Activist seeks Uhuru’s help over death threats
A prominent activist who says his life is in danger has taken the unusual step of writing to the President seeking protection.
The Sunday Nation has learnt that Mr Boniface Mwangi, who has in the past organised high-profile protests, including against MPs and insecurity, has requested a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta to explain the specific threats received.
It also emerged that investigative journalist Mohammed Ali went into hiding in a safe house in December fearing for his life. Last month, human rights organisations released a statement condemning the threats against Mr Ali after some social media users linked him to an Al Jazeera documentary on police extrajudicial killings.
Mr Mwangi’s letter dated December 17, 2014, was sent through the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) for delivery to the President.
The council, chaired by the Chief Justice includes representatives from security agencies, State Law Office, Director of Public Prosecutions, Witness Protection Agency and various ministries and commissions.
It is not clear why Mr Mwangi chose to channel the letter through NCAJ, which usually deals with issues touching on administration of justice and reforms in the system.
When contacted, the Chief Justice said he was aware of the letter but added that his role was restricted to delivering it through the “usual government channels”.
“It was delivered to my office as chair of NCAJ, sealed, care of me — so I ordered it to be delivered to the Office of the President or State House. That is the normal procedure,” he said, declining to discuss the matter further.
In the letter to the President, a copy of which the Sunday Nation has seen, Mr Mwangi says he is seeking audience as “an ordinary citizen”
“I am convinced that my life is in real danger. In the past one year, I have received many threats to my life, the most disturbing of which came from men who are considered loyal to you and your administration,” he says.
We could not establish if President Kenyatta had received the letter as inquiries to the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit yesterday had not been responded to by the time of going to press.
Mr Mwangi, a director of Pawa254, which taps creative talent for social change, has in the past been involved in a graffiti campaign depicting leaders as vultures and the dramatic “Mpigs” protest in 2013 against a pay rise for legislators.
He also runs Diaper Mentality, a website that parodies the poor conduct of leaders and ordinary citizens, and recently organised a demonstration against insecurity following an Al-Shabaab terrorist attack in Mandera last November in which 28 people were killed.
Yesterday, he declined to reveal the specific threats he had received or who he suspected to be behind them, but said he was not a danger to the country or to the Jubilee government.
“I am just an artiste, who is concerned about things like justice and equality. I want the best for my country and the fact that sometimes I hold different views does not make me a threat. If I have broken any law, I should be arrested and charged — not threatened with death” he said.
Meanwhile, sources disclosed that Mr Ali, an investigative journalist at KTN, is now taking “precautionary measures” after retreating to a safe house for the past few weeks. His counterpart, John Allan Namu, confirmed that Mr Ali had good reason to go into hiding but the situation has since improved.
“I am aware my colleague was in hiding but he has now taken leave. I think what he is going through because of his work is deplorable. Investigative journalism is important in a democracy and should not be seen as a crime,” said Mr Namu.
Mr Mwangi explained that the threats had increased since last February when Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia accused him of being among foreign-funded Kenyans who wanted to overthrow the government — allegations the activist denied.
He says the police have also not acted on some of his previous reports against an MP last September and threats by a group of “hired thugs” during the protests against insecurity. These are, however, different from the present threats.
But the Kenya Police spokesperson Zipporah Mboroki said that investigations had been launched on the reports by Mr Mwangi at the Parliament Police station in Nairobi.
“We act on all reports made to the police. Should a complainant feel that the case is not properly handled, he can report the same to any senior officer,” she said.
She also said anybody who is aggrieved by investigations has the option of reporting to the Internal Affairs Unit and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority.
Mr Mwangi said some people had advised him to leave the country but he had declined.
“These threats are a great anguish and are putting a strain on my family. My most recurrent nightmare is getting shot from the back,” he said — adding that he wanted to live for the country, not die for it.
However, a human rights activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was aware some of his colleagues had received threats and three of them had gone to Europe “to cool down”.
She also said there were increasing cases of human rights activists asking for protection after being hounded by county governments for demanding accountability.
Global Radio Network