deported and the reasons:

Superintendent Ian Henderson: Deported by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga when he was minister for Home Affairs.

Mr Henderson had been retained in Special Branch service by Jomo Kenyatta although he was known to have led the successful hunt for Dedan Kimathi and for holding many forest meetings with Mau Mau trying to convince them to lay down arms.

Born in Nyeri and a fluent Kikuyu speaker, Mr Henderson is credited with interrogating General China for many hours until he broke down and revealed most of the movement’s secrets.

Richard Kisch: The former journalist attached to the Nation was deported by Mr Odinga for “misreporting the prime minister’s speech”.

The journalist, who was then reporting for Tanganyika’s The Nationalist, was given 24 hours to leave the country.

There were two more deportations by Mr Odinga and which provoked the British government to act.

The British Prime Minister sent a message to Kenyatta: “Whilst I fully accept your Government’s legal right to take this action, the abrupt and apparently arbitrary manner of these deportations… creates an unfortunate impression,” the letter which was delivered to State House by High Commissioner De Freitas read.

In his reply, Kenyatta wrote: “I am very sorry. You can assure Sir Alec (Douglas-Home, then British Prime Minister) that this will not happen again except in real cases of emergency…” he said in a letter dated March 25, 1964.

Of course Kenyatta knew of the deportations and there is evidence that he had discussed the matter of Kisch’s deportation with James Gichuru.

But there was horse-trading on the Odinga deportations too.

Mr Odinga had agreed to sign Mr Kisch’s deportation order provided that he was also allowed to throw out Mr Henderson and two other nondescript personalities who had annoyed him.

This is according to historian Poppy Curren in a book published last year.

John Winfred Kodzo Dumoga: The Daily Nation columnist was deported back to Ghana in 1966 on orders of Daniel arap Moi who had taken over from Mr Odinga as Minister for Home Affairs.

Mr Dumoga had been on Special Branch’s radar for several years over his writings.

The reason, and Parliament was told as much by Luke Obok, Mr Dumoga, a former advisor to Kwame Nkrumah, was “very hostile to the idea of detention”.

What was known about Mr Dumoga was that he had fled his country when he was discovered to be spying for the Americans in Ghana.

His deportation was never publicised and Moi would arrogantly tell Parliament: “Mr Dumoga’s size, his qualifications, whether he has eight degrees or 10 are not my concern… I do not know why Hon Luke Obok should concern himself and be worried when this man was sent home to his motherland. His country has not complained.”

Pranlal Sheth: A prominent Kenyan lawyer and journalist.

He was a close ally of Jaramogi and Pio Gama Pinto. Sheth had served various government bodies before he was stripped of his Kenyan citizenship and deported to India.

Moi accused him of speaking disrespectfully of the president and that he wanted to “eliminate the bad weeds”.

Together with Sheth were several others who included Kakamega-born Maganlala Jadavrai Batt, who was deported for saying he does “not care a hoot about the Kenya government” because “all are in his pocket”.

Eldoret-born Mohammed Datoo was kicked out for referring to Kanu youth wingers as “dogs”.

But it is now known that all these traders were thrown out to allow some politicos to grab their businesses at a time when the government was “Africanising” the business sector.

Mrs Ernestine Hammond Kiano: She was the American wife of Cabinet minister Julius Gikonyo Kiano, Kenya’s first PhD holder.

Protective and eager to cause a scene, Mrs Kiano had formed a habit of embarrassing the cabinet minister at public events.

Once at the Africa Club, an exclusive pub of African elite, she removed her shoe and threw it at Dr Kiano.

Tired of the embarrassments, Dr Kiano asked Moi to deport her back to America, although she had taken up Kenyan citizenship.

On June 4, 1966, in a Kenya Gazette notice, Moi ordered Ernestine out of the country and declared her persona non grata.

Reason: “Ernestine Hammond Kiano had shown herself by act and speech to be disloyal and disaffected towards Kenya.”

Dr Annalena Tonelli: She was the Italian nun who compiled the 1984 report on Wagalla Massacre and handed it over to American diplomat Barbara Lefkow.

Had she not blown the whistle, the Wagalla Massacre may never have been reported.

For that, she was declared persona non grata by Internal Security Minister Justus ole Tipis and chased out of her Catholic mission in Wajir.

She ended up in Somaliland, where she was shot dead in 2003 in the small town of Borama.

Jacques Nziza: He was Rwanda’s charge de affairs in Nairobi until 1995 when he was expelled.

He had apparently “overthrown’ the resident ambassador who had been appointed by the previous regime of the late Juvenal Habyarimana before the genocide.

Nziza had sneaked into the country and never reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He then raided the house of the ambassador and other Rwandese diplomats by hiring a firm of court brokers and local police.

He was ostensibly hunting for “Hutu criminals”.

By then, the government of President Moi was sympathetic to the Hutus in Nairobi. Finally, Nziza was declared persona non grata.

Sheikh Khalid Balala: A fiery preacher during the clamour for multiparty democracy.

He was stripped of his citizenship in 1994 while visiting Germany at a time when his passport was about to expire.

When he went to renew it, he was declared a non-Kenyan on the grounds that he was a Yemeni by descent and that he failed to renounce the status on his 23rd birthday in conformity with then Kenyan constitution that did not provide for dual citizenship.

It was not until July 2002 that Sheikh Balala got back his Kenyan citizenship.

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