Nyamweya is a journalist currently attached to a leading Kenyan media
Expose: Bizzaire experiences of Remandees at Kenya's largest remand prison
There has been public concern regarding the treatment of remandees at Nairobi Remand and Allocation Facility. The Standard Digital carried out an investigation to determine the status of the facility and more particularly the kind of life the remandees are subjected to. Interestingly, the investigation has revealed a high level of corruption, bribery, poor living conditions and inhumane treatment at the facility. For most remandees, it is basically survival for the fittest.
Mr. Justus Mayaka, a former remandee at the facility who had been accused of manslaughter confirms the allegations and public concerns on the same. Mayaka claims that despite money being outlawed at the correctional center, everything at the facility involves money. This includes accessibility of basic items such as food, water and even sunlight. “It will take you the grace of God to survive there if you don’t have money” he informs the reporter.
Phillip Omae another remandee whom we will keep anonymous to avoid victimization because he is still at the facility, has revealed to us shocking details of bribery, corruption and inhuman treatment of remandees by warders. “Everything from food, water and being allowed outside requires money” he confides in us. According to the inmate who is remanded because he did not have an identification card, the food given to remandees is so little that nobody gets satisfied with it. Moreover, it is of the quality that is not fit for human consumption.
According to our source inmate, porridge is normally served at 5.30 a.m after a roll call has been taken. It consists of maize flour and water. The normal ratio is half a cup per an inmate. It is normally served in a mororo(prison food container). Most of these containers are old and tattered. The quality of the porridge itself depends on the warder on duty. There are warders here who divide the porridge meant for a particular block into half. For example, if a block is normally reserved two sufurias of porridge, a warder will keep one of the sufurias and since he wants it to be still enough for the inmates of that block, he will add water into the rest. Those who have 20 bob will get quality porridge which is also full to the brim of the mororo(food container). In addition, this porridge has sugar in it unlike the one served to remandees who do not have the cash. The warder normally uses a trustee or inmate whom he has connection to sell the porridge to those who has the money. Therefore, inmates with no money will have to drink the little porridge which is flooded with cold dirty water. Phillip discloses.
The reporter contacted other inmates through the key source to confirm the details. Interestingly, it was ascertained that the food business does not only involve porridge but all types of food. According to the second source, although ugali is supposed to be served with vegetables, it is normally served with the soup of kales. The quantity is also too little for a normal person to survive with it. “We normally get very little ratio of ugali and the soap of kales which is served at 9am, which even a child cannot get satisfied”. The vegetables which are normally missing are reserved for those who are able to part with some money. The low ratio is given intentionally to encourage remandees to buy food, hence generate favorable returns for the warders involved. The normal price for a plate of ugali and vegetables is 30 shillings and which can be obtained from trustee inmates. The inmate discloses that “during evenings, you will hear some trustees going round the cells with containers full of dishes advertising “ni ya leo ni ya leo” (its fresh, its fresh) calling for people to buy. Each block as at least two warders who are fully aware of this food business. They are the ones who open and close the cell doors for these inmates. Interestingly, the quality of ugali sold is far much better than what is given at random. Rice and beans is offered mainly on Thursdays and Saturdays. Those with cash can get a full plate of rice and beans at 30 shillings. Those with no money will get the mororo that is less than a quarter full with few, countable beans. “Meat days are even worse as remandees are only given a piece with no soup” he says adding that those with 50 shillings will get good quantity of meat plus soap without any problem” This is the same case with supper which normally arrives at 3pm.
Vincent Omondi who has also gone through life in the facility and was released only two months ago after he won a case of traffic offense further confirms the allegations of bribery by the warders. He explains us that remandees are supposed to stay indoors 24/7 safe for those who have offered themselves to do the cleaning (they are referred as cleaners), and those who are engaged in competitive extra-curricular activities as sports, plays, drama etc. If an inmate wants to go and bask in the sun for instance, or watch the TV at the social hall, he will have to bribe the warder between 20 to 50 shillings in order to go out. “We only see light when we are being served food” claims Omondi who also adds that “If you are found outside the cells without permission you will be beaten like a mongrel”
Omondi goes on to disclose the pathetic nature of the cells in Nairobi’s largest remandee center. “These cells actually smell like a mortuary” he says. The remand cells which are 20 by 30 meters are supposed to handle at least 100 remandees but most of them have a number exceeding 300 causing massive congestion. Inmates from all criminal backgrounds including chokoraas, petty thieves are mixed and bundled together. “There is hardly any sleeping space due to congestion” he confirms also adding that “this has enhanced the spread of contagious diseases as TB and other skin ailments in the facility”. The beddings are themselves tattered with full of lice, never been aired and smell awful. Worse, there is no water inside the cells despite the toilets located inside there. This may be attributed as the cause of the high number of deaths at the facility.
“This year alone, eight people have succumbed to deaths related to poor environment and communicable diseases”, affirms Mayaka. According to Mayaka, those who want good beddings will have to buy them from trustees (or the government as they are known there) who do the business in conjunction with trustees. “Otherwise, you will have to sleep in pipeline (pipeline being a dreaded place because it is full of lice)”. Inmates are allowed to have phones and even do fishy business deals such as selling cigarettes, drugs etc as long as they are able to bribe the warders. “This is why there are many inmates conning people or communicating with outsiders while inside the prison” observes Mayaka who adds that “You can virtually do anything whether legal or illegal if you are moneyed”
A prison warder from the institution who sought anonymity for the safety of his job confirmed the situation by saying that the food racket at the institution is rife. “In fact, very senior officers whom I cannot name are aware of this, so we junior officers cannot do anything to sabotage their program”. The officer went on to add that “it is absurd that government resources are being misused to achieve selfish interests”.
When contacted over the issue of food business, the officer in charge of the prison, Mr. Samwel Ruto dismissed off the report as rumors. “I have already clarified earlier that this report is false and malicious and formulated by my detractors”