The Never Ending Story: Murder, Rape & Plunder for Christmas.
Time to rejoice, be with your family (if you have one), give presents to your loved ones (if you have money and/or loved ones), drink yourself under the table (with or without loved ones). And to faintly remember that there was once a certain guy (with long hair and walking on slippers) who said that he sacrificed himself for the betterment of humanity. Well, forget about the last sentence, it has no relation with the Christmas as we know it in our days.
Soon there is also a New Year. This is the time you look back on all the positive things happened to you this year (though it could have been more, as every year). But as you are able to afford to pay for some device, power & connection to read this message, you can feel good that at least you made it so far.
So, while you are at the party and feeling well, somewhere else there are other stories happening. Also that’s no news, as we know, war & plunder will accompany humanity till its very last day. That’s normal and nothing really to write about. And you don’t like all this negativity anyway. You always look at the positive things in life.
This is the moment you should stop to read this. Stop. Here. (Goodbye).
Somewhere in a place called City Cotton, there will be Murder, Rape & Plunder this Christmas.
What is City Cotton? City Cotton is a small slum village, located in Nairobi, in between Wilson Airport and the Moi Educational Centre (MEC). Being founded in the 1950’s, in 2013 it was attacked and destroyed by a bunch of corrupted police officers, supporting a group of gangsters labeling themselves as ‘Mungiki’, with the purpose to grab the land of the village.
This all happened on instigation of the owner of the Moi Educational Centre. The owner of MEC is not just anybody. His name is Daniel Arap Moi, former too-long-term President of the Republic of Kenya (too-long-term meaning, he wasn’t a President who bothered about democracy too much, some even dare to call him a ‘Dictator’).
I was called in to document the destruction, but did not know what I would get myself into. It was a war zone, right in the middle of Nairobi. Ignored by Kenyan & foreign media, ignored by NGO’s, even the Red Cross denied the heavily wounded residents assistance.
The survivors decided to camp near their destroyed village and build an even poorer slum, deciding not to give up the fight for justice.
I recorded with the survivors any possible detail, and Amnesty International paid (exceptionally) for a court case against the Government of Kenya and the Moi Educational Centre. After 3 years, due to the evidence and the spirited fight of the residents, a Kenyan court ruled in favor of the residents and declared Government of Kenya and the Moi Educational Centre guilty. It was a landmark ruling. Who dares to fight against possibly the most powerful man in Kenya (belonging to ‘The Untouchables’)?
Moi did not accept. He went into appeal.
And things started to change.
The lawyer paid for by Amnesty International, the 2014 jurist of the Year, Mbugua Mureithi did not do his work properly any more. As much as he had won the first case, at the first hearing in May 2016, he did not put proper applications to court. When the residents wanted to ask him right after the case why he did not do what he was meant to do, he stated he is not answerable to anybody and literally ran away.
At the second hearing in November 2016, he did not show up at all and excused himself to court (not to his clients, the residents or Amnesty International) for being ill.
His assistant told the residents who were again in shock, that Mr. Mureithi ‘did not have enough time to prepare for the case’.
Up to today, he declined to talk to me, the residents or Amnesty International about the case. Amnesty International says they have no control over him any more.
Though, who came to talk to the residents, usually before each new hearing, was an endless stream of Kenyan government officials, showering them with similar endless threats.
Like one Joash Olum, a Member of Parliament (MP) for Langata constituency in Nairobi. He is keen to build a road towards the grabbed piece of land, exactly through the spot where the residents are surviving since the violent eviction. Neither Mr. Olum nor all the lower ranking officials ever presented any official document concerning roadworks and the possible need for relocation of residents living on the space. Also in Kenya, these documents are required by law, making all these actions of Honorable Joash Olum and his fellow officials illegal.
Joash Olum is a member of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), the movement led by Raila Odinga. So is this a ‘present’ from Raila Odinga to Daniel Arap Moi? Or is Honorable Olum acting on his own? So far, Hon. Olum has declined to give details on whose behalf he is acting.
On the 15th of December 2016, the residents were told that they will be evicted in between Christmas and New Year. They should just get lost, as soon as possible.
Realizing that this will be another illegal attack, they decided not to move.
And while I am writing this, on Christmas Eve 2016, that’s where they are now. Waiting for the things to come.
So, while you are reading this and celebrating the festive season with or without your loved ones, know that somewhere on this planet, (maybe even not so far away from you) a community of women, men, children and old people are waiting for the things to come. They are not planning to give in to evil. Even if it means their death, which might happen while you are reading this.
And even as the catastrophe to come is announced, I expect no Kenyan or foreign media to cover this. I expect the case again to be ignored by NGO’s, and also the Red Cross to deny the residents assistance again. Also this time it seems that even Amnesty International has been made shut up, as they got a lawyer out of control.
So, for this Christmas, I ask you, my dear reader:
Who do you think will win this battle, the poor Slum dwellers or The Untouchables?
And if they lose, is that a sign that Evil is stronger than the Go(o)d you believe in?
And how many of the people I portrayed will not be alive anymore by New Year? How many will be raped, how many will be disabled, how many will be left to their own on the streets?
And how often do I have to photograph this?
Do enjoy the portraits I made of the City Cotton residents.
My heart is with them.