"The arrest has strengthened my faith in the war on grabbers and we will continue until the Ndungu Land report is implemented."
"As a church, justice is a must for us. If we don't work for change, people's participation, human rights, democratic government our charity work will go on forever.The system here is oppressive. People here have never known liberation..."
Father Gabriel Dolan, Catholic Justice and Peace Commission
The headlining human rights story coming out of Kenya at this very moment is the continued incarceration of 24 lands rights campaigners from the Rift Valley led by one of our leading social justice activists, the Irish born, Rift Valley-based Father Gabriel Dolan of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission. As we speak, Fr Dolan and his 23 co-accused, are packed like sardines in a cramped, squalid police cell that may be overflowing with upto 60 suspects. His arrest has been carried by a number of medial outlets from the Kuwaiti Times, The Catholic Information Information Service for Africa to the Irish Examiner and Ireland Online. The local Kenyan papers have also featured his incarceration prominently.
According to Noel Maloney, the East African Regional Director of the Trocaire development agency, there is a real danger that the NARC government which came to power pledging to take action against land grabbers may be merely days away from DEPORTING Father Dolan back to his native Ireland for his audacity in leading a protest in western Kenyan town of Kitale against land grabbers. Mr Maloney was quoted in Ireland Online as saying,“There’s little bit of worry that he might be PNG’d (persona non grata) out of the country. His work permit and visa would be taken off him and he would be extradited out.”
Father Dolan's human rights activism in Kenya goes back almost a decade. He locked horns with the powers that be during Moi's time because of his penchant for speaking out. For instance, when an ally of the present agriculture minister Kipruto Kirwa was killed, Father Dolan expressed his candid opinion that Mr Bett had been assassinated. The police issued a warrant for his arrest.
He has won
various awards, including the Kaiser Award from the Law Society of Kenya. Some time back he put together a document on land rights that you can access by clicking here.
Even though he was a thorn in the flesh of the ancien regime, NARC quickly found out that Father Dolan would hold their feet to their fire too. The following is a letter which was published in the Daily Nation on the 29th of February 2004:
"Forced Eviction of the Poor is Both Immoral and Illegal"
By Fr Gabriel Dolan
The sight or bulldozers destroying mansions on road reserves elicited few cries of condemnation or messages of sympathy. We all became patriotic overnight, saying that it was pay back time for those concerned.
We knew that the owners were now the losers, but they would not end up sleeping in the open as most of them had other property elsewhere.
The civil society gave its blessings to evict, demolish and reclaim government roads, railways, electricity pylons, etc.
In our excitement, we forgot that the next round of evictions might target the poor: Landless people in the rural areas and slum dwellers in urban centres. Asking questions about their future seemed to be spoiling the spectacle acted out on our TV sets on a daily basis.
Human rights groups were happy to be photographed with the bulldozers, naively unaware that their unreserved support for demolitions would be used as the backdrop for slum clearance in Kibera and Kaloleni.
Should the demolition of Kibera proceed as planned, in the next few weeks, we are likely to have a humanitarian disaster on our hands.
The targeted population in Kibera is 60,000 and irregular evictions put their livelihoods at risk and considerably increase the likelihood of violence in the slums and adjoining areas. Structure owners will inevitably resist with force and the thousands of homeless will fight for new space to place their settlements and families.
Roads, Works and Housing Minister Raila Odinga and the Government have a right to repossess and protect public property. But the government also has a moral duty to protect the most vulnerable of its citizens. Previous regimes allowed such informal settlements to spring up and grow.
Kibera is one of the largest slums in this part of the world. Narc did inherit a legacy of squalor and endemic poverty in the slums. But the vote they received from the millions of Kenyans was a mandate to treat its people with dignity and respect.
Arbitrary and forced evictions of the poor are both immoral and illegal. If the Government needs to repossess its land as a matter of urgency, then it has a moral duty to provide resettlement for the evicted.
Slums may be an eyesore and an embarrassment to the new Government who would wish to portray a new image of Kenya to attract investors.
However, they are a reality that is not of the poor people's making. They are a constant reminder of how the country degenerated in the past decades. A new Government cannot wipe out the poor in the flash of a bulldozer. It needs to restore their dignity and treat them with respect. That can begin by giving adequate notice, offering alternative settlements and consulting with the residents. The world is watching Narc’s bulldozers. How it handles the informal slum dwellers will show how committed it really is to democratic values, human rights and service to the poor.
