We’ve had an interesting relationship with the justice system here so far. Police are a rarity. Though we live close to a police station, we seldom see them out in the streets. This comes across in the lack of traffic regulation, and the total chaos that sometimes occurs. Despite a large push for reform from the Kenyan police force and from the government, many citizens are still facing a very corrupt system.

A week before arriving in Nairobi, we were a little startled when we saw Kenyan’s police force making national headlines for infamy. A lawyer from the International Justice Mission, Willie Kimani, was investigating a case in which his client, Joseph Mwenda, made a complaint against the police for wrongly shooting him in the arm. Though Mwenda was further targeted by the police with intimidation and harassment for making the claim against them, he persisted in his work with Mr. Kimani. Kimani, Mwenda, and their taxi driver, Joseph Muiruri, disappeared, and then were later found dead at the bottom of the river with their eyes gauged out. This act of suspected police brutality and corruption caused outrage from people across the world, including some ongoing protests that have been occurring while we’ve been here.

While this case happened to make headlines, there is wrongful corruption going on all the time. Our first few days here, one of U-tena’s own members was wrongly arrested as a thief with no basis for finding him guilty, and was not released until the entire U-tena team vouched for him and cleared his name. The officer arresting him had no evidence pinning the U-tena member to the crime they were accusing him of. They just knew they needed to bring back someone.

Because the police are known to be so corrupt, many people often try to create “justice” on their own by taking matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, we had to witness the aftermath of this. While walking to work through the outskirt of the slum, we saw a man lying out on the ground in a pile of trash. Not an uncommon site here. However, the way in which this man was sprawled out gave us an inkling that something was not right. After walking up and joining the few other spectators, we realized that this man was dead. He had been beaten to death (supposedly by a Maasai, who was not a documented citizen) for stealing. Since the Maasai would not be in the system, his murderer would get away with it.

Needless to say, we’ve seen a lot of extremely unjust things happen here. However, it is the work of U-tena and other similar organizations that gives us hope and makes us optimistic for the future of this beautiful country.

–Ariel Silverman


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