Confessions of a ‘Mwakenya’ insider

Wednesday March 18 2020
Kang'ethe Mungai

Kang'ethe Mungai was a member of the outlawed group that fought the Daniel Moi administration and paid dearly. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA


Kang'ethe Mungai was a member of the outlawed group that fought the Daniel Moi administration and paid dearly. He narrates his ordeal:

"At university, we were concerned about the oppression that was taking place in the country. We decided to do something about it and started organising with people outside the university.

We formed an organisation called “Muungano wa Wazalendo wa Kuikomboa Kenya”, in short Mwakenya. Before that, there was an organisation called the December 12 Movement.

By then, newspapers and airwaves — radio and television — were not free; they were controlled tightly by the Kanu regime.

As such, we went about to produce publications that were to speak freely about what was going on in the country, and one of these publications was Mpatanishi, which was for our own internal education.

Then there was another one for mass consumption, which was called Pambana. Pambana was something that we were writing and distributing all over the country so that people could know the truth about what was happening.


We created a network of sales all over the country and had a centre that was controlling it. The Moi repression started in earnest in the 1980s.


They started hunting us down and arresting people right, left and centre. When these people were arrested, they were also tortured.

At that time, we did not know why they were doing it. We thought that they were doing it the ordinary way.

The well known place for torture was Nyati House and, of course, police stations all over the country.

We did not know that there was a place like Nyayo House until much later.

After I was arrested, we were walking with the police on top of an overpass on the Naivasha-Nakuru Road; I decided that, knowing what happens at Nyayo House, I would not go there.

So I decided that it is better to die than go through the suffering in the Nyayo House chambers.

So I quickly disengaged from the two policemen who were carrying rifles and dashed to the side of the overpass and dived down to the road below.

I got badly injured and fell unconscious. I was still alive when the police came and collected me. They took me to Gilgil Police Station.

By then my body was swollen. They kept me there for the whole day. In the evening, they drove me to Nakuru Police Station and from there I was taken to a cell.


It was actually a room in the office they had converted into a cell.

I was held there and, by that time, they had also caught up with my colleagues Karimi Nduthu and Tirop Kitur.

So all of us were brought there. The police beat up my colleagues very badly. They beat Karimi Nduthu very badly for reasons we have never known up to this day.

They did not beat me because I was already injured. They also did not beat Tirop. After that, they took us to Provincial Commissioner Hezekiah Oyugi, who talked to us.

He asked us why we were doing what we were doing and we told him we were struggling because we were unhappy with the way the government was running Kenya.

We told him people’s rights were being violated. He tried to convince us to abandon our agenda, but we told him that it was him and his government that were wrong and that we had nothing to apologise for.


After that somebody ordered that I be taken to hospital. They took me to Nakuru Provincial General Hospital while Tirop and Karimi were taken to Nyayo House.

I stayed in hospital for two days as the doctor was planning to operate on my broken arm.

But the day before the operation, Special Branch officers came to the hospital and said that they were transferring me to Kenyatta National Hospital for specialised treatment.

They put me in a vehicle and drove me to Nairobi. I was expecting to be taken to Kenyatta National Hospital but the ward turned out to be cell number three at Nyayo House.

I had a temporary bandage that the doctors had wrapped on my wound. They kept telling me: “Kang’ethe, you give us information and talk to us; we will take you to hospital. If you do not talk to us, we will break your leg and your other arm.”

They kept us incommunicado and did not give me treatment. I had been given a cane to support myself with while walking; at least they did not take it away.


After about two weeks of interrogation, the hospital that they were supposed to take me to turned out to be the Nakuru High Court.

We were taken to court in the evening. We all pleaded guilty because it was better to go to jail than to the Nyayo House torture chambers.

Karimi was jailed for 15 years, Tirop for 14 and 12-and-a-half years for me. From Nakuru Prison, they took us to Kamiti Maximum Prison and Naivasha Prison. My mother suffered deeply.

What was terrible for the family is that my nephew, Mungai wa Ruiru, the son of my half-brother who was working with Kenya Railways was arrested and jailed for seven years at Shimo la Tewa Prison. He was jailed in 1986, just around the same time with us.

While he was at Shimo la Tewa, he contracted tuberculosis and was transferred to Kamiti Maximum Prison.

He continued ailing there without medical attention. Mungai got so thin and never got attention until after two years. He died in Kamiti Maximum Prison.


The family would visit him in prison and when they asked where he was, they were told to come the following day.

When they did, they were told he had been taken to hospital. They kept going there for two weeks not knowing that he had died.

They finally disclosed that he had died and gave them a number. The family went to Kilimani Police Station and then to the City Mortuary. There, they found him; a small heap of bones.

Extracted from the Truth Justice and Reconciliation report