Sillah Muhia Kinyanjui, 59 was arrested by flying squad unit on 15th September 1997 at Hannah’s Lodge, Pangani area in Nairobi County, where he was visiting his sister who worked in the hotel. His wife, father, mother, elder brother and a neighbor had earlier been arrested at their rural home at Kanunga / Ndakaine in Gatanga, Murang’a County. He had been arrested for allegedly killing his brother’s wife.
The entire administration of the surrounding area, including five police stations, was not aware of the alleged crime of the six suspects. He was whisked to Makuyu Police Station in the boot of the Peugeot 504 station wagon vehicle and tortured in the nearby forest the next day. He was suspended in the air by a rope tied to his wrists and treebranches, with the same rope affixing him to the trunk of the tree.
He was continuously battered at the knees and ankle joints by three policemen with what appeared to be wooden hoe handles, while the officer in charge ( a Mr. Kamunde - now deceased) kept watch with a cocked gun in readiness to shoot. His knee caps were totally crushed and the surrounding ligaments torn.
It was at the intervention of a herdsman, who was grazing animals nearby that the torture process was interrupted. The herdsman begged them not to kill him, at least not in his presence. After lowering him to the ground and in freeing him, they also tied a string to his testicles against a stone and asked him to jump whereby he sustained injury to his right hand side testicle. A blow with the hoe handle aimed at his right hand side jaw injured his forearm as he tried to shield the jaw so that his fingers could no longer stretch and one of them is still in that state. He lost five teeth in the process and a sixth one much later due to the impact of the blow.
He was thereafter taken to Thika Police Station awaiting charges at the Thika court. Upon arrival, the policeman on duty recognized him, being neighbors at home in Kanunga and alerted his relatives and friends about his extremely bad state. They came in large numbers and begged for medical intervention to be extended to him. With tight police escort, they were allowed to take him to a nearby private hospital, where his multiple injuries were attended to. At his first court appearance the judge ordered for his hospitalization on the 20th September 1997. He was taken to Kenyatta National Hospital where he stayed for the next three months undergoing treatment.
His case was referred to Nairobi High Court, when he refused to admit guilt and to acquiesce to their suggestion that he becomes a state witness. He was then remanded at the Industrial area Prison for the rest of his incarceration. It was while there that his injured jaw and gums flared up with serious inflammation. The doctor ordered for immediate treatment and replacement of teeth lost during the torture.
The whole process of incarceration in the remand prison system lasted for the next four years before he, his wife and his brother, the principle co-accused were acquitted 20th September 2001 for lack of evidence. His children at the time of arrest were at the delicate ages of 12, 10, 9, and 5 years and were left without a particular care giver due toabruptness of the arrest. They were deeply traumatized by this development and remain emotionally vulnerable. It was the community that came to their rescue and provided for their basic needs, including education in nearby schools.
The flying squad officers continued to harass the family even after his acquittal and would chase away anyone working in their small tea holding. The younger brother was in-charge of three butcheries owned by Mr. Kinyanjui and was also harassed so that the business closed down shortly after the arrest episode. As a trader in livestock, he used to travel to various market centers especially in Kinangop among others and this also was completely disrupted.
After the torture that Mr. Kinyanjui underwent in 1997, followed by four years of incarceration in remand prison, he sustained physical injuries to the knees, potency and psychological trauma without treatment. He came to IMLU on 23rd April 2015 and after a general assessment by an IMLU doctor and counsellor, they revealed that there was need to address Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and profound loss while at the same time pursue medical support for sustained physical injuries and also legal support to seek compensation for violation of his rights.
According to his couzinselor, Mr. Kinyanjui has had a tremendous improvement despite the prolonged period of fourteen years without treatment for the effects of torture. “He can now squat in a pit latrine and support his weight at the knees much better than before following medical treatment. He used to be supported to stand-up under such circumstances.” Says Mr. Gitau. He also can take a walk to steeper terrain one kilometre away and return home without too much strain. Uncontrolled weeping when narrating about his ordeal to his listeners has dramatically reduced and is now able to state the facts without emotional triggers. Initially, he had lost his memory but can now slowly remember a lot.
He has two more therapy sessions to go and it is important to note that during his first four sessions, he was brought by his close friend 80-year old Johanna Chege from his home in Murang’a to IMLU offices in Niarobi. However, during the time of the interview, he was accompanied by his son.
He is grateful to IMLU for giving him a second chance in life by allowing him share his story with the rest of the world and help him get to his feet again so that he can continue providing for his family after fifteen years of physical, mental and financial challenges.