Fr Gabriel Dolan,
Catholic Justice and Peace Commission,
In November 2003
Father Gabriel Dolan and three other members of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) of Kitale Diocese (Boniface Wanyoike, Thomas Kariuki and Patrick Kizito) were brutally arrested and detained for seven hours in police cells after they peacefully attempted to present a memorandum to Kenya's Vice President
Moody Awori on the grabbing of land belonging to the local prison. Hon Awori was touring Kitale Prison that day.The manner of his arrest drew condemnation from ordinary Kenyan people who wrote to the local dailies to protest at this uncouth manhandling; his Catholic colleagues dispatched similar protests notes to the Kenyan government.
On the 4th of March this year Father Dolan wrote to the Kenyan government to demand the implementation of the recommendations of the Ndung'u Land Report.
It is ironic that the trials and tribulations of Gabriel Dolan have intensified under the so called "reformist" administration of Mwai Kibaki. If the threat of deportation was carried out, it would certainly NOT be a first for the NARC regime. For the last few months a tense standoff between the Danish and Kenyan government has been simmering over the refusal by the Nairobi authorities to renew the work permits of certain officials of MS-Kenya, a Danish donor agency that has in the past funded groups such as Release Political Prisoners.
According to Afrol News:
" Denmark's aid to Kenya worth euro 20 million is being withheld as the Nairobi government is accusing a Danish organisation of undermining its land policy and fuelling violence. In Denmark, the press and organisations focus on Kenya's ruling elite and their large properties as the relations between Copenhagen and Nairobi are getting sour. Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke (MS) is one of the biggest and most popular aid organisations in Denmark. Therefore, the conflict between MS-Kenya and the Kenyan government has been given much attention by Danish media and politicians during the last six months. Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller and Development Minister Ulla Tørnæs have become personally involved in the case.
Three employees of MS-Kenya, including country director Lotte Grauballe, have been told their working permits will not be renewed due to their engagement in Kenyan land policies. According to the Nairobi government, MS-Kenya has actively contributed to land conflicts in the country by promoting calls for land to be redistributed to the poor.
In December, the group was accused of engaging in "subversive and illegal activities." The accusations were specifically linked to the support provided to Kenyan civil society groups working for a pro-poor land redistribution in the country. MS Kenya has categorically refuted these government allegations through the Danish Embassy in Nairobi.
In May 2005, the conflict was taken to the Danish parliament, where Foreign Minister Møller told MPs he demanded that the Kenyan government "recognises and respects the legitimate and important role of civil society in development." According to Mr Møller, the question was not whether MS-Kenya had "engaged in political agitation," but that the group must be let work with Kenyan civil society groups. The Danish government finances most of MS-Kenya's operations..."
SOURCE: Afrol News, June 21, 2005
The Kenya Democracy Project joins other activists and people of conscience and goodwill around the world who have been fighting for the release of Father Dolan. Apart from demanding his immediate and unconditional release- along with the 23 peace activists- we urge President Kibaki, Vice-President Awori, Minister Kirwa (who cannot claim not to know the Catholic priest), Minister Kimunya and the rest of the NARC regime to implement the recommendations of the Ndungu Land Report.
We further urge the NARC regime which was elected on a human rights platform to finally start observing human rights protocols, especially when it comes to dealing with peaceful democratic dissent. We are deeply perturbed that in some respects, the NARC regime is even more brutal in suppressing strikes, demonstrations, breaking up rallies and dragging some of its long term supporters to police dungeons. The Kenya Democracy Project can think of at least 5 Cabinet ministers who could easily trade places with Father Dolan and his co-accused. The Kenya Democracy Project urges the Kenya government to investigate as to the veracity of reports of police brutality during the recent arrests. If verified, then the rogue cops should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Kenyans from around the world have rallied in solidarity with Father Gabriel Dolan. We would like to include two of those messages of support.
The first one comes from a veteran of the Kenyan progressive democratic movement and an internationally respected librarian, the London based
Here is his message:
I would like to add my voice to the message of solidarity sent by AbdulQadir (copied below). All the people arrested by the police can rightfully be proud of the principled stand you all have taken in the struggle for justice and human rights.
The injustice of the unequal land distribution in
But you and the others arrested are not alone in this struggle. People throughout
We face a very powerful enemy - imperialism - which now seeks control over our land, resources and labour throughout the world. Witness the barbaric attacks on people of
And the resistance in
Their chant of "Alert, alert, the sword of Bolivar is moving across Latin America!" is also our chant - the sword of Kimaathi will surely move across
We are aware that there are many sacrifices that you and the people arrested with you are making every day. It is not easy to take up a principled stand against oppression and exploitation. We salute your resolve and your courage. We are with you in this difficult period.
