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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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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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