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Rubia now claims Sh40bn for illegal detention and torture

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By NYAMBEGA GISESA
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Former political detainee Charles Rubia has made a compensation claim of Sh40 billion against the state for illegal detention and torture, the largest such demand in Kenya’s history.

Fresh court filings made this week at the High Court in Nairobi include lengthy submissions totalling about 200 pages that reveal harrowing details of what the multiparty crusader went through in the late 80s and 90s.

“Our intention is to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that Mr Rubia is compensated for the illegal treatment and torture he underwent and from which he has never recovered,” Mr Irungu Kang’ata, the lawyer for Mr Rubia, told the Sunday Nation.

Mr Kang’ata, who is also the Murang’a Senator, says the amounts demanded are not high as no monetary value can compensate Mr Rubia for what he underwent.

The former political detainee is seeking Sh5 billion as compensation for general damages, Sh5 billion for exemplary damages and moral damages, Sh20 billion as compensation for all medical and related costs and Sh10 billion for any other relief.

Further, he wants Sh40,674,544 for special damages and Sh150 million for loss of businesses, calculated with interest as from May 1991 to date of payment.

In total, the former political prisoner is asking for Sh40,190,674,544 plus interest at 12 per cent per annum compounded from the date of harm and costs of suit.

Mr Rubia, the first African mayor of Nairobi and long-serving MP and minister who agitated for a return to multiparty democracy, was among the few Kenyans to be detained twice during the Moi era.

The submissions, which are being made seven years after Mr Rubia went to court seeking compensation in a case that has undergone several delays, further reveal how the journey to find justice in Kenyan courts is long and painfully slow.

In the submissions, the 95-year-old gives a harrowing account of his own experience of torture, his reactions of resentment, anger, and bitterness, his loss of political and business opportunities and his search for some way to maintain moral character and be “human” again after detention.

The detention, he claims, broke down his wife, who never got to recover and eventually died. His well-educated children were denied employment opportunities whereas he was removed from directorships of various parastatals and companies warned not to do business with him.

He emphasises what he went through by quoting Jean Amery, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, one of the most brutal of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

“Anyone who has been tortured remains tortured … anyone who has suffered torture never again will be able to be at ease in the world; the abomination of annihilation is never extinguished. Faith in humanity, already cracked by the first slap in the face, then demolished by torture, is never acquired again,” he quotes the Auschwitz concentration camp survivor who committed suicide later in life after failure to reconcile with normal life after detention.

In February 1987, Mr Rubia was arrested and accused of financing the Mwakenya Movement and working in cahoots with church leaders to import guns for purposes of overthrowing the government.

Subsequently, he was detained at Nyayo House in Nairobi for about five days, and was thereafter released without being arraigned or charges being preferred against him.

In the upcoming election of 1988, the State machinery worked hard to ensure that he was rigged out in an election in which the returning officer announced two different sets of results.

On March 3, 1990, Mr Rubia and former Cabinet minister Stanley Matiba called a historic press conference at Chester House, Nairobi, and urged the government to embrace multiparty politics and consequently called for a peacefully rally in Kamukunji on July 7, 1990.

Just before the rally, he was arrested on July 4 in the company of Mr Matiba and detained for nine months.

During his detention, he says in court documents, he was blindfolded and driven in circles, denied the services of a lawyer and kept for long in dark underground cells in solitary confinement.

He was also stripped half-naked and made to lie on a cold floor, kept in dark and very cold cells, denied good nutrition and food and water for many days, denied good medical treatment and subjected to poor and unhygienic sanitary conditions.

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Mr Rubia was released from detention two weeks after doctors from Nairobi Hospital informed Kenya Prisons authorities that he required urgent medical attention.

“Thereafter, he underwent vigorous and prolonged treatment in Kenya and London. Despite this, the petitioner was left with severe disabilities in his speech among others … To date, the petitioner continues to receive treatment and shall continue to do so for the rest of his life,” the court documents state.

Mr Kang’ata argues that Mr Rubia deserves a significant compensation as compared to Mr Matiba, owing to his business interests and seniority in politics at the time of arrest.

He argues that Mr Rubia served more years as MP than Mr Matiba.

Mr Rubia, who was MP for Starehe constituency, was a parliamentarian from 1969 to 1988, a record 19 years stretching through four consecutive terms, while Mr Matiba served for nine years as the MP for Kiharu constituency.

During the period as an MP, he also served as an assistant minister in Kenyatta’s government between 1969 and 1978 and Cabinet minister as from 1979 to 1988, including in the powerful position of minister for Local Government.

Unlike Mr Matiba, Mr Rubia’s political career ended after he was detained in 1992. During the detention, the torture he underwent saw him develop a throat problem, making him unable to go back to political campaigns after he was released nine months later.

Mr Matiba went on to be re-elected as MP for Kiharu.

Mr Rubia was also much richer than most, if not all, of the Moi-era political detainees, having been known as a businessman with a multibillion-shilling empire which crumbled like a house of cards after his detention.

His vast empire and reach in the corporate world included having shares and serving in several boards among them the Provincial Insurance Ltd (now the multibillion-shilling UAP Insurance Ltd), ICDC Investment Company Ltd, Cooperative Bank of Kenya Ltd, Kenya Mystery Tours Limited, Rubia Enterprises Africa Limited, Eveready Ltd, Unga Ltd and Rweru General Agencies.