Victory will certainly be ours.
Senior Lecturer, Information Management
Department of Applied Social Sciences
And on 14/08/05, a Kenyan based militant worker, AbdulQadir A. Nasser wrote:Fr Gabriel,
We have learnt of your remand in police custody this Friday on trumped up charges for leading the landless people against insatiably corrupt land grabbers in North Rift region of our country.
We have been following your travails at the hands of the wretched grabbers, exploiters and their protectors in government with anger but fully confident that both you, your colleagues, the people under your caring leadership and the just cause you so bravely champion will be victorious.
We would like to assure you that you are not alone, and you have the backing of millions of deprived and exploited Kenyans in this just struggle.
With millions of struggling oppressed Kenyans behind you,
Advance, brother, advance!
We are calling on all patriotic and democratic Kenyan organisations and individuals to condemn this
despicable infringement of the democratic and human rights of the struggling people of North Rift and
those leading them in their just struggle to reclaim and protect their land from the politically connected and corrupt individuals and corporations.
AbdulQadir A. Nasser
This Just in...
Zilizopendwa....Memories Are Made of These...A Nostalgic Look Back:
New President Spells Out His Vision
By President Mwai Kibaki, 30 December 2002
I feel extremely happy to address you today. I am overwhelmed by your love, I am emboldened by your support and enthusiasm. I am thrilled by your sense of dedication and commitment to this country. You have renewed my hope and strengthened my belief in the greatness of this country.
Now, all of us, both young and old, men and women, Kenyans of every ethnic group, race or creed, have embarked on a journey to a promising future with unshakable determination and faith in God and in ourselves.
I would like, on behalf of myself, my family and the entire leadership and supporters of the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), to express my sincere appreciation to all Kenyans for giving me the mandate to preside over the affairs of this great country for the next five years.
I am greatly honoured for the confidence you have extended to me and I promise not to let you down. You have asked me to be your chief servant and I accept it with humility and gratitude. I would like to congratulate all our elected parliamentary and civic leaders who will also be servants of the people.
Future of Kenyan politics
The National Rainbow Coalition represents the future of Kenyan politics. Narc is the hope of this country. Our phenomenal success in so short a time is proof that working together in unity, we can move Kenya forward.
Look around you, see what a gorgeous constellation of stars we are, just look at this dazzling mosaic of people of various ethnic backgrounds, race, creed, sex, age, experience and social status.
Never in the history of this country have its leaders come together and worked so hard together as one indivisible entity with one vision. It is the love of Kenya that has brought us together. We chose to let go our individual differences and personal ambitions in order to save this nation.
Some prophets of doom have predicted a vicious in-fighting in Narc following this victory. I want to assure you that they will be disappointed. When a group of people comes together over an idea or because of a shared vision, such a group can never fail or disintegrate. Narc will never die as long as the original vision endures. It will grow stronger and coalesce into a single party that will become a beacon of hope not only to Kenyans, but to the rest of Africa.
This is a critical moment in the history of our country. The task ahead is enormous, the expectations are high, the challenges are intimidating. But I know that with your support and co-operation, we shall turn all our problems into opportunities.
You have asked me to lead this nation out of the present wilderness and malaise onto the promised land. And I shall. I shall offer a responsive, transparent and innovative leadership. I am willing to put everything I have got into this job because I regard it as a sacred duty.
I offer our competitors a hand of friendship. We have been through a long and sometimes bitter electioneering campaign. Now, the elections are over, there should be no bitterness. Let us all unite in forgiveness, reconciliation, and hard work to rebuild Kenya. Nation building requires joint efforts of all Kenyans. Let us work for our common destiny and advance our common aspiration to bequeath a better country to our children.
I salute the efforts of the gallant freedom fighters and builders of modern Kenya. I salute my worthy predecessors for their contribution to this nation. The mistakes people have made in the past should not distract us from confronting the enormous challenges ahead.
One would have preferred to overlook some of the all too obvious human errors and forge ahead, but it would be unfair to Kenyans not to raise questions about certain deliberate actions or policies of the past that continue to have grave consequences on the present. We are, however, not going to engage in witch-hunting. Our task will be to advance Kenya's interests and ensure they are well-served.
