A Dark Day in Kenya History

Saba Saba


A person determined can never be defeated. 30 years ago today, multitudes of people were determined to enter Kamkunji grounds for a rally. They came from all corners of Nairobi,: Mathare, Kawangware, Kibera, Kangemi, Mukuru, name them.

They turned up in their thousands, on a cold morning. The government had outlawed the rally and promised dire consequences. The key proponents of the rally had vowed the rally would go on with or without a permit. In those days, gathering without a permit was a criminal offense, and sometimes treasonable.

You were supposed to go to the chief with a letter detailing the rally. The Chief would stamp, acting under the Public Order Act would stamp it and send you to the DO. The DO would stamp and send you to the DC, then the DC sends you to the PC. Your request could be dismissed at any level in this hierarchy.


So on 7th July 1990, there was no permit for the rally. The multiparty crusaders were determined to do it anyway without a permit. It was when brutality was the norm. There was the Nyayo torture Chambers and Nyati House interrogation room. Come what may, the people were determined to get to Kamkunji.

Matiba and Rubia were arrested on the eve of the day, and thrown into detention. Jaramagi was placed under house arrest. He woke in the morning to find platoons of GSU, armed to the teeth, surrounding his house. All the other leader’s homes were surrounded by GSU on the night before the rally. But most of them had not slept in their houses.

They were determined to hold the rally, with or without a permit. GSU were all over, in their hundreds, on lorries, on horsebacks, in land rovers, with dogs, red-eyed and armed to the teeth. Soon Nairobi was in darkness, clouds of teargas everywhere, running battles, bone fires, blood on the roads, and dead bodies felled by live bullets.

It was hot news for international media, the BBC, CNN, DW among others. White journalists were all over. There were running battles the whole day, and the following days. State brutality could not stop an idea whose time had come. No amounts of bullets or teargas could stop the match. The people were determined to die for a cause. A few months later, Moi gave in to the pressure.

Multiparty was ushered in. Nothing will ever stop an idea whose time has come


By Kiberenge Jnr

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