Open Letter to President Kibaki

Dear President Kibaki:

I write as a citizen of Kenya to express my continuing disappointment at how the government continues to mistreat Kenyan citizens, especially Human Rights Activists.

On February 18, 2009, three Kenyan activists were arrested and beaten by the Kenyan police after peacefully standing outside Parliament. Patrick Kamotho, Philo Ikonya and Fwamba Chrispus were among a handful of Kenyans hoping to grab the attention of Minister for Agriculture, William Ruto and Finance Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta to plead with them to act swiftly to prevent more deaths from starvation in the looming famine that is threatening 10 million Kenyans. They were taken to Central Police Station.

Philo is the President of the Kenya Chapter of PEN, the international society of writers dedicated to the promotion of literature and freedom of expression.

Since her arrest, Philo has written movingly about being harassed and degraded, watching her fellow activists suffer through beatings and other forms of torture designed to break the spirit and silence political critique.

It is sad that a government that came to power in 2002 promising to reject the old methods of rule by intimidation and harassment, and promising a new era of openness and accountability, stands by silent while its appointed officers brutalize fellow Kenyans.

Your ongoing silence is particularly egregious, compounded only by the contempt with which you commented on the harassment and arrest of a Kenyan citizen who dared to speak his mind during last year’s Jamhuri Day.

In recent weeks, you have asked about the Kenya We Want.

We want a Kenya where the Constitution, which forbids torture and harassment of Kenyan citizens, is followed. We want a Kenya where those who have pledged to be responsible to us and for us fulfill that promise. We want a Kenya where freedom is not something we once acquired from the British, not an old song hummed in bars by our grandparents, but a daily practice of living.

We are willing to work with you to create this Kenya.

Are you willing to work with us?