We want to bring back the culture of due process, accountability and transparency in public office. The era ofanything goesis gone forever. Government will no longer be run on the whims of individuals. The era of roadside policy declarations is gone. My government's decisions will be guided by teamwork and consultations. The authority of Parliament and the independence of the Judiciary will be restored and enhanced as part of the democratic process and culture that we have undertaken to bring to foster.
Fellow Kenyans, I am inheriting a country which has been badly ravaged by years of misrule and ineptitude. There has been a wide disconnect between the people and the government, between people's aspirations and the government's attitude toward them. I believe that government exists to serve the people and not the people to serve the government. I believe that government exists to chart a common path and create an enabling environment for its citizens and residents to fulfil themselves in life.
Government is not supposed to be a burden on the people, it is not supposed to intrude on every aspect of life, and it is not supposed to mount roadblocks in every direction we turn to in life. The true purpose of government is to make laws and policies for the general good of the people, maintain law and order, provide social services that can enhance the quality of life, defend the country against internal and external aggression, and generally ensure that peace and stability prevails.
These will be the aims and objectives of the government under my leadership. My government will promote the creative potential of the Kenyan people. My government will adhere to the principles and practice of the rule of law in a modern society. My government will conserve national environment, develop Kenya's resources, and protect our national heritage.
Corruption will now cease to be a way of life in Kenya, and I call upon all those members of my government and public officers accustomed to corrupt practices to know and clearly understand that there will be no sacred cows under my government.
The economy which you all know has been under-performing since the last decade, is going to be my first priority. There is deepening poverty in the country. Millions of our people have no jobs. School enrolment has been declining. In fact, the agricultural sector, like all other sectors, is steadily deteriorating. Majority of our people do not have access to basic and affordable health services. Our roads and other infrastructures are dilapidated. Most of our institutions are failing and basic road services are crumbling. There is growing insecurity in our cities and towns. The list is endless.
My government will embark on policies geared to economic reconstruction, employment creation and immediate rehabilitation of the collapsed infrastructure. We shall restructure public institutions to match them with demands of a modernising society. A new development plan will be produced soon in order to give expression to the promises we made in our Election Manifesto. Provision of free primary education for all our children will be our immediate goal. Other areas to receive our immediate attention include:
Provision of greater access to affordable healthcare. Reform in the delivery of social services.
Refocus on agriculture and tourism as growth drivers of the economy.
Privatisation of non-performing public enterprises in a transparent manner, and
Improvement of security through the retaining, re-equipping and re-orientation of the security and armed forces of our country.
My government will work closely with the private sector and with our external partners to fulfil these promises. We need the support and understanding of the international community to succeed in the task we have embarked on to recreate our beloved country.
On our part, my government will use tax revenues transparently, effectively and efficiently. We shall streamline procurement procedures and close all loopholes that have in the past led to massive wastage of national public resources.
My government will continue to play a leading role in East Africa, Africa and the world. It will support and facilitate all positive efforts to resolve the conflicts in Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other trouble spots in Africa.
Kenya continues to bear a heavy burden of these regional conflicts with hundreds of thousands of refugees in our land. As a country which has suffered two devastating terrorist attacks, we shall work closely with others to root out causes of terrorism in the world. We desire to live in a peaceful world, united by a common sense of purpose in pursuit of a safe common future.
Once again, I call on all Kenyans to work with my government to realise the enormous potential of this country. We invite all those who have been hounded out of our shores by repressive policies of our predecessors to come back home and join us in nation-building. Kenya needs the genius of its citizens wherever they are. It is time for healing, and we need every hand on deck.
I was woken up this morning by rays of sunlight, which had bathed my room in such brilliance that it felt completely new. I began to notice things around me in greater details. It was as if the room had been given a face-lift. I looked out of the window and, behold a cloudless sky. The trees danced lazily enjoying the early morning breeze. I looked far into the horizon and the beauty of what I saw around me stirred my soul. It was as if I was standing atop Mount Kenya surveying the landscape. I said to myselfOh, what a beautiful country!
Indeed, we are so blessed, so endowed. Poverty, scepticism and despondency are not supposed to be our lot. Ours is a land of unparalleled beauty and promise. It is a land of laughter and hope.
My fellow Kenyans, I will strive to lead you to create a country you can be proud of again. Let us join hands and remain united for the sake of our country. That way Kenya will be a happy place for all of us. That is my dream.
God bless you all. God bless Kenya.