“Gloom at 50” was created by a former political prisoner and detainee who spent 2 years in solitary confinement. He was Kenyan by birth, held a Kenyan ID and passport. His identity was stripped from him through imprisonment. Here is his story:
Where do I come from?
“There were a lot of harassment by the warders, you are segregated from the rest of the prisoners, and you stayed alone inside a cell for about 23 out of 24 hours.”
‘I was born about 53 years ago i.e. 1959 to precise, in a place called Nyeri in Central Kenya. My early life wasn’t very eventful but was a normal one. I went to school and the emphasis was, going to school would lead a bright future. I went to primary school and incidentally I had to leave Nyeri and come to Nairobi where good facilities were available.
The coup attempt of 1992 happened while we were still at the university and there was a lot of jubilation from the student community. We joined soldiers of the Air Force and we were riding on Land Rovers and enjoying generally. It was a short-lived enjoyment because the Air Force were overrun by the army and things returned back to normal. In school we forgot about it. It was a defining moment in the sense that Kenya was running kind of a police state at that time. There were so many informers informing on the students activities and it is at that point that certain information was relayed to Special Police; that I was one of the students who were involved. Some of us were arrested while some were not. After I left University, Government started talking of an underground movement called MWAKENYA and supposedly it was the one responsible for the sabotage and many other things. As I reported to the office and went through the papers seeing my friends being picked I never thought I would be the next one. It reminds me of the analogy of ‘when they came for someone else it did not matter, I did not take it seriously and they came for the next person still it was not important, until the came for me. ’ So I was visited by some three policemen on the morning of 2nd December 1986.
They came convinced me and pushed me into the vehicle they said they wanted me to take them to my home, I was single then, they carried out a search in my house very thoroughly and I did know what they were looking for.
They tell you, “You are bringing these to yourself, we asked you questions and we wanted you to answer them,” and by that time from the beating, you totally disoriented. But they only cease the beatings when you collapse and loose your consciousness, then they drag you from that place and take you via a lift to a cell. Once in the cell and naked they take the hose pipes of the fire extinguisher and start spraying you with it. It is very cold water and very powerful hence it brings you back to your self and pushes you, under it force, to the wall. The water being sprayed on you is within thus it level keeps rising up until it reaches ankle deep. So then you bang the cell and they leave inside there in darkness. That is how sessions at Nyayo house were conducted. Every morning they come to see if you had something to say or accept.
After the 17 days that I remained there I was completely not myself anymore. And I started seeing hallucinations and images like what they are telling was the truth, and then we had been threatened, many with death. They put a gun on your head and ask you if you want them to shoot you. At times they are empty barrels but it’s frightening and scary.
Our cases were different we were sentenced on the same day and handed over to prison warders. Prison is another scary experience, because we were subjected to solitary confinement. You are deprived of books except the Bible and the Quran. There was a lot of harassment by the warders, you were segregated from the rest of the prisoners, and you stayed alone inside a cell for about 23 out of 24 hours. In the cell you never experienced natural darkness. At night a high voltage bulbs were used so you can’t sleep naturally. It was therefore that way the whole two years and eight months I was there.
What do I want for Kenya?
“Yet deep down within you want to belong but there’s no opportunity to belong.”
I also share the sentiments of my colleague that although we are very different we are also very similar. That feeling of not belonging due to many forces which are trying to make sure that you don’t belong. Yet deep down within you, you want to belong but there’s no opportunity to belong. When I was young I also dreamed that I’ll want so hard to go school and get a job, then buy a big car and become rich. But somewhere along the line, that had to change. It wasn’t my choice but was forces, which were against me. But again that educated me; I came to understand this country than I could never have. It has been said before that in Kenya there are citizens and the owners of the country. Owners control almost everything from economy through corruptly acquired wealth but still maintain the people on top. That commonality between them makes them look down upon other Kenyans. They make ordinary voters very gullible through propaganda and we buy it. Kenyans adore criminals for leadership and not clean poor people. I look back with nostalgia to 2003 when they introduced citizen arrest of officers involved in malpractices. Could we have continued on the line things would be different.
My Body Map – “Gloom at 50”
“I only hope that we can actualize the new constitution then we may be able to overcome some of these problems.”
The heading is Gloom at 50, above is a cloud which is hanging over our country like IDPs, the same things we were talking about at independence are the same things we are grappling with now e.g. poverty, ignorance and disease. I only hope that we can actualize the new constitution then we may be able to overcome some of these problems. The problem is the kind of leaders we have in parliament. So I think basically what is the real spirit of the constitution is Kenyans feeling for other Kenyans. Corruption has been a big problem for this country and as I mentioned we need to deal with it. That is why I have indicated 200% tolerance to corruption, on daily basis what we see is people becoming more and more corrupt. It is like we adore and worship people who are corrupt. The problem is institutional collapse, we find now, that parliament is very busy crafting laws and legislation which are meant to kill the institutions that we already have. I think that is all and hope the picture speaks more for itself. We can serve as the change agents for the future we want.