KENYA: FORMER POC THANKS
AIUSA ACTIVISTS AND STAFF
Former Kenyan prisoner of
conscience Koigi wa Wamwere visited AIUSA's National Office in May to personally
thank Amnesty for his regained freedom.
There are a lot of things
that people take for granted," an emotional Wamwere told a hushed gathering of
staff and members in AIUSA's conference room.
"There was a time when
people talked about freedom of movement and I didn't really know what they meant
-- until I was kept in solitary confinement for years. The freedom just to move
about, even within prison walls, had been denied me. The freedom to be able to
look up at the stars, I had been denied for such a long time.
"So when I thank you for
returning my freedom, you probably won't be able to gauge the depth of my
gratitude, precisely because you have never been denied these things. But when
you have been denied and have been given these things back, then you know how
precious they are. When one gives you freedom and life, one cannot give you a
greater gift, and that is what you have given me."
On October 3, 1995, a Kenyan
court convicted Wamwere, his brother Charles Kuria Wamwere and G.G. Njuguna
Ngengi of the National Democratic Human Rights Organization on charges of
"attempted robbery with violence." Accused of leading a raid on a police
station, the defendants said they weren't even in the area when the raid
allegedly occurred. Upon conviction, they were sentenced to four years in prison
and six strokes of the cane.
AI promptly adopted the
three as prisoners of conscience. Their real "crime" was in attempting to
investigate and make public the ethnic violence that has claimed more than 1,500
lives since 1991 in Kenya's Rift Valley, Amnesty said.
Wamwere was released on
medical parole on December 13, 1996. His two colleagues were freed on the same
grounds a month later. During their imprisonment, all three men had been under
threat of possible execution.
During his recent visit,
Wamwere said he had made it a mission to thank AIUSA members in person, because
they campaigned specifically on his behalf throughout the year leading up to his
This article appeared in
AIUSA's June 1998 monthly mailing