In the early hours of the 10th of May 2013, City Cotton settlement (also called City Cotton or City Carton village) in between Wilson Airport, South C estate and Moi Educational Centre in Nairobi was attacked by a group of approximately 150 young men, backed up by a strong Police force headed by the Officer Commanding Station (OCS) of Langata Police station.
The attacking force assembled in the middle of the night on the grounds of Moi Educational Centre (MEC), which is owned by the former Kenyan President Daniel Moi and used the MEC grounds as their base to stage the attack from.
The group, identifying themselves as ‘Mungiki’, claimed they were hired to auction off the properties of 2 tenants in the settlement, based on a court order. The group attacked the settlement around 4 AM with utmost brutality. Armed with machetes, crowbars, sledgehammers, and all kind of other tools and weapons, they started to break the huts of the settlement while most of the people were sleeping inside. Several huts collapsed with people inside, while anybody of the inhabitants who resisted was thoroughly attacked, beaten up and hacked by the armed goons. In several huts women were raped.
It took a while for the City Cotton inhabitants to realize what was going on, but once they did, they grouped together, and started to defend their village. A fierce battle evolved, in which the villagers succeeded to drive back the attackers to the MEC grounds.
Kenya Police helps the Mungiki, the Mungiki helps the Kenya Police
This was the time that the Police came to help the Mungiki. On order of the OCS, the Police started to shoot with live ammunition and started to beat up anybody they could get hold of. The villagers were driven back and the combined force of Kenya Police and Mungiki drove them even out of their village altogether.
While the villagers scared for their lives were hiding in the surrounding fields and bushes, the Mungiki continued their work to destroy the village. Each and every hut was searched for valuables, and if anything of value was found it was taken away by the Mungiki, while the Police officers were protecting the looters, in return for a share of the loot. Once the valuables were taken out, the Mungiki started to destroy the huts.
Due to the size of the settlement and the delay caused by the resistance of the villagers, the attackers could not finish the job under the cover of darkness and left once the sun had come up. The Mungiki and Police force retreated to the MEC grounds, from where the Police kept watching as the villagers returned to their destroyed homes.
The scenery was gruesome. As the day became brighter, the villagers counted their ordeal. Shell shocked villagers wandering around the ruins of a destroyed and looted village, heavily wounded people lying around, raped women crying, and an uncounted number of people missing.
As the leader of the gang had announced that they will come back in the next night to finish the job and destroy the village to the very ground, many villagers decided to look if they could find anything left of their valuables in the ruins and then to leave the area, fearing for their very life.
The villagers resist
Though, a large number of villagers stayed. Most often as they had no other place to go to. As the thugs had also stolen any money from the inhabitants they could get hold on, most villagers had almost nothing else to lose than their own life. Many of them also did not want to give in to injustice. The remaining villagers decided for the next night to organize their self-defense, spearheaded by the village youth. While camping in and around the ruins, they put up a night vigilance.
When the Mungiki returned that night they were beaten back in a short but fiery battle. As much as the Police was again manning the line behind the Mungiki, this time the Police strangely did not attack. The Mungiki retreated, but stated clearly that they will soon come back in even stronger numbers.
As at night the bloody battles raged, in daytime the villagers tried to apply legal measures to stop the destruction of their lives. Delegations were sent to the Area Chief, Langata Police station, the Principal of Moi Educational Centre and also the process for a court injunction was started.
Kenyan Government officials and their version of law & order
The Area Chief and the principal of MEC claimed to know nothing about the matter and decided to not comment further on the case.
Though at Langata Police Station, the situation became quite interesting. At first, the OCS claimed that there was a court order for demolition of the village, referring to the auctioneering order against two of the tenants, and that the Police was only involved in maintaining law and order during the eviction. When asked why he did not maintain law and order to prevent the looting, raping and assault, the OCS claimed to have not seen anything like this during the operation. When asked to show a copy of the court order as required by law, he claimed that he carried a copy of the court order that night, but nobody of the villagers had asked him for it.
