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Cover Story

A story of Caroline (Mtetezi) Mwatha as narrated by Wilfred Olal

Volume 16, Issue 2  | 
Published 06/11/2019
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Growing up in Dandora, Caroline was always referred to as a quiet and humble girl, brought up in a very religious family. She spent most of her time when she was young in Holy Cross Catholic church in Dandora, when I met her later in life in the quest to start a movement that will bring change in Dandora, she was no longer the quiet and humble woman but an assertive change maker and a mother who wanted a better world for her children, and a known peace maker.

We first started a movement dubbed Dandora Must Change (DMC) which was later hijacked by politicians in the area after conducting successful campaigns against the harmful effects of the Dandora dumpsite. As the Chairperson of Dandora Must Change, her abilities in community organizing, mobilization and community intelligence clearly exhibited themselves.

In June 2017, we were meeting in her house when she asked why we didn’t have a Justice Centre such as there was in Mathare, and from that we began the process of setting up a social justice centre in Dandora. Until her death,  she was a human rights’ monitor and the Finance Coordinator of the Centre and the representative of the social justice Centre at the Social Justice Centres’ Working Group (SJCWG).

Her life in the human rights sector was short-lived but very impactful, she was an ardent defender of women rights, against sexual and gender-based violence and very passionate about police abuse of power and a driving force behind the campaign against Extra Judicial Executions. She spent most of her human rights life in police stations defending the community, or she was at IPOA offices and in the courts.

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In one instance in her life, she was assaulted by a police officer outside her house and she decided to pursue justice, despite the frustrations through direct sabotage from the police she went on and never gave up on her own case. She went to all the offices i.e. IPOA, Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations office in Dandora where she was referred to, and the police officer later apologized for his actions and begged her not to take him to court for the sake of his family and job. She forgave him with conditions that he respects human rights and human rights defenders.

Caro was available on phone 24 hours when it came to human rights and social justice matters. She could respond anytime, and most of the time she used her own resources to pursue justice on behalf of the community, as a mother she managed to balance her schedule to take care of both her family and her community.

Caro was hated by the oppressors, especially the killer police because of her consistent campaign against Extra Judicial Executions. She was sometimes threatened but she remained undeterred and unshaken by the threats, she continued to demand for the restoration of human dignity in low-income and highly policed neighborhoods such as Dandora and Mathare, and fight for equal rights and justice for all. She was desperately worried about children in Dandora. At the time of her death she had plans to start a kid’s club and true to her character she had already bought two soccer balls for the kids who gather every evening to play outside the Dandora Community Justice Centre office.

We at this centre will always remember her for her contributions as a strong human rights defender full of life, very committed, very intelligent, a strategic thinker and a great community organizer. We surely miss her. May her soul rest in peace and may she never be forgotten. Her death has left a void that will not be easy to fill.

 

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