Bunge la Mwananchi (the Peoples Parliament) - Kenya
Over the last fifteen years I have been involved in community organizing in Kenya building a grassroots social movement. I am a member of Bunge la Mwananchi (the Peoples Parliament) which is an organic grassroots based social movement. I participated in its formative stages, and am also the coordinator for the Mathare Social Justice Center, a community based registered organization in Mathare that conducts campaigns on political accountability and social justice and documents cases of extra-judicial killings and police brutality in low-income areas of East lands of Nairobi. In 2000 and 2001 I worked as an intern in Kenya’s Human Rights Commission (KHRC) monitoring and documenting human violations cases and on its database for torture victims cases in the litigation fund against torture fund (LIFAT), a project that was created by Peoples Against Torture (PAT ) Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), for public interest cases against torture. Later I worked with the independent Medico-legal unit as a field officer in the legal department from 2005-2010, where I documented cases of extra-judicial killings and torture of youth suspected of being members of Mungiki. We bailed out victims of torture and human rights defenders’ activists. Whilst there I pioneered a sustainable cash bail revolving fund, through recovering the bail deposited with courts for human rights activists in various judicial courts in Kenya. This Cash bail revolving fund helped to bail many human rights activists who were arrested with malicious charges and this helped to build a base for grassroots human rights defenders. Through participation and distribution of leaflets for the pro-democracy movement Saba Saba, rallies and the “no reforms no election” protest in Uhuru Park and Kamukunji we made demands for a new constitution. Later in 1999 because of my political activism I was invited to be a member of National Convention Executive Council NCEC which was a vanguard for constitutional reforms in Kenya. My role was as a council member representing grassroots social movements and it was a great political opportunity that gave me civic and political space to interact with constitutional reform movement leaders. It was during this time that I started organizing the youth in Mathare slum Huruma car wash and formed a community based youth network named Kasarani Starehe youth network (Kasta). We partnered with Green belt movement to organize Civic and Enviromental community dialogue that Prof. Wangari Mathai was conducting. At Green Belt Headquaters in Kilimani Nairobi, named (Kwimenya) to consciously know yourself. Thereafter we would start Green groups in our areas, to plant trees in Kariobangi Market (1999-2000). This youth body helped to evolve a critical grassroots social movement that would provide support to reform movement during the negotiation of Merger of Peoples commission led by the late Dr. Oki Ombaka and Prof. Yash Ghai Commission on constitutional reform at Ufungamano House meetings that was organized by Peoples Commission Interfaith initiative for people driven constitutional review. During Saba Saba memorial commemoration of 2001 in July 7 I was at historic freedom corner, with pro- reform movement leaders from National Convention Executive Council (NCEC) Muuguno wa Mageuzi, Green belt Movement and other social movement that were demanding democratic change. We were tear gassed, and arrested. That day we had organized tree planting in commemoration of the youth who were killed in 1990 and 1997 during opposition pro-democracy reform rallies. Where the late Nobel Laurent Prof Wangari Maathai was to plant a tree in Freedom Corner in memory of the youth killed in the pro- democracy struggle the gathering was teargassed, and we were arrested and tortured in the central police station in Nairobi, a police station that came to define my struggle in building grassroots movements Bunge La Mwananchi (People’s Parliament). From 2000, Bunge la Mwananchi set up Hema la Katiba (Constitution Tent) at the popular Kencom Bus Stage in the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) for civic education outreach campaign mobilised and created awareness in advancing the right to organise, and participation in constitutional reform process and on August 27 2010 Kenya voted in a new constitution, after a struggle that many people paid a price for, in defence of democracy and social justice. Today Bunge la Mwananchi has grown from organic debates in Jeevanjee Gardens to a nationwide social movement with active grassroots community chapters and platforms to be found in various parts of the country. In Nairobi, there are Bunge La Mwananchi chapters in Kawangware and Mathare, Kangemi. Apart from these, there are Bunge chapters in Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, and Eeldoret., civic spaces that continue to amplify the grassroots voices of marginalized human rights defenders.