He also had considerable interests in Universal Garments Ltd, Ceramics Industries Ltd, East Africa Industries, East African Packaging Industries, International Computers Ltd, Inter Products Ltd (now the multibillion Haco Industries Ltd), Sera Coating Ltd and Francis Thuo Stockbrokers, the first African owned stock brokerage firm that collapsed after his detention.

“He lost all the above businesses and political clout when he commenced his pro-democracy crusade in 1987 due to oppressive and illegal actions of the government. Most of the above mentioned companies have now grown to be multibillion-shilling concerns and Rubia’s empire would have grown were it not for the detentions,” the submissions read.

Mr Rubia filed his case on January 15 2012, two years after the promulgation of the new Constitution.

Born to a well-off family in Murang’a County in 1923, he attended various schools among them the prestigious Alliance High School, the Posts and Telecommunications Training School in Tanzania and received a British Council grant to study the British system of local government in the United Kingdom in 1959.

A year before Kenya attained independence in 1962, he became the first African mayor of Nairobi.

“As the first African mayor of Nairobi, he was instrumental in Africanisation programmes which transformed Nairobi and made it a success story. He was one of the highest ranking diplomats who hosted ambassadors as they presented their credentials to the then President of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta,” an excerpt from a petition to honour him, presented to the Murang’a County Assembly in June 2016, reads.

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US official coming to Kenya to discuss huge potential aid project

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KEVIN J.  KELLEY

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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The head of a special US development programme is due in Kenya next week to hold initial talks on the country’s potential eligibility for project funding that could total billions of shillings.

Sean Cairncross, CEO of the Millennium Development Corporation (MCC), said in a press briefing on Thursday that Kenya is making “excellent progress” toward meeting criteria for inclusion in the programme.

Kenya has failed the MCC’s eligibility tests for more than a decade, largely because of rampant corruption.

But the US government-sponsored MCC decided last month to qualify Kenya for a “threshold programme” that will likely carry funding of between $20 million and $30 million.

The money to be given to Kenya through that programme would be used to promote additional gains in the country’s efforts to limit graft.

Successfully completing this initial step could result in Kenya being chosen for a “compact” with MCC. Such an arrangement, usually focused on infrastructure development, involves an MCC grant averaging about $350 million, Mr Cairncross said.

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Established in 2004 during George W Bush’s presidency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation conditions its assistance on countries’ performance in “ruling justly”, following free-market economic policies, and investing in health, education and environmental initiatives.

Since its inception, MCC has awarded a total of more than $8 billion to 25 developing countries, including 13 on the African continent.

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Kenya must make additional progress in controlling corruption before it can be deemed eligible for an MCC compact, Mr Cairncross noted. The country’s standing in that regard is determined by assessments on the part of the World Bank and other “third-party data sources,” the MCC director said.

Corruption does not have to be eradicated in order for Kenya to qualify for an MCC compact, Mr Cairncross told reporters. Eligibility is assessed on the basis of a “trend toward dealing with that corruption and a willingness to engage government resources and political will to take those issues on,” he said.

This is not the first threshold programme for which Kenya has been chosen.

It entered into an initiative of that type in 2007 that was aimed at reforming the country’s public procurement systems, improving health service and delivery, and enhancing the monitoring capacity of government and civil-society organisations.

Despite some progress on each of those fronts, Kenya was still falling short of MCC eligibility standards when the first threshold programme concluded in 2010.

“Kenya is an important partner in East Africa,” the MCC said in December in announcing the country’s approval for a second threshold programme.

That MCC move likely reflects Washington’s aim of countering the influence China has gained in Kenya through its large-scale infrastructure investments in recent years.

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Form One admission extended to January 24

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OUMA WANZALA

By OUMA WANZALA
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The Ministry of Education has extended admission of Form One students to January 24.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang in a circular to regional and county directors of Education dated January 17, said the exercise has been extended to ensure that no learner is locked out of secondary school.

The exercise was to end on January 17 and the extension is a relief to parents, who were struggling to raise fees.

“Schools should use the extension to trace their learners who have not reported and at the same time capture all reported learners in NEMIS,” said Dr Kipsang.

He also directed primary school head teachers to use their 2019 candidates’ list to ensure that they have been placed in secondary schools.

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Dr Kipsang directed the head teachers to report any child, who is out of school for any reason to respective Education officials.

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The government introduced 100 percent transition to secondary school three years ago.

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Police seize illegal gambling machines in Runda

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SARAH NANJALA

By SARAH NANJALA
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More than 1,200 gambling machines were Friday seized by detectives at a private residence in Nairobi’s Runda estate.

Confirming the incident, Gigiri Sub-County Commanding Police Officer Richard Muguai said officers received a tip-off from members of the public.

“A tip to the police station on Thursday led us to begin our investigations and send officers to check the house.

“At the house we found a green tent outside that was well covered and after opening we found more than 1,200 slot coin machines,” he said.

Mr Muguai further said that the house was unoccupied, save for a gardener at the compound who opened the premises for the police.

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“There is no one currently at the house and we are doing investigations to find the owners and tenants of the house. The gardener could not tell us much about who lived there and only told us that the machines were brought to the house in 2018,” he added.

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Preliminary investigation according to the police boss show that the slot machines were brought to the house by three foreigners. The foreigners were of Chinese, Tanzanian and Zambian nationalities.

The police boss said no arrests have been made yet.

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