A campaign pushing for the arrest and prosecution of suspects who violently attacked and gang-raped a Busia pupil four months ago has gone global.
Hundreds of people joined Kenyans on social media to sign a petition demanding that the police ensure justice for the Standard Seven pupil who was raped and dumped in a pit latrine by youths on June 26 at Tingolo village, in Butula.
They also want action taken against local police who failed to investigate her case when it was reported on June 27 and their subsequent release of three suspects.
By 8.30pm Friday, the petition-initiated through the global online campaigning network Avaaz had been signed by 190,000 people.
“Join us in calling for Justice for Liz, an immediate arrest of the perpetrators and disciplinary action on the police (for negligence). We must not allow impunity to reign while women and girls bodies continue to be battlefields,’’ states the petition.
The online petition was created by a Kenyan youth Nebila Abdulmelik from the African Women’s Development Communication Network (FEMNET.)
“Letting rapists walk free after making them cut grass has to be the world’s worst punishment for rape. It is an absolute failure of the entire system and an absolutely shameful response by Kenya’s police,” she said.
“Liz is sadly not the first nor the last victim of rape – but her case has to be the moment when we all rally together, express our solidarity, our outrage and demand public accountability and an end to the culture of violence and impunity that has become the norm,” she added.
Mr Will Davies from Avaaz said the petition is part of a broader set of measures called for by women’s organizations in Kenya like the African Women's Development and Communication Network which says that rape in Kenya is on the upsurge and fast becoming a major crisis.
A study in 2009 found that up to 68% of girls and 54% of boys have been subjected to forceful sex.
Early this year the High Court found police to be one of the biggest obstacle in combating sexual violence. They were directed to do their job to uphold and enforce Kenya’s strict anti-rape laws.
Dalia Hashad, Campaign director of Avaaz said, "Liz's ordeal is unbearable to imagine, but the only way to stop police dealing with victims with such heartless negligence is by holding them to account. Across the world anti-rape laws are being undermined by men that do not enforce them. It's time to make them know they will pay a price for not protecting our daughters."
In Nairobi, the State gender agency has written to Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo seeking affirmation from him that the teenager’s plight will be addressed urgently and justice done.
“The National Gender and Equality Commission seeks the assurance of the police through your good office that this matter will be accorded the highest attention in seeking justice and protection for the victim as spelt out in Article 53 of the Constitution,’’ said chairperson Winfred Lichuma in her letter seen by the Nation.
She described as most disturbing, statements from the local police that no arrests have been made even as they indicate that investigations into the case are over and file handed to the Director of Public Prosecution’s office.
The agency hoped to see a speedy conclusion of the case and more vigilance against child molesters and vulnerable members of the society, Ms Lichuma said.
The 16-year old girl who is receiving treatment for a spinal injury and obstetric fistula developed as a result of the attack and rape, is now confined to a wheel-chair.
Her doctors at the Gynocare Fistula Centre in Edoret say she is making good progress and are confident she will walk again.
The matter was first reported at Tingolo Administration Police Camp where it was recorded as an assault and three suspects arrested by villagers were released after they were made to slash grass in the compound as a punishment.
On Wednesday, the public prosecution’s boss Keriako Tobiko said he had received the file and directed immediate arrest and prosecution of the suspects. He had also ordered an inquiry into the conduct of the police who first handled the case.
“They treated the complainant in a shoddy and crude way. The complainant had to plead to them to take her statement,’’ Mr Tobiko told the Nation.
But Friday, Butula CID boss who is leading investigations into the case said he was yet to receive Mr Tobiko’s directions.
“Although we are still looking for the suspects, the truth is that I have not received the relevant instructions from the office of the DPP,’’ Mr Bundi told the Nation.
The officer says the suspects, whose names the police have, went into hiding after the Nation’s DN2 published an exclusive story on the girl’s plight which also prompted their investigations.
STAND WITH LIZ
The Nation Media Group initiated a campaign-which has received overwhelming support from Kenyans including those in the diaspora- to support the teenager get treatment and justice.
The firm’s “Stand with Liz. And help her walk again” has seen more than Sh700,000 donated to the girl’s medical kitty since publication of the story on October 8.
This week, NMG staff visited the hospital and paid Sh583,000 for her bills.
Visit to sign the petition.