Minister Ngilu 100 Hours of Fight and Pure Fury

What really happened during Health Minister Charity Ngilu saga last week when she spent 18 hours in police and CID custody in buildings and at the gate of CID HQ on Kiambu Road? Why were 18 marchers arrested as the protests spilled out of control during what looked like a routine march to speak to Parliament in some other way than the usual?

Wanyiri Kihoro gives an eyewitness account of the dramatic events, which were impregnated with name-calling, allegations, deceit and pure fury among those involved. His account cuts across the civil rights marchers, the minister, former parliamentarians, the police, the CID, more than 10 police stations, the Makadara Magistrates and the High Court. He was there and saw it all in a grotesque reminder of similar events 18 years ago before the onset pluralist politics. The melodrama, triggered off by the proposal in Parliament to pay about Shs 6 million golden handshake to current MPs shook the nation. The sum is seen by many as a campaign chest for the MPs during the forthcoming General Elections.

  1. On Friday 27th August 2007, a press release went out to media houses informing them that one-day of action was planned against Parliament to protest the proposed payment of Shs 6 million gratuity to MPs in the 9th Parliament. The Former Parliamentarians planned the action to protest the payment on the grounds that if any gratuity must be paid, then the members of the 9th Parliament should be the last to be paid after the paying all their predecessors starting in 1963. Why, the press release asked, should those who deserve the money least, be the first ones to be paid?

  1. The civil society members were aggrieved too by the wanton payment to people who ha become famous for not doing their work. Why pay the current or former MPs, they demanded to know, when there was such grinding poverty across this land? More than 60% of Kenyan live below the poverty line, earning less than 70/- per day. The scarce resources should go elsewhere, where they were needed most.

Civil society went further. Why allocate the Youth Enterprise Fund only Shs 1 billion for over 20 million eligible youth when 224 MPs would be receiving Shs 1.5 billion to divide among themselves at a rate of over Shs 6 million each? It argued that the emoluments of the current members were already too high and at the official minimum wage of Shs 6,000/- per month, it would take 6 years to earn the monthly salary of an honourable member.

Speakers tackled the economics of the payment persuasively in front of the members of the public who were starting to stop and listen. All this was happening in front of the right place the Professional Centre, Parliament Road from 11am.

  1. The march on Parliament set off, all persuaded to the good cause. The demo was OK they said having notified the police and Parliament Building being a short 80 metres away. Why would anybody including the policemen want to stop the march the most eloquent speech of all to advance the common good?

  1. No sooner had the matchers started and had done a meagre 30 metres when it was stopped by the police. The marchers stopped and a standoff ensued for 5 minutes as the banners and posters, in their bright colours, did the talking. The police were not prepared to just stop and wait. The moved and fired teargas canisters at the demonstrators followed by a baton charge. Marchers Mwalimu Mati, Ouma Odera, Cyprian Nyamwamu, Ann Njogu and Okoiti Omtatah were arrested in the midst of the fracas and commotion. They were frogmarched to Parliament Police Station nearby, amidst protests, din and battery.

  1. Omtatah could have been dragged to the station but had now a handling complaint to make. That a policeman had battered him as he pulled him to the police station. He had not resisted the arrest and had willingly given in. He therefore demanded to know why the policeman for who he was fighting had told him on complaining that Next time, I will shoot you The complaint was duly recorded in the Occurrence Book.

  1. The writer, who is an advocate, goes to the police station to find out why the marchers soon to become the Parliament Road 5 had been arrested. Paul Muite also walks into the station. The marchers, we tell the OCS, should be released because they were involved in a perfectly legal and legitimate exercise. The authorities had also been informed about the march. The Five are transferred to Central Police Station, on the other side of town, within the hour.

  1. At the Central Police Station, the police are no longer in a hurry and nobody seems to know what will happen next. Those under arrest arrange for their own lunch at 5pm as people come and go. Their fingerprints are taken and they are told they will be charged in the courts with participating in an unlawful Assembly. Many family members and friends of the five arrive at the station filling to overflowing the corridors and some offices. Statements from the Five on what happened in the demonstration are taken.

  1. Minister Charity Ngilu, in her official car now visits the station at about 6.30 pm and is taken where the Five were being held. It is at this time that she finds Ann Njogu in a deplorable condition. She is being held in male dominated environment, denied privacy when she is pleading for this in order to change her clothes. The police wont listen and there was nobody to tell. Ann’s husband, Leonard Njogu visits the station and meets his wife.

Mrs Njogu is allowed to go to Mrs Ngilu’s car by the police. At this time, the police were preparing to move the Five to other Police Station. They are apparently moved out of the station in two vehicles, one carrying three demonstrators and the other one. They were loaded into the vehicles from the back of the police station at a time when the front doors of the station were shut. Ann is left in Mrs Ngilu’s car.

