Kenyan families plead for kin jailed in South Sudan

Monday March 13 2017

Activists demonstrate in Nairobi on August 27,

Activists demonstrate in Nairobi on August 27, 2015 demanding that the government assist in making sure that five Kenyans who are detained in South Sudan are released. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL 

By ARNOLD NGURE

Kenyan families whose relatives were arrested and sentenced to life in South Sudan over alleged plot to defraud the government have written to President Kenyatta to help secure their release.

The families say they decided to write directly to the president after they were allegedly denied audience by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The four— Antony Mwadime, Ravi Ghaghda, Boniface Muriuki and Antony Keya— who previously were in the employ of Click Technologies Limited in South Sudan, were accused of defrauding the Juba government of $200 million.

However, their kin have protested that the four had not been given fair hearing and that there was no evidence directly linking them to the crime.

The company

The Kenyans were arrested on May 29, 2015 by the National Security Service of South Sudan after working in the country for almost two years for the company owned by President Salva Kiir’s brother-in-law Mr John Ogou, who also is a politician.

The families, through their representatives— Esther Kamotho, mother of Anthony Mwadime, Tejal Ghaghda, sister of Ravi Ghaghda, Ruth Muriuki, Boniface Muriuki’s sister and Esther Osanya, wife of Antony Keya, have expressed disaffection with the manner in which the cases were rushed.

According to the families, the arrest, trial and sentencing of the four Kenyans was flawed and there was scanty information on the well-being of the prisoners.

Accepted principles

“The information available reveals that the process that led to their arrest, detention, trial and eventual sentencing fell short of major internationally accepted principles and standards which Kenya subscribes to by dint of Article 2(6) of our Constitution,” reads the letter.

July last year, Foreign Affairs CS Amina Mohammed wrote condemning the sentencing of the four Kenyans by the South Sudanese government, saying that she had summoned the Juba ambassador in Nairobi to “convey to his government our strong condemnation of this unbelievable and absolutely ridiculous judgement”.

The ministry

However, the families have criticised the lethargy shown by the ministry, Kenyan embassy in Juba and the South Sudan Embassy in Kenya to speed up the process of releasing the four.

“The embassy officials do not follow up with the case, or update the families, contrary to claims by the Ministry of Foreign affairs that this has been happening,” reads the letter.

"Our correspondence and requests for meetings with the ministry go unresponded (sic).”

Sued the state

In February 20 last year, the four were to be released on $13,600 (Sh1.4m) cash bail each but their lawyer dropped the case for fear of his life, after reportedly being threatened at gun-point as well as the defence witness.

The case was said to have involved several other companies and had enjoined senior government officials in south Sudan.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission has sued the state, protesting the sentencing of the four Kenyans.