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'LET RIGHT BE DONE THOUGH HEAVENS FALL'

SIASA: When will AG authorise payment to torture victims? Pay up or resign

Beneficiaries must not be compelled to sue the government for compensation

In Summary

• I was a victim of torture for many years, but those with whom I spoke for many — Raila, James Orengo, Mutunga and others — will today not speak out for all their comrades

• A few months ago, Thairu Muthiga, a friend I was detained with at Kamiti Prison for three and a half years, died for denial of compensation already awarded by the court

Chairman of Multi-Agency Task Force on Anti-Corruption AG Kihara Kariuki meetsSenate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee on March 13
WILL HE DO IT? Chairman of Multi-Agency Task Force on Anti-Corruption AG Kihara Kariuki meetsSenate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee on March 13
Image: Jack Owuor

The other day, President Uhuru Kenyatta admonished his ministers for failing to take note of problems Kenyans living in Namibia shared with him and his government in general.

While listening to Kenyans in the diaspora is important, it is my hope that Uhuru also wants his ministers to listen and take note of problems Kenyans at home face —and are trying without success to be heard.

It is in that spirit that I am hereby asking Attorney General Kihara Kariuki and CS Treasury Henry Rotich: When will the victims of torture who were awarded compensation many years ago finally be paid?

Unfortunately, it looks like to get this justified payout, the beneficiaries will have to know some powerful politician who will hold their hand and take them either to Uhuru, Rotich, William Ruto or Raila Odinga: Not as a matter of right but in return for political support. If victims have no political support to give, forget that they pay taxes. Those who own government may never allow them to be paid.

Let us remember that Uhuru and former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga have acknowledged those that courts have awarded compensation for torture, detention, economic ruin and destruction of health perpetrated by the Judiciary, the police and prison authorities under Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi regimes.

A few months ago, Thairu Muthiga, a friend I was detained with at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison for three and half years, died for denial of compensation that a court had awarded.

Thairu is not alone. Karanja Mkombozi, another political prisoner from Nakuru county, also died for lack of treatment he could not afford.

Remember, we are not here talking about two individuals. We are talking of hundreds of victims of torture whose persecution the government seems to condone through non-payment of compensation. They are Kenyans who paid an extremely high price for the Second Liberation and to whom we owe everything we have today.

I was a victim of torture for many years, but those with whom I spoke for many – Raila, James Orengo, Mutunga and others – will today not speak out for all their comrades who are today denied justice. How will I meet my medical needs without this money?

The Jubilee government avers it is against torture. But it perpetuates the same against all those who were tortured and whom it now refuses to pay, a denial that amounts to torture when its consequences of economic ruin, lack of medical treatment, lack of food and a host of other cruel deprivations are considered.

Denying this compensation is torture in itself. Why should the government be compelled to obey orders by its own courts? If one must fight the government to secure compensation, then that is also torture and worse. 

Victims of torture must not be compelled to sue the government for compensation, especially when non-payment is not for lack of money. We read of individuals robbing government billions of shillings in unbelievable cases of corruption every other day.

What do we think when we see billions of shillings being paid to corrupt foreign companies? What does it mean when the government pays Sh7.8 billion to a bankrupt Italian company – CMC di Ravenna — and SACE Insurance Premium Sh11.2 billion when the government refuses to pay compensation to victims asking for no more than Sh2 billion?

How does the government explain how it cannot pay its own citizens a few million shillings but pays billions to Ken Ren, a fertiliser company that never was? The government has money to obey court orders but chooses not to do so because victims are small people.

When AG Kihara says, “Let right be done though the heavens fall,” he must either mean what he says or simply resign.