Raila Reveals Details on Exactly How He Was Tortured – Flame Of Freedom

October 7, 2013

In his autobiography Flame of Freedom, launched on Sunday, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga reveals a lot of unknown details about his very public life.
He talks of how and why his party merged with KANU after the 1997 elections; how he got to support Kibaki in 2002, how he helped found KEBS, etc.

As expected, Raila talks in great detail, about circumstances leading to his torture and how it was executed.

His first detention was in 1982, and this one lasted for six years. It started just days after the attempted coup, which he says he only played a peripheral role.
“…we had been quietly engaged in operations designed to educate and mobilise the people in order to bring about the necessary and desired changes in our society — not through violence but through popular mass action. The full explanation of our efforts to bring about popular change will have to wait for another, freer, time in our country’s history”. he writes.

On the morning of the coup attempt, Raila was at a friend’s house in Parklands following the proceedings on VOK radio.
Several days later, on August 11, he was picked up from Prof Oki Ooko Ombaka’s house in Caledonia, Nairobi, and that was the beginning of his torture.

He was subjected to several days of physical and psychological torture at the Special Branch offices along University Way. 
An officer named Josiah Kipkurui Rono was determined to get a confession from him. 

For not providing the officers anything to work with, he was given some good beating.
“The blows to my head dazed me and I fell to the floor, and as I lay there, Rono and the others jumped on my chest and my genitals.
Rono also threatened to shoot him but that did not materialize. 

Soon, the beating stopped and Raila was returned to the cells. They were cold and water-logged. 
He would not catch any sleep as the cold kept waking him up – his sweater and shoes had been taken away.
“That is when I learned how long the night is,” he writes.

He was later moved to GSU headquarters, where he learnt that he had been incarcerated with the dean of the faculty of Engineering at the University of Nairobi, Prof Alfred Otieno, and with Mr Otieno Mak’Onyango, then assistant managing editor of the Sunday Standard.

Interrogations continued, occasionally by the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ben Gethi himself. 
Gethi would soon be sacked by Moi.

After writing multiple statements, the State decided it was ready to proceed with the case against him and Prof Otieno and Mr Mak’Onyango.

The charges were served to their defence lawyers and the suspects were remanded in custody to await their trial and subsequent fate.
“Remand was a rude awakening,” writes Mr Odinga. The suspects were issued with uniforms that were old and torn, especially between the legs, as part of a psychological scheme to humiliate the suspects. Their diet consisted of no more than half-cooked ugali and what Mr Odinga describes as “vegetable water with a few limp leaves floating around”.
They were not allowed to talk to anyone, and their uniforms had a big C printed on the front, to indicate theirs was a capital offence.
They stayed in solitary confinement with virtually no sunlight. They would be escorted to the toilets twice a day. This was done individually, so that they did not speak to anyone.
The warders spied on each other to ensure that no one helped the prisoners to break the rules. 
After several postponements, Raila’s trial was to take place on March 24, 1983. The prosecution was led by lawyer Sharad Rao (now chairman of the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board).
Instead of commencing the trial, Mr. Rao announced orders from the Attorney General to enter a nolle prosequi – that the State no longer wished to prosecute the three. The three men were released immediately, but as they soon found out, they were not going home anytime soon.
That evening, provincial police chief, Philip Kilonzo, served them with detention orders signed by then internal security minister, Justus Ole Tipis. Detention was legal at that time.
“We three detainees arrived at Kamiti about midnight, back where we had started the day – but now we had a new home: the isolation block, the detention camp, the prison within a prison. The next phase of the struggle had begun,” writes Mr Odinga.
For over five years, Raila remained in prison, before Moi released him on February 5, 1988.

Additional reporting by Nation
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