Comrade Patrick Kamotho a member of Bunge la Mwananchi (BLM) has been arrested and is being held incommunicado at Kamukunji Police Station. Comrade Kamotho was arrested on saturday last week due to an arrest warrant that was issued by a Nairobi court after he failed to attend hearing related to a case in which he among other activists were arrested for “illegal assembly”. According to comrade Gacheke Gachihi also a member of BLM, the police seemed to be having a vendetta against Kamotho as one of the officers at the station denied him access to Kamotho and told him that “..nyinyi watu wa human rights munaringa sana, tupatane kotini, Kamotho ametusumbua sana…” translated to mean that “you human rights activists are so arrogant, lets meet in court, Kamotho is troublesome..”.
Gacheke received a distress call from Kamotho’s wife and rushed to Kamukunji police where he was denied access to Kamotho and termed Kamotho’s arrest as a combination of both police and judicial harassment. Gacheke said that the charge itself was erroneous as the constitution in article 37 guarantees freedom of assembly. Gacheke added that Kamotho has a total of six different cases related to illegal assembly some of which have failed to take off and wondered why the courts failed to dismiss the cases which are aimed at silencing Grassroots Human Rights Defenders (GHRDs).”I expected the courts to dismiss the cases as freedom of assembly is guaranteed in the constitution, in this the Judiciary has failed us” said Gacheke.
Gacheke likened the cases facing GHRDs today to the carefully choreographed arrests that were targeted at the Muungano wa Mageuzi activists during Moi days. The Moi regime in a bid to harass Mageuzi leaders could conspire with the judiciary such that one could have two simultaneous cases one in Isiolo and another one in Kisii. An arrest warrant would then be issued for failing to attend court thereby giving the police a chance to detain you. Muungano wa Mageuzi was a movement for change that brought together opposition members of parliaments Civil Society activists, university students and slum youths with an aim of forcing the Moi regime to accept constitutional reforms.
The response of the Human Rights community especially the protection agencies has been lethargic regarding cases targeting GHRDs. Recently another GHRD Francis Sakwa also a member of BLM was abducted in Nairobi and dumped in Voi before being rescued. Despite having all evidence including the vehicle number plate, Sakwa is yet to get proper attention. The protection agencies and Human Rights community as a whole need to be aware that assistance goes beyond providing advocates and accompaniment during court appearances. They seem to ignore the agony family and friends of the GHRDs go through and also the opportunity cost during court appearances including the psychological harassment caused to the GHRDs themselves. It is very sad that Kamotho’s wife has to bear the burden that should have been bore by the protection agencies and the Human Rights movement yet Kamotho was not fighting for his family but for the whole republic.
Meanwhile Kamotho will be appearing at Makadara Law Courts on Monday this week at 8am. According to professor Yash Pal Ghai of Katiba Institute who was able to see Kamotho later, the police assured him that Kamotho will be released. Ghai said that the police informed also informed him that they could not release him as he was detained under a warrant from that Court and the police cannot release him without the authority of the Court. Ghai added that Katiba Institute was trying to arrange for a lawyer to be at the Court though he was not yet sure as most of “our legal team leaves for Nakuru today for a workshop for the County Assembly members”.
While we call for immediate and unconditional release of comrade Patrick Kamotho, we also call on the Human Rights community as a whole to stand in solidarity with Kamotho’s family which is now undergoing difficult time not forgetting that Kamotho is the sole breadwinner of his family. We also call for “DE-NGONISATION” of the struggle and protection programs for GHRDs in distress as at this rate, many GHRDs will hang boots.