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TALES OF COURAGE: What 13 years in prison taught me

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By FAITH ONEYA
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“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Nelson Mandela

The hugs and tears of Morris Kaberia’s fellow inmates at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Nairobi on September 20, 2018 speak more eloquently than words ever could.

They wordlessly express the overwhelming joy and pride in an inmate’s freedom.

“We are happy and sad at the same time. We are happy that we got to contribute to one of our colleagues going home but saying goodbye is still painful. His fair trial rights were violated from the word go and we were able to prepare the summons that proved this, and I am touched,” says Philip Mueke, his voice breaking with emotion.

Philip clasps his face in his hands, overcome with emotion, perhaps imagining his own freedom too, someday.

Morris Kaberia, who spent 13 in years in

Morris Kaberia, who spent 13 in years in prison, holds hands with Philip Mueke, who was part of the legal team in Kamiti that prepared court documents to help Kaberia successfully defend himself in court and was set free on September 20. PHOTO| COURTESY

“It would have been emotional to do my own case, so I brought my files to class and my brothers stepped in to help me build my case,” says Kaberia.

Wakili Kaberia, as they fondly call him, is marking his last day in prison after 13 years, thanks to the summons his fellow inmates helped him prepare.

The inmates in the tiny room full of donated law books are all part of a University of London Law programme run by African Prisons Project (APP) – an NGO that works with people in prison, putting the law in the hands of the underprivileged through providing free high quality legal advice, training and education to those living and working in prison.

“We empower those most in need of justice to access it for themselves. By helping people to realise their rights, we empower them to become change makers,” says Hamisi Mzari, a legal officer with APP.

Morris Kaberia receiving a hug from the country director of African Prisons Project Sheila Waruhiu at Kamiti Maximum Prison. PHOTO| KANYIRI WAHITO

Morris Kaberia receiving a hug from the country director of African Prisons Project Sheila Waruhiu at Kamiti Maximum Prison. PHOTO| KANYIRI WAHITO

Mzari says Kaberia’s application stood out because he expressed a strong desire to further his education and give back to the prison community.

“In his statement of purpose, he spoke about missing a chance to go to university because he was too proud to repeat Form Four so he could obtain the minimum entry requirements to join a public university. He said he would help his fellow inmates once he got his education,” adds Mzari.

This is no mean feat for the 47-year-old Kaberia, who at first trashed the idea of ‘going back to school’.

“He told me that it was his sons or daughters that were meant to go back to school, not him,” says William aka ‘The One and Only’, a fellow inmate and classmate who finally managed to convince Kaberia to join the diploma programme. Kaberia has since graduated with a diploma in law and is currently undertaking his degree studies.

Kaberia successfully defended himself in court on September 20, 2018, putting an end to a 13-year nightmare that started with a trip to Marikiti Market.

“I used to be a police officer in Embu and was operating an avocado business on the side. I owned a pickup, which I would use to drop my avocados off at Marikiti Market. One day when I was on my way back from the market, I was arrested and charged with robbery with violence.”

Kaberia refuses to divulge the details of his arrest and robbery with violence charge which saw him sentenced to death, but offers that it was a set-up.

“Things happened. It was only in court that I later heard that I had robbed someone. I want to go back into the world peacefully,” he declares with the wisdom of a man who has spent over a decade making peace with himself and his God.

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“I was a bitter man when I came to Kamiti. When I was a police officer, I could not even imagine engaging in any way with a suspect, let alone a convicted criminal, because I thought once someone was a suspect, they were ruined; but here I was taking orders from the wardens.

“I was resistant at first, and kept shouting back that I was an officer just like them when they told me to (kaba) squat like my fellow inmates but they told me that in here, I was a prisoner.

“That was hard to deal with, but it taught me a lot,” he admits, much to the amusement of the acting officer in charge, Isaac Naderia, a soft-spoken, Godly man, who infuses his words with relevant Bible passages and offers a congratulatory bear hug to the jubilant Kaberia.

Isaac Naderia, the acting officer in charge at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, gives a congratulatory hug to Morris Kaberia, who spent 13 in years in prison but successfully defended himself in court and was set free on September 20. PHOTO| COURTESY

Isaac Naderia, the acting officer in charge at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, gives a congratulatory hug to Morris Kaberia, who spent 13 in years in prison but successfully defended himself in court and was set free on September 20. PHOTO| COURTESY

“It has been a long journey for him, having come to Kamiti on capital remand. He had a hard time accepting his new status, having been a police officer before but eventually, he gained back his self-esteem and joined the APP classes. He was a hard worker and go-getter from the word go.”

Naderia also describes Kaberia as a “living example that God is able”.

The first thing the Kaberia wants to do is to see his sons again.

“One day my son asked me one question over the phone: Dad will you ever come back? It was a very painful question for me, and I told him that with God, everything is possible. I never wanted them to visit me in prison because I did not want them to see me in my prison uniform,” says a tearful Kaberia.

The second thing he will do is visit his grandfather’s grave – he died in September 2010.

Even though Kaberia had been sentenced to death, he had been serving a life sentence after President Uhuru Kenyatta commuted the charges in 2015.

Kaberia still counts himself lucky and is grateful that the opportunity drew him closer to God.

“I was a lame Christian when I came to Kamiti, but that has changed in my time here and I have been seeing God’s hand since I entered prison. When I entered church, I learnt to live a life like Jesus who assisted the poor and needy. APP gave me the tools to help bring justice,” he says.

Isaac Naderia, the acting officer in charge at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, hands over a farewell card signed by wardens and inmates to Morris Kaberia, who spent 13 in years in prison but successfully defended himself in court and was set free on September 20. PHOTO| COURTESY

Isaac Naderia, the acting officer in charge at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, hands over a farewell card signed by wardens and inmates to Morris Kaberia, who spent 13 in years in prison but successfully defended himself in court and was set free on September 20. PHOTO| COURTESY

Kaberia dreamt of becoming a lawyer after watching Gitobu Imanyara defend his clients.

“As soon as I picked up my first law book, I never let it go. Studying law has changed my life.”

He has nothing but praise for his wife.

“I’m lucky that my wife is still with me. She has been the family pillar throughout my imprisonment, encouraged me and stayed by my side. That is rare. Many wives leave their husbands when they get imprisoned.”

Kaberia plans to go back to Kamiti. Not to sleep there, he says, much to the amusement of fellow inmates, but to continue assisting his fellow inmates with legal matters as he looks forward to finishing his degree.

To complete his law degree sponsored by APP and pursue a chance to one day appear in court either as a lawyer or intermediary.

And his message to the inmates he left behind?

“Never lose hope…keep fighting!”



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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