  1. It was time for the police vehicles to drive out of the compound as journalists and friends of the five hold a press conference. Within a short time, several teargas canisters are fired and come screaming through the cold night sky. Some land on the vehicles nearby, as panic breaks loose.

  1. Having lost Jayne Mati in the confusion, I now decide to make a call to her. Mwalimu Mati answers the call; one of those arrested and was supposed to be in one of the police cars, which had left the station about 10 minutes before. Mwalimu tells me We have just had an accident on Limuru Road near the Aga Khan University Hospital. The police are trying to kill us for fighting against corruption. Their car is the murder weapon in the hands of the kamikaze driver. The time was about 7.45 pm. I decide to drive to the scene of the accident abandoning the search for Jane in the teargas filled airs.

  1. 10 minutes later, I arrive at a point about 200 metres from the turn off to the Aga Khan Hospital on Limuru Road. I see a wrecked police vehicle on the right side of the road being prepared for towing. In front of the vehicle stands a matatu with no passengers inside but with some new impact dents and a shattered windscreen. Without stopping, I drive on to the Casualty Wing of the hospital. As I enter the wing, I meet and talk to Mrs Ngilu who was leaving the hospital and walking to her car.

  1. Inside the wing in one room there are 4 patients, the former marchers who were undergoing tests and being treated. There were many policemen in the room, in the corridor and everywhere I looked. The atmosphere was most intimidating and the sight of guns and the long black coats never far away.

The doctors were pleading with the police and the human traffic to leave so that they could be able to attend to the patients in some peace. The policemen were clearly interfering with the hospital operations as they kept close to the patients.

  1. This intrusion continued well into midnight as the police made every attempt to claim that the patients were feigning sickness and should be discharged. These efforts only ceased after the hospital closed down for the night, after new guards, from other police stations, took over for the night. During the change, it looked more like a garrison hospital.

The police were left patrolling the corridors as the patients were moved to a new room nearby. Members of the family of those injured kept vigil near the patients, in a state of distress and concern that their loved ones had been injured when in hands of police.

  1. Early on Wednesday August 1, there were renewed attempts by the police to have the patient moved elsewhere where they could have more control. This did not bare fruits as the doctors continued to refuse to discharge the patients. From 8am there were well over 50 people milling the corridors of the hospital, mainly uniformed and ununiformed policemen.

By about 10 am, arrangements are made to discharge the four from the hospital and they are dispersed to 4 police stations. Mwalimu Mati is taken to Karen Police Station, Ann Njogu to Kileleshwa, Odera to Buruburu and Omtatah to Langata. Cyprian remains in Muthangari.

  1. Leonard Njogu is taken to court on Wednesday morning and charged with assisting an arrested person escape police custody He pleads not guilty and is freed on Shs 50,000/ cash bail.

  1. With the possibility that the five would remain in the custody much longer, advocate move to court on Wednesday afternoon to obtain orders for the release of the five or delivery to court. Duty judge, Justice Mutungi grants the orders that the five be brought before him on Thursday 2nd August at 9 am.

  1. The five spend the night where they were and are moved to the High Court early in the morning on Thursday. The police prepared to charge all the 5 with participating in unlawful assembly. Ann Njogu was told she would face a second charge of escaping from lawful custody.

  1. The police make an attempt to charge the five in court No1. The defence oppose the taking of the pleas and through lawyer Pheroze Nowrojee tell the Magistrate that the attempt by the police to charge the five before her is in contempt of court. There was already a court order, Mr. Nowrojee stated, that the five should be produced before High Court Justice Mutungi at 9am. The Magistrate stopped the proceedings and directed that the five should appear before the judge first.

  1. The five are taken before Justice Mutungi at 9.30am. Mr. Nowrojee tells the judge what had happened before the Magistrate earlier. He said that the five had been held for more than 24 hours on a charge where they could only be held for a maximum 24 hours.

He said that section 72(3) of the Constitution provided that an arrested person, on allegations of having committed a non-capital offence could only be held for a maximum of 24 hours before charges were laid against him in court. By holding the accused for more than 24 hours, the police had committed an illegal act, which they could not be cure by the production of the accused person in court. Continued detention of the 5 was therefore illegal and unconstitutional and the five should be released immediately.

Justice Mutungi agreed. He found that a breach of law had been committed by the police. The police should have moved and charged the five before 24 hours were over. This was a land mark ruling restating the law and the Constitutional provisions. He added the 5 be released immediately.

  1. The telephone rang in Minister Ngilu’s office in Afya House at 12noon on Thursday 2nd August. It was answered by her secretary who was told by the caller that Mrs. Ngilu was required in the afternoon by the Director of Criminal Investigation Department at the CID HQ on Kiambu Road.

