COST OF BRUTALITY

Pay Sh2 billion compensation to Moi's torture victims, says KHRC

On July 21, 2010, the High Court awarded 21 individuals Sh40 million as compensation for the torture they suffered at the hands of state security officers during Moi's rule.

In Summary

• KHRC said its records indicate that over Sh2 billion awarded to the victims by the High Court had not been paid as of June 2019, as the state continues to ignore them. 

• KHRC's executive director George Kegoro in a statement noted that most of the victims were ordinary people, whose lives changed greatly after the detentions and torture.

Some of the Fera torture victims outside Bungoma law courts
REVOLUTIONARY ARMY: Some of the Fera torture victims outside Bungoma law courts
Image: JOHN NALIANYA

It is time to release the compensation awarded to the victims of former President Daniel Moi's 24 years of tyranny, the Kenya Human Rights Commission has told the state.

KHRC said its records indicate that over Sh2 billion awarded to the victims by the High Court had not been paid as of June 2019, as the state continues to ignore them. 

KHRC's executive director George Kegoro in a statement noted that most of the victims were ordinary people, whose lives changed greatly after the detentions and torture.

 

He further said that a delay in releasing their compensation even for a day is inflicting more pain on them. 

Records by the Kenya Transitional Justice Network, it said,  show that as of June 2019, 179 cases against Moi-era torture have been heard by the High Court, which ruled on all of them, finding liability against the government amounting to Sh2.05 billion, which was awarded to the claimants.

"A number of these lawsuits contained multiple claimants, meaning the actual numbers of victims are more than the suits," it said.

"A majority of the claimants are ordinary people: Farmers, university students and lecturers, journalists, hawkers, and teachers. Their crime was that they opposed Moi or were found in possession of publications that were deemed subversive," it added. 

On July 21, 2010, the High Court awarded 21 individuals Sh40 million as compensation for the torture they suffered at the hands of state security officers during Moi's rule. 

In September 2015, then Attorney General Githu Muigai admitted that the government owed torture victims of past regimes Sh100 million in unpaid court awards.

In May 209, 17 torture survivors said to belong to the February Eighteen Revolutionary Army have been awarded Sh28.5 million by a Bungoma court.

 

Judge Stephen Riech said the victims had proven beyond reasonable doubt that their rights were violated by security agencies during Moi's rule. 

President Moi spiritedly frustrated the founding of the entity in the 1990s.

Some of the victims of the torture under the banner of the Kenya Transitional Justice Network on Tuesday held its 16th commemoration, doubling up as the call to have their compensations released. 

Rose Wango Gathito, a mother of two whose husband was detained in 1986, was among the participants. She said her husband, a former University of Nairobi computer science lecturer, was detained and tortured for a long time and when released, he sued the state in 2003 before he died. 

The case was determined in 2013, awarding her Sh1.2 million, which is yet to be honored by the state. 

Some of the prominent people who were victims of Moi's cruel reign are Kenneth Matiba, Edward Oyugi, George Anyona, Robert Ouko, Masinde Muliro, Alexander Kipsang' Muge, Koigi Wamwere and Mukaru Nganga, among others.

Wamwere has consistently in his articles called for the settlement of the awards.

Under Moi, torture was used against dissidents, irrespective of their station in life, it said, noting that "the fact of the awards, and a large number of those awarded, provide proof that torture was both widespread and systemic in the Moi regime and is something that should form part of how the country remembers him."

USING THE MOMENTUM TO BUILD A ROBUST STRUGGLE

Like KHCR, numerous rights crusaders believe the country should seize the occasion to reflect on pragmatic and robust struggle mechanisms to sustain checks on the powerful and maintain a voice for the weak. 

They believe that a moment for such national reflection may not be long coming if the current one is squandered.

National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee chairman Opiyo Wandayi believes anybody, however, good has the proclivity to be a dictator if allowed free reigns of power, hence the need to be on a constant watch.

Like Moi, who was initially viewed as good and enjoyed immense goodwill locally and internationally but later turned ruthless in consolidating his power, Wandayi said massive public benevolence a leader enjoys should not substitute for holding them to account.

"Anybody with power can be a dictator if allowed space. Voice of reason must continually pile pressure on people occupying public spaces to hold them to account," he said.

Noting that he also had his fair amount of dosage of Moi's tyranny during his student days, Wandayi said he was detained for six months in 1996 for being an opposition-leaning reform activist as a student during the clamor for electoral reforms.

He participated in the many opposition and civil society street protests. During the commemoration of Saba Saba on August 8, 1996, he was arrested and shuttled between Kilimani and Kamukunji police stations amid torture and confinement in deplorable conditions for six months. 

"To paraphrase the words of William Shakespeare: All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts. R.I.P Moi. May the Almighty God accord you fair judgment," was Wandayi's condolence message on Moi's death. 

Wandayi said modern-day activism must appreciate the political and economic realities of the time, encouraging youth voices to leverage on every available resource, including the social media space, to speak up. 

Kegoro had noted in the KHRC statement that "....the death of Moi provides a major opportunity for a national reflection on the legacy of his presidency and that such a reflection can guide informed responses to the country’s needs."

Ndung'u Wainaina, the executive director of the International Center for Policy and Conflict, told the Star that the country should build on the revolutionary 2010 Constitution "whose bedrock is expanded bill of rights and devolution with the objective of equitable distribution of political power and the resources of society."

"The Constitution is doing audacious things such as breaking ground for public participation beyond spectator democratic practice that had been maintained by the Moi state and his succeeding surrogates," Wainaina said. 

Wainaina said sustaining pressure on the ruling class to free up more resources to the grassroots as well as keeping in check their usage to improve the social economic and political opportunities will make the struggle in the post-Moi era more meaningful. 

"Devolution of power and resources is perhaps the most phenomenal transformative agenda in realisation of social justice."

"This agenda is based on prioritising social needs, delivery of quality services, addressing gender gaps and financing social expenditures, which should be structured to reach the targeted groups, reduce costs to the recipient, and have a built-in information system," he added.

If social justice and vision of the expanded Bill of rights in the Constitution are to be realized, he said, there are new challenges facing the delivery of social services that must be addressed.