10th of May 2013, the day evil descended on the slum village of City Cotton.
In the early hours of the 10th of May 2013, City Cotton village in Nairobi West was attacked by a group of approximately 150 men claiming to be part of the Mungiki gang, 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 Arap Moi and used the MEC grounds as their base to stage the attack from.
The group attacked the village around 4 AM with utmost brutality. Armed with guns, 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 or hacked. In several huts women were raped. All huts were looted & the residents were robbed of any valuables in the process. The loot was then divided in between the police officers and the Mungiki gang members.
After all villagers were chased away, the village was razed to the ground & the remnants were set ablaze.
Nobody dared to help these villagers. No Red Cross, no NGO, leave alone any Government agency. People were left alone in the fields, often with heavy wounds. Also most of Kenyan and foreign media decided to stay away. The full story was never published by any mainstream media, neither in Kenya or outside Kenya. Only Amnesty International dared to bring the attack into publicity.
The Court case
I decided with others to collect as much as possible evidence, to tell the story & to be used in a possible Court case against the perpetrators. Amnesty International decided to fund the case.
After 1,5 years proceedings in Court, Justice Mumbi Ngugi of the Constitutional and Human Rights Division of the High Court of Kenya ruled the attack to the fullest illegal:
‘Moi Educational Centre was the author of the unlawful acts that led to violation of the Petitioner’s rights and the State, through the national police, chose to aid it against the interests of the poor, marginalised villagers.’
The ruling is seen as landmark ruling and has set precedence for other land grabbing cases in Kenya.
Moi Educational Centre decided to appeal against the ruling, while the Government of Kenya decided to accept it.
Not that in any way the case went smooth. Several times the lawyers for the City Cotton residents had to be exchanged, as they ‘forgot’ at crucial times to forward necessary documents to the Court. Also at the Court itself, at times Court documents had ‘disappeared’, of which then fresh copies had to be given to the Court by the City Cotton lawyers. Also several witnessed ‘disappeared’, up to today not to be seen any more.
The Appeal case
1,5 year after the ruling, the first hearing at the Court of Appeal was on the 26th of April 2016.
By coincidence, in the week before the first hearing of the Appeal case, Justice Mumbi Ngugi was transferred from the Constitutional and Human Rights Division to the High Court in Kericho (a province town in Western Kenya). The Chief Justice of Kenya said ‘The transfer is a promotion to Justice Ngugi for her exemplary work’.
At the first hearing at the Court of Appeal, it turned out that also the current City Cotton lawyer had not done certain necessary works as he was meant to do. In example, he had not entered a counter Appeal to Court, which he was required to do within 1 year from the ruling. When asked why he didn’t do this, he declined to answer. He also declined to talk to his clients, the villagers, as he stated that ‘he does not want to be advised how he deals with his cases’.
The lawyer of the Moi Educational Centre on the other hand, requested the 37 points of the Petition to be brought back to only 10, to make the Appeal easier for the MEC, which was granted by the Appeal Court.
The next hearing date has to be set in the course of 2016, the precise date to be announced at the end of May 2016.
No Justice for the victims
As much as 1,5 year after the initial ruling had passed and 3 years after the initial attack, the Government of Kenya -who accepted the ruling- has not paid any of the awarded damages yet to the residents. Also, no Police officer has been prosecuted for abuse of office. Nor have any criminal investigations been done against the ‘Mungiki members’ taking part in the attack. Nor have the survivors been resettled, as required by law and stated in the ruling of Justice Mumbi. Nor has hte former President of the Republic of Kenya, Daniel Arap Moi been questioned why he or his employees corrupted Kenyan police officers and hired criminals to attack the villagers.
Up to today, the inhabitants of City Cotton are still camping in the fields and bushes around their former village. No NGO, no Government agency has showed up to help them in these 3 years (except Amnesty International for the court fees).
Though, in these 3 years, the survivors have been attacked numerous times again, as well by criminals, as by Government agents. In a recent survey, the spot has been labelled as one of the top 3 most dangerous places in Nairobi.
The lives of the City Cotton survivors resemble the lives of modern slaves. It seems that not one single Human right applies to them. Day after day, living from hand to mouth, never knowing if one will see the sun rise again the next day. Right in the middle of Nairobi.
So far, the remainders are still holding out.
The City Cotton Memorial Edition
The photos you see here were made by me on the morning of the initial attack on 10th May 2013, during a fighting break. I have re-edited them and labelled them the ‘City Cotton Memorial Edition’, as memories of houses and villages may fade, but memories of humans and their sufferings will stay with us, even if we try to forget them and look to the other side, claiming we don’t know what is going on, as we don’t want to indulge ourselves in ‘negative feelings’.