After returning to her office, Mrs Ngilu accompanied by Paul Mite went to the Director office and was told that a statement was required from her on what had happened at Central police station last Tuesday evening when she went there to see the five marchers. She was handed over to Deputy Director Mr. Amata to write a statement. Before she could start writing, she was joined by lawyer James Orengo and Wanyiri Kihoro who had received information that she had called there.

After the consultation with her three lawyers, Mrs Ngilu is advised that she could write the statement. She started doing so at about 3pm. As she did so her lawyers go to the CID canteen to take refreshment and return later. As the matter plays out, some civilian supporters and fans of Mrs Ngilu come to the gate of CID HQ. Soon disagreement ensues between them and the police on where to stay or not stay as they wait. 10 people are arrested and taken to Muthaiga Police Station.

  1. Mrs Ngilu finishes writing the statement, is joined by her lawyers, and soon indicates her intention to leave. She is told by Mr Amata that she could not leave. She asks if she was under arrest and Mr Amata answers her in the affirmative. The time was 6pm. The lawyer consult and advised Mrs Ngilu that she should prepare to go to court, first thing the following morning, as the arrest might be drawn out into the weekend when even the courts could not help her. Paul Muite and James Orengo leave soon after this to prepare the papers and she is left in the company of Mr Kihoro. They stay in Mr Amata’s office.

  1. Matters remain like this for the next 5 hours up to about 11 pm. Mr. Amata now said he had received new instructions that he could allow Mrs Ngilu to go home provided he bonded her to return the following morning at 9 am. She would then be taken to court and charged. So as to save time the following morning Mrs Ngilu was told, her fingerprints were to be taken before she went home. She was bonded for shs 100,000 with one surety of the same amount. Mr Kihoro now stood surety for her.

  1. It was now only 5 minute to midnight and Mrs Ngilu’s lawyer advised her to wait in Mr Amata’s office for the following day, which was only 5 minutes away. The bond and other paperwork were dated 3rd August 2007 and a new day had arrived. We then left Mr Amata’s office and walked to the gate.

  1. We soon separated and went to Orengo’s office where we finished preparing the papers to go to court in a few hours time. As soon as we did this we drove to Mrs Ngilu’s home at 2am when she swore an affidavit on the events of the day effectively authorising the lawyer to go to court on Friday morning.

  1. At 9am on Friday, Mrs Ngilu was back at the CID HQ. She was accompanied by her lawyers Paul Muite and Wanyiri Kihoro. One block away from the Deputy Director office, an attempt is made to prevent her lawyers from entering the building with her. This was resisted and the 2 lawyers entered the building at a brisk pace. When she entered Mr Amata’s office, he tell her that he was not ready and was awaiting instructions to be given from above on what to do next.

  1. Mrs Ngilu’s lawyers advised her not to wait for such as she had already waited for 10 hours the previous day under the same pretext. They tell her that the law does not provide that she could wait. The police alternatives were limited to they arresting her and charging her or letting her go away as the police sorted out what to do. Mrs Ngilu took the advice and we walked back

  1. Mrs Ngilu’s team went out of the building and her flagged car came and picked her and her lawyers. Before the car could drive out of the compound, it was stopped at the exit gate blocking the entrance. An impasse then ensued when Mrs Ngilu could neither leave nor go back. Her lawyer advised her and her flag car to stay put. Inside the gate there were many policemen in uniform and civilian clothes. On the outside many supporters and sympathisers of Mrs Ngilu now arrived and provided entertainment for themselves. Tony Gachoka paid a visit at this time, was arrested at the gate as he insisted on entering and was locked up.

  1. The 10 sympathisers of Mrs Ngilu who were arrested the day before were taken to Makadara Magistrates Court early on Friday morning and charged with creating a disturbance likely to cause a breach of the peace. They pleaded not guilty and were given Shs 20,000/= cash bail each.

  1. At 9am, and as the show played out at the gates of the CID HQ, James Orengo went to the High Court before Justice Mutungi, who soon ordered that the AG be served with application filed under a certificate of urgency. The most important prayer in the application was that a decision to charge or not charge Mrs Ngilu must be made by the AG, as opposed to the police, because of her status and rank as a cabinet minister in the Government.

The application was heard inter parties at 12 noon and Justice Mutungi granted the order sought and ordered that Mrs Ngilu be released in the meantime. The order was expected at the CID HQ in the afternoon. Before this could happen however, and I suspect fearing embarrassment of receiving the order, the CID relented. Mrs Ngilu was released at 2.45pm when the gate opened.

Tony Gachoka was soon released too at 3.30pm with no charges being laid against him, bringing to an end a most bizarre 100 hours in the life of the Minister and the marchers who dreamt freedom. Many swore to return.

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By Wanyiri Kihoro

P.o. Box 9759-00100

Nairobi

Tel: 0722 212 836