Poets In Prison For No Good Reason

Sunday, 25th August 2013. I’m scheduled to attend Street Poetry after a long absence. It’s the one and only poetry event that takes place in the open probably in the whole of Kenya. I’m spruced up for a relaxing afternoon after a restful Saturday following the success of Fatuma’s Voice at Nairobi Cinema that Friday. The event is supposed to commence at 3:05pm but this time at a new venue; Parliament Road, beside the Jomo Kenyatta Mausoleum. Even though I had expressed my fears concerning holding it there due to obvious reasons, I just cannot miss this new experience, if all goes well. My cousin visits and I get late to get out of the house.

2:45pm I call Poppa Stevo, the event organizer and MC, to enquire the exact place where people are meeting. ‘We are seated at the water fountain beside the mausoleum’, he replies. So I direct some friends who had called me earlier to ascertain the same.

Uko wapi wewe?’ Poppa asks me.

I was on Mombasa Road then. Being a Sunday, there is never a traffic jam at Nyayo stadium in the afternoon. I’m browsing on my phone and I read an update by one Shiru Wa Mum, a poet who must have been at the event, stating that ‘Tumefukuzwa #StreetPoetry’. Curious, I text Poppa but he does not reply. I sense danger. The first thing that comes into my mind is that they were stopped by the police.

3:30pm, I text Eddy Ongili and Shiru Wa Mum, asking them if there is any problem. They confirm my fears. Yes, it’s the police! Apparently the event was going on smoothly, Flow Flani was performing when a man in civilian clothing approached the gathering, warning them to get out of there. He did not identify himself. There were photographers at the water fountain taking photos of families and love birds who were from having a nice time at Uhuru Park, so it was difficult to fathom that man’s identity.

4:35pm, I land in town. The news I’m getting is that four people from #StreetPoetry have been arrested. The man who warned them to vacate the place they stood on came back with three armed policemen who asked for the people who were taking photos. One of them innocently raised his hand and was whisked away towards the inside of the mausoleum. Wanting to know what was going on, Poppa, Volcano, a poet, Wachira, a band member of H_art The Band, followed suit. Once the four get in, they don’t come out. We later learn that they get physically harassed by the officers manning the mausoleum. Tension…

I am received by gloomy and worried faces at the venue of the event. People’s hearts are cold despite the sunny weather. We hold a few conversations as we try to figure out what to do next. Poppa calls Dorphan from inside to notify him that they have been beaten up and their clothes are muddy. They need to change. We quickly assemble to gather four t-shirts and Richie Maccs issues some money to buy trousers. Tear Drops and G-Cho Pevu rush to Muthurwa.

6pm, we head to Parliament Police station where the four are being held. Ian, the photographer is limping, badly injured. We camp outside the station for close to an hour. One of the officers calls us and he says that the four cannot be released because the OCS is away in Athiriver, that we come in the morning. He is too convincing but we humbly request to see our boys. They are in good shape, funny clothing, but Ian is not too well.

I was just wondering why they had to be roughened up yet they did not even resist arrest and were unarmed. And even if the police want to use ‘taking photos at the mausoleum’ as the reason for arrest, then what validated the other photographers doing business at the water fountain? Are our police that poor in communication that they cannot explain a simple concept when they have a problem? We still do not have a clear reason as to why the four had to be beaten up. This is an institution we are supposed to respect. This is Kenya at 50!

Post Author: Rixpoet

41 thoughts on “Poets In Prison For No Good Reason

  • Anonymous

    (August 26, 2013 - 11:05 am)

    Read it and am like kwani tourists wakija,hawakubali kutake pics?A flimsy excuse to arrest kina Poppa…though I sense they must have refused to bribe the officers hence the beatings.I hopeall goes wellbut this that they were done for was unfair.And Kenya Police complain when they get roughed up by Kenyans…izi ndizo sababu they are never respected.Long live WORD!

    • Rixpoet

      (August 26, 2013 - 11:06 am)

      We don’t stop!

  • Caetry

    (August 26, 2013 - 11:22 am)

    Reblogged this on Caetry and commented:
    Now freedom of speech has been detrimentally abused, sad story but long live the word

  • bonnieskwata

    (August 26, 2013 - 11:26 am)

    Reblogged this on BONNIESKWATTA and commented:
    It’s unfortunate that the Nyayo House times never came to pass. We think we are free by the fact that the new constitution was adopted! We have to learn to liberate ourselves first since even if we have the best laws on paper, the persons need to have their uncouth ways aligned. God bless the poets and God bless Kenya.

  • Anonymous

    (August 26, 2013 - 12:27 pm)

    such a shame at this age.long live word

  • Haroun Risa

    (August 26, 2013 - 12:31 pm)

    It’s sad how freedom of speech is abused in Kenya.

  • Haroun Risa

    (August 26, 2013 - 12:31 pm)

    Reblogged this on Haroun Risa and commented:
    This I just had to share to the world…….

  • flowflani wakaba

    (August 26, 2013 - 1:23 pm)

    clearly,its a crime being a youth in this land.is this tha kinda “freedom” that Mzee fought for???

    • Rixpoet

      (August 26, 2013 - 2:39 pm)


    • Anonymous

      (August 31, 2013 - 7:39 pm)


  • Kenyan Poets Lounge

    (August 26, 2013 - 1:36 pm)

    Reblogged this on Kenyan Poets Lounge March on #StreetPoetry #FatumasVoice

  • Njagi

    (August 26, 2013 - 6:37 pm)

    Sites you how we are still chained to a restrictive administration

    • Rixpoet

      (August 26, 2013 - 10:52 pm)

      The police at the station were really nice to us, but the army officers who arrested them were very ruthless. They did not even want any sort of communication.

  • thengartia

    (August 26, 2013 - 6:38 pm)

    Fifty years of Uhuru. 50!

  • Tonny

    (August 26, 2013 - 8:10 pm)

    and they dare say there is police reforms.! what reforms?? they should put a notice along Parliament road “wenye nchi only,hatari dumb police around here”

  • Beatrice

    (August 27, 2013 - 4:44 pm)

    I believe that even though the freedom and feelings of the ordinary mwananchi is messed with day in day out, we will not stop….Kenya is ours as well!

    • Rixpoet

      (September 19, 2013 - 9:20 pm)

      True that, Beatrice.

  • Wanjiku

    (August 27, 2013 - 9:59 pm)

    Really s ad

  • storyzetu

    (August 28, 2013 - 8:41 pm)

    Reblogged this on StoryZetu.

  • Margaret Muthee

    (August 29, 2013 - 10:29 am)

    so sad 🙁

  • rayawambui

    (August 31, 2013 - 7:46 pm)

    Is this a part of a greater trend? Or is it one of those standard situations where our authorities demand that we treat them like gods and feel it necessary to demonstrate their ‘power’ when we dont? This situation has made me so so sad.

    • Rixpoet

      (September 19, 2013 - 9:17 pm)

      It was very funny trying to communicate with those military officers.

  • rayawambui

    (August 31, 2013 - 7:49 pm)

    Reblogged this on rayawambui and commented:
    Do we need to be careful what we say these days? Or is it where we say it?

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