It takes the silence of the good for evil to prevail. Today I do not post a story for you to read and laugh and then go away holding your ribs. It is a post by Boniface Mwangi– perhaps the only person I know who still gives a damn about this country. He understands that we have been silent for far too long- we have cut our tongues out of fear. So he speaks for us. But there are tall people in high places who would rather have him dead than talking.
Remember that movie, V for Vendetta? There is something V says; “Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there?”
I hope you are human enough to let Mwangi’s story spur something in you.
My name is Boniface Mwangi and I am an activist and a patriot. I say patriot, because I think it’s important for people to remember why activists do the things they do. We agitate because we love our country and because we want it to be a better place for everyone who lives in it.
I have been threatened many times since l became an activist; harassing phone calls from politicians, emissaries sent to me, police visiting my office and even comments on social media urging that l should be killed. My relatives tell me that l am ridiculed on Kikuyu vernacular stations because every time l protest, the radio commentators go ballistic, accusing me of betraying my community.
On two occasions, the threats against my life have been higher; in the lead up to the last election in 2013, given the bold content we ran on our Mavulture website; and again in early 2014 just before the 13 February State of the Nation protest – a demonstration on insecurity and poverty as Kenya marked its 50th anniversary since the founding of this nation.
Earlier this year, l quit activism after l was accused of being involved in a plot to overthrow the government after staging the ‘State of the Nation’ protest. I learnt through back channels that there were plans by people within the government to harm me, so l quit.
I quit because I knew that every time an activist or a politician is killed in this country, the state first maligns him or her, creates doubt around their reputation, and then kills them. The assassination of Oscar King’ara and GPO Oulu State House road came after being accused of being members of the dreaded Mungiki gang by current Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua. A few hours later they were assassinated by the state.
The latest threats against me followed last week’s #Tumechoka and #OccupyHarambeeAvenue protests. These protests were spurred by the Mandera terror bus attack on Saturday, 23rd November in which 28 people were shot at point-blank range by Al Shabaab militants. 24 hours after the attack, there was no word from president who was in Abu Dhabi at the time. By Sunday afternoon Kenyans On Twitter (KOT) had decided to Occupy Harambee Avenue, which I assisted in coordinating.
Occupy Harambee Avenue was the fastest protest l have ever been involved in planning; we did the planning in two days. Allegedly and unknown to me, the moment we said we were going to protest, people working at the Office of The President called a Mr. Mark Moses Mungwana to ensure the protest did not take place.
On Tuesday 25th November, the day of the protest, the first batch of activists’ who arrived found drunk goons waiting for me. The goons asserted that were looking for Boniface Mwangi but l did not arrive until around 11:30 with a car full of crosses to symbolize the people who have died due to terror attacks in Kenya’s recent past. Almost immediately, the goons attacked me. I later learnt that the goons were supposed to cause a scuffle and one of them was meant to stab me.
During the scuffle l shouted at the police to arrest the man with the knife but they ignored me. During the entire confrontation between the Occupy Harambee Avenue peaceful protestors and the goons, the police watched us without intervening. All this happened outside the office of the president.
I tracked down the goons who were hired to stab me and they told me they were told the government was on their side. They allege that the money to hire the goons came from the Office of the President. They assert was allegedly given to Mark Moses Mungwana who contracted Henry Shitanda because according to the office of the president,”he is a known hooligan”. Mungwana was assisted by a Mr. Livingstone Ngugi. Shitanda later told me they had been assured that no one would be arrested if they managed to stab me.
Mark Moses Mungwana does the dirty jobs for the Office of the President and one of his mentors is Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria. In September 2014, Moses Kuria threatened me publicly and l reported to the police but no action has been taken yet. The police officers told me – “We cannot summon the president’s friend”.
Kuria, who is facing charges of hate speech, has been gagged by the courts from making xenophobic and hateful posts on his social media accounts.
I have reported the matter to the police and if anything happens, know that the President’s men will have carried it out. Since Kenyatta became president about 94 activists have reported threats on their lives, some have quit and others have been forced to leave the country. All the threats were reported to the police but not a single person has been charged with threatening human rights defenders. I have no intention of leaving this country, nor will l stop the work l am doing.
Government propaganda says that we are paid to protest,but by whom? I earn my honest living as a photographer and a team leader at Pawa254 – a collaborative space for journalists, artists and activists.
Good governance, accountability, transparency are not foreign ideals. It is insulting to tell us when we demand better that we are doing at the bidding of “foreign masters”. l shall not allow fear or state sponsored violence to silence my voice.
The struggle for a better Kenya continues.
[COVER PHOTO: Boniface Mwangi]