By Ronald Mackio
Julio Otieno, who heads Sauti Ya Mtaa, a journalism hub in Kariobangi, was arrested around noon on Tuesday, 27th January 2015 because he was carrying a laptop (his work laptop) but didn’t have the receipts for it. The police say they suspected he had stolen it.
While at Kariobangi Police Post, Julio called his colleague, Willis Adika who then went to the Police Post to prove that the laptop did indeed belong to Julio. Willis called Langat, the accountant in charge of the project they are working on, to get the receipts for the said laptop to the police.
Langat gave Boniface Mwangi, the team leader at Pawa 254, under which Sauti Ya Mtaa operates, Willisâ€™ contacts so he could be kept updated on the situation. Willis was informed by the Officer Commanding Station (OCS), a Mr. Nyaroche, that it would be possible for Julio to be released on a ksh. 5,000 cash bail.
Willis informed Bonnie about this and he asked for the name of the OCS. Bonnie then posted on both Twitter and Facebook about the incident, including the demand of the ksh. 5,000 to secure Julioâ€™s release. Somehow, word about the incident being on social media got to the OCS who then ordered the arrest of Willis, who was still at the police post. He was accused of posting about the incident on social media.
Willis protested the accusation and tried to explain to the OCS that he couldn’t possibly have tweeted about it because the phone he had did not even have an internet connection. Willis says the police knew it was Bonnie who posted about the incident and believes the police locked him up â€œto try to get back at Boniface Mwangi.â€
Later, at about 8.00 pm, Boniface Mwangi, Rarieya Asin, Patrick Gathara, Desmond Boko, James, Langat and I went to Kariobangi Police Post to try and secure the release of both Julio and Willis. The Kariobangi Police Post is a tin shack, not fit to be a police post and the holding cell is even worse.
In a tiny room measuring about 100 square feet, 13 men were being held. One of them said heâ€™d been in the cell for five days without being taken to court, a violation of the law.
Another was badly beaten and couldn’t even move. His cell mates said the police had beaten him using gun butts while the police said they had rescued him from a mob and had taken him to hospital. Most of the men in the cell said theyâ€™d been arrested by an officer, whose name I will not mention because he honestly scared me. He was out of the station on patrol at the time.
There was only an old blanket on the floor for the 13 men to sit/sleep on and a bucket in the corner for them to pee in. We met three very polite police officers, who spoke with us and informed us of the charges against Julio and Willis. Julio was charged with â€œhandling stolen propertyâ€ and Willis with â€œmisuse of telecommunication equipment.â€
The officers lamented about how difficult it is for them to get information about crime in Kariobangi since victims donâ€™t talk due to fear of retribution. They said the only option they have is to use â€œforceâ€ to extract information from the locals. The officers, after a lengthy chat, informed us that the two could not be released until the next morning after â€œthe flag had been hoisted.â€
As we were about to leave, Mr. Scary Officer arrived and was clearly high on something. He had a mouthful of khat and was hyperactive and moved about incessantly. He led us to another officer, who wasn’t in uniform, and who only seemed interested in showing us he was in charge.
When we asked him questions, he kept shouting and asking us if we understood provisions on release of suspects which he loudly informed us were enshrined in the â€œGrey Book.â€ He told us Julio and Willis would be taken to court, this despite us telling him we had brought the receipts for the laptop and Boniface Mwangi telling him the tweet hadn’t come from Willis.
Another officer who was with the one in plain clothes kept laughing sarcastically when we said the police should serve, not harass people. Mr. Scary Officer got surprisingly nice and even offered Desmond a ride home. We left the post at about 9.30 pm.
We were later informed that the police were not too pleased because of the presence of â€œactivistsâ€ at the post and the fact that Boniface Mwangi bought supper for all 13 men in the cell.
The next day, both Julio and Willis were taken to Makadara Law Court early in the morning before the lawyers could get to them. They were both released on cash bail. Julioâ€™s case was mentioned on Thursday 29th January 2015 while Willisâ€™ case is scheduled to be mentioned on 12th February 2015 and the hearing will be on 30th March 2015. If this doesn’t describe absurd, I donâ€™t know what does.
This post was first uploaded on Facebook.