When asked to show it again at the Police station, he claimed that the Officer Commanding Police District (OCPD), his boss, would have the copy now and that furthermore ‘the Kenya Police has anyway no duty to serve court orders to the people they are meant for, as this is an issue of the court’. When asked for any detail of the court order, like it’s number, he claimed not to be aware of any detail, ‘but that one can go to court to find that out for themselves’.
The long road to court
While a delegation of the villagers proceeded to court ‘to find that out for themselves’, the OCS came the day after with another version. After another night of stalemate in the village, the OCS claimed now that the court order was actually meant for another village and apologized for ‘the mistake’. He told the delegation of villagers that they could return to their houses, rebuild them and continue with their lives.
Shocked about how the Kenya Police can make ‘mistakes’ like this, though happy to be able to return to the remnants of their huts, the villagers started to rebuild their village right after receiving the news.
The very night following this day, in the morning hours of Friday 17th of May, the Mungiki and Kenya Police came back to finish the job. With even more brutality the village was attacked again, the villagers lulled into putting down their self-defense based on the word of the OCS. This night, the Mungiki finished the job.
Whatever remained in the village was razed to the ground and put onto fire.
At court, it was established that there was no court order at all. Furthermore, it was established that the grounds of the settlement are owned by the Moi Educational Centre, which is owned by former President Daniel Arap Moi.
Finally in court, but…
On Friday the 24th of May, the case was finally arranged in court at Milimani Law Courts, Human Rights Division, with an application as matter of urgency to stop the ongoing destruction of the village and violation of Human Rights and Kenyan laws of the tenants of City Cotton village. The judge, Honorable Justice Mr. Isaac Lenaola did not see any matter of urgency in the case, and referred the case to be heard on the 10th of June 2013. Justice Lenaola pointed particular to the rights of ownership of the current owner, which according to Justice Lenaola should not be disregarded.
The very night after Justice Lenaola’s ruling, the Mungiki, backed up by Kenyan Police officers, attacked a neighboring village, Upendo Village and repeated City Cotton’s ordeal upon its tenants.
Up to today, the inhabitants of City Cotton and Upendo are still camping in the fields and bushes around their former villages.
Left to their own devices
To add literally insult to injuries, the Kenya Red Cross (KRC) (whose headquarters are on walking distance from the village), had declined to provide emergency medical assistance for the severely wounded and homeless people. We were told by a manager of the KRC that ‘This is a Government operation and as Kenya Red Cross is a subsidiary of the Kenyan Government, they will of course not get involved in this.’ Though contradictory to this statement, the same manager claimed later that the Red Cross had actually taken already two people to the hospital from the scene, which was established later as not true.
The media don’t show up, as Mr. Moi seems to be everywhere
The above has barely been reported by Kenyan and International media.
Most Kenyan journalists were told by their bosses in the Kenyan media houses ‘to look for other interesting stories’, according to several Kenyan journalists. It was again and again hinted to us ‘that we know who the owner of the land is’, as explanation why Kenyan media would not like to focus on this story.
Foreign media declined to report on the matter, ‘as this is happening every day all over Africa, so it has hardly any news value’, according to several foreign journalists.
Another layer is added altogether by the fact that Wangari Maathai’s house is exactly next to the settlement. Wangari Maathai, Human rights and environmental activist, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work and served a couple of years as Assistant Minister for Environment after 2003 and died in 2011, protected the people of City Cotton from eviction, according to statements by the villagers themselves. She helped to stop earlier attempts to destroy the village by force. Remarkably, Mrs. Maathai’s house is next to a ghetto, with no high walls and no barbed wire. She had nothing to fear from her poor neighbors.
Mr. Moi had obviously not only to wait till Wangari Maathai died, but also till the new government of President Kenyatta took over, to get what he wanted.
In 2002, Kenyans made a strong point of showing to the whole world which Kenya they want. Come 2013, what has remained of this?
Welcome to Kenya, a country of shattered hopes and broken dreams.