What state do our mother’s live in, constantly knowing that they have to carry their children horizontally twice – before the age of 18. Once, with joy after child birth, and in finality after a bullet has been lodged in their child’s body.
What life is this, that for a mother the most frequented rooms are either delivery rooms or morgues. Yet, the killer remains ever so present, ever so protected, ever so aware that in this world the sanctity of human life is a fallacy (Kenya – if you’re poor and America – if you’re Black) and the courts have for the longest time entrenched this by not acting as a deterrent.
In areas of precarity, the eye of the state – ever so present – has well established itself through various forms of policing. All through childhood, we were kept in line, with mythical creatures and stories of absurd creatures that punish little children who dissent and disobey authority, a bogeyman of sorts. In today’s world, we can finally point a finger at that form and with restriction, possibly name it.
In Kenya, the persistence of coloniality is always a fabric in the makings of the state. Focusing on Nairobi as Kenya’s epicentre, there’s a visible connectivity of spatial territorialization rooting from British colonial-era divide-and-rule tactics. These intentionally fragmented micro-regions [which are slums] within the macro-state [high-end estates] are a key factor in deciding who is a target of the police and who is protected by the police.
Presently, the struggles of Kenya’s urban-poor populations often secluded in ‘slum areas’ are complex. On one hand, residents have to deal with daily government neglect and disposability, this then manifesting into precarity and insecurity through gang violence, robbery and assault as a reaction and in finality comes police violence which is often keyed as a solution to both the former and the latter. The daily lives of residents of Kenya’s urban-informal settlements are the ultimate quest for survival.
These zonal exclusions, that are built off the makings of a segregated state are used to mask the denial of infrastructure where the ruins of coloniality persist. An ever-present example is the disparit/ies between Muthaiga Estate and neighbouring Mathare Valley. In Muthaiga, the police are to protect property, serve the elite and be at the beck and call of those they serve. However, in Mathare, the labor basket for Muthaiga, the populations often disengaged from daily denials of basic needs by the state are infiltrated with the police as de-facto urban monitors and a direct eye of the state in lieu of human security and care. The state prioritises policing not just as a form of punishment and compliance but as an act of control, to keep the already precarious population in fear of dissent from the absence of government care.
There’s no quantification of over-policing, as policing in itself is an extreme. In Mathare, there is almost a police post/station at every entry/exit point, but still this has failed to resolve the issue of insecurity. Dr Wangui Kimari refers to this controlled site of disposability and neglect as an ‘ecology of exclusion’, where the sanctity and dignity of life lies at the behest of those in these forms of de-facto management. In my exploration of ‘Pandemic Policing’ these sites termed as ‘ecologies of exclusion’, resulted in extreme cases of fatalities due to police violence, brutality and executions. These atrocities in most cases have been documented, referenced and reported, but the biggest stalemate in seeking justice remains the state and thus the justice system.
An important position in contemporary discourse has been the role of the state in its influence of the court’s decisions and the establishment of judicial independence. While the Executive acts above the law, it is clear what arm of government has an upper-hand. A recurring question that comes about is the validity of the courts. Will the judicial entity take a stand and self-implicate; implicating the state as a predatory actor that lusts for blood?
In April 2017, police officer Ahmed Rashid was recorded on camera shooting two young men, one who seemed to have surrendered already, within the Eastleigh area. Amidst further investigation and public interest, it was found out that Ahmed Rashid was a serving National Police Service Officer based at Pangani Police Station. Within the ontologies of the human witness, this should’ve been clear and at best evidence of offence, it was as if our childhood bogeyman had struck again and the burden of proof had been thrown back to those who are either dead, injured or at risk of death.
It is acknowledged that Ahmed Rashid has evaded and grossly neglected summons from the police watchdog institution Independent Policing and Oversight Authority (IPOA) 11 times.
After 5 years and ardent lobbying by the families of victims, Ahmed Rashid’s first hearing was dated 8 December 2022 virtually. As expected, Ahmed Rashid did not attend his court hearing – which was virtual – due to ‘inability’, his counsel claiming sickness. As an attempt to show the fangs of the judiciary, Justice Kanyi Kimondo subpoenaed Rashid to attend court on 26 January 2023, citing arrest if he did not show. All this time, mother’s whose children were killed were outside the courts, physically, singing and chanting for the dead who had been killed. Chanting for justice. Standing to show that despair is not an option.
All this time the courts allowed Ahmed Rashid the luxury of postponement and self-preservation, all while those he’s accused of killing are denied closure and justice. More so, some with lesser sentences cramped in remand cells and police station cells, seeking this evasive justice. The Mathare Social Justice centre has documented over 43 murders in which Ahmed Rashid’s involvement is of interest.
Evidenced deaths, yet the geographies of the courts have asked victims for more proof of death. Tasking them with the ultimate desire to raise the dead and ask them to take a stand. Even in grief, life in the slums and the ‘otherness’ of the city will not allow you to rest. The quest for survival is always a bigger threat, and its attempts to survive are never constant.
We’re shackled under the crude dominance of the judicial systems tangled with an infiltrative Executive and fangless Legislature, that violence is being seen as a debatable and human life as disposable. The courts hold no revolutionary desire to hold the state to account, and it cannot free us but the community borne out of survival [from the state] will hold the revolution.
Conclusively, the words of Dr. Joy James ring out loud, “Bring back the child you murdered. If the state and empire wishes to act like a God that can take life, it should function as a God and resurrect life. If it cannot then it is not a god, it is not a pharaoh and its laws are not legitimate when they’re predatory.”