Eye Witness Accounts 2020

SabaSaba #MarchForOurLives By Defenders Coalition

Today, 7 July 2020, 63 human rights defenders (HRD) were arrested while participating in the peaceful   #SabaSabaMarchForOurLives which was to converge in Kamukunji Grounds. The 63 were detained in  Muthaiga, Kayole,  Kilimani and Central Police Stations.

Eight from Muthaiga Police station have been released with no charges. The rest have been charged with ‘picketing’, ‘failure to keep social distance’ and ‘unlawful assembly’. All were released by 8.00pm, some on a free bond and others on a cash bail of Kshs. 5000 each.

We have thus far received Kshs. 545, 209 (Five hundred and forty five thousand, two hundred and nine shillings). We are not at this point able to offer a detailed update on how the funds raised have been used but transparency and accountability inform our way of work and updates will be shared at a later date.

These funds will be dedicated towards supporting HRDs that were arrested today in terms of legal representation and any other support that is necessary for their general wellbeing. If funds are not exhausted by then, Defenders Coalition shall then continue with Public Interest Litigations to ensure true freedom and an enabling environment for frontline Human Rights Defenders to do their work for themselves and their communities with liberty.

 Defenders Coalition wishes to express its gratitude to Tunawiri – an organization that works to assist grass-root  organizations in crowdfunding as they have been instrumental in the efforts to raise funds to respond to the arrested, today and later as the vice of arbitrary arrests by authorities is rampant in Kenya.

To all comrades, Kenyans and friends of Kenya: your thoughtful generosity is invaluable to us as your donation, solidarity and sacrifice will ensure the safety, security and wellbeing to those on the frontline championing our rights and freedoms.

Please visit www.defenderscoalition.org to know more about our work.

By Gacheke Gachihi

Each Saba Saba Day brings memories that are sweet and bitter but they are worth every bit. This year’s 7/7 saw over 58 HRDs arrested and held in different police stations in Nairobi including Kayole, KICC, Central, Kariobangi, Pangani, Muthaiga and Kilimani. They were booked in under charges that were as diverse as the stations but include ‘picketing’, ‘failure to keep social distance’ and ‘unlawful assembly’. They were all finally released with the last lot being released an hour before curfew time. There are a number of lessons I carry with me to 8/8…..all the way to12/12:

1) The solidarity and coordination shown during this 7/7 should be maintained and go into  the history books where the SJCWG (Social Justice Centres Working Group) organised in Nairobi and beyond; and lawyers including LSK (Law Society of Kenya) mobilised to support the cause.

2) Young people are capable of leading for change. The March for our Lives had new faces and new energy and I can bet they are not turning back. I wish to commit that we are here and we are in this together.

3) When we work together, the message is simple and clear. The message yesterday was ‘there is something wrong in Kenya that is worse than Corona and we need to deal with it’.

4) Kenyans unite and give when they believe in a cause. We had a team of well-wishers who organised themselves and contributed generously to the legal kitty. To you, receive my deepest gratitude and continue till we get justice.

5) When you have strong, empowered HRDs, your work as first responders runs without any hitch. Yesterday was a display of such coordination among first responders. In each station there was someone keeping tab and giving updates, in the streets of Nairobi there were those monitoring those who had been arrested and were there monitoring and reporting on the vehicles which were ferrying the arrested. We had those online responders who were relaying timely updates to the world, we had journalists following up the cases in the police stations and we had the fundraisers both online and offline.

All of you who participated in the March for our Lives, my colleagues at Ďefenders Coalition, all the HRDs who relayed information and ran from one station to the next, all the lawyers, CSOs and their EDs, the matatu and uber drivers who came to ferry us home and the Kenyans who gave us money – I am honoured to have you in my life and yesterday we did it again!

By George Kegoro

It was a long day for all of us today especially for the colleagues arrested at various police stations around the city.

The last of those, held at the Central Police Station, were only released just before 8.00 p.m. They are required to report back on Friday, just like those held at Kilimani, Kiptanui  and  Kerich. The Central Police Station OCS, however, told me that this was a formality and that he doesn’t plan to take them to court.
This was by far the most impactful Saba Saba in recent times and the activities of the Social Justice Centres were key in making this possible. The reaction of the Kenyan state, with the arrests, contributed to the high impact; and the courage and sacrifice of the colleagues on the receiving end of these arrests is commendable.

Many people came together to respond to the arrests: a very large number of people from Defenders Coalition led by their boss DK, IMLU’s Peter Kiama and people from the KNCHR.

There were also very many lawyers: John Khaminwa, Haron Ndubi, Lempaa and KELIN also sent a lawyer who stayed with us the whole time at Kilimani.
Watching John Khaminwa in action when we visited the Nairobi County Commander showed the immense amount of moral leadership he brings to the cause.

The Law Society of Kenya President also came along and we did a great press conference together, a step in a process through which a number have been trying to reinsert the society into the space of struggle.

There was also huge support on social media with a large number of colleagues publicising what was going on including Al Amin in faraway Isiolo.
This was an example of different people working from different places but towards a common cause and we can all feel proud of what we achieved today.
It would be great for people to get together, to review the events of the day, and to try and consolidate what these efforts have achieved.

By George Ndeche Nderitu

On July 7, 1990, I was a class 7 student at Baba Dogo Primary, on this very day, the late Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia made a call for the return of Multi-party democracy in Kenya. It was a chaotic day. Our school was closed indefinitely and we were ordered to go home. I remember very well, sounds of gunshots, police sirens and screams engulfing the air, I ran home like a mad man.

Arriving home, our house was locked from inside, I had to knock and scream for my late Mother (RIP) to open. I remember her grabbing me and throwing me inside. The house was quiet and the silence was too loud, I remember Mother saying that it was a repeat of the 1982 coup.

During those days, our only source of information (GOK propaganda) was VOK (now KBC) courtesy of our small Sanyo radio. I remember the radio presenter saying that, the government will crush all those behind #SabaSaba, and they sure did, many comrades were tortured, maimed, jailed and died. All this was not in vain! It was just a genesis of continued pressure by University students, politicians, the Clergy etc, and in 1992, the late President Moi repealed section 2A of our old constitution that allowed for the return of Multi-party Democracy in Kenya.

Yesterday l took part in the #SabaSabaMarchForOurLives demonstration in town. Surely time flies by, it is 30 years since that call for political change in Kenya. The police and GSU, like 30 years ago, were ready to crush peaceful demonstrators exercising their constitutional right. And just like 30 years ago, police sirens, teargas, batons and screams were the order of the day. We were hunted all across town, but we stood our ground. #NayoNayo! #KaendeKaende!

I am really proud of what we achieved yesterday. Even though we did not reach our intended destination, we made our voices heard. I saw real camaraderie! I witnessed the birth of a new gang/generation of young activists. These youngsters got ‘balls’, with their cool looks and swagg they kept pushing and pushing, oh! How l have longed for this day.

In total there were 40+ arrests made by the police and GSU; and comrades were distributed to different police stations across Nairobi. We camped outside Central Police station until the last Comrade was released at 8pm.

Let’s not take for granted the gains we have achieved, we have to safeguard our liberties selfishly. I know we forget quickly, but remember this, the many politicians you see today, those we ‘believe’ are true democrats; they are the very students, sons and daughters of a regime that continues to enslave us.



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