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UA 58/93 - Kenya: fear for safety: Wangari Maathai

, N° d'index: AFR 32/007/1993

Professor Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and opposition activist, has gone into hiding in fear for her life following a public accusation by President Moi on 20 February 1993 that she was distributing "inflammatory leaflets" in the Uasin Gishu district of western Kenya where there have been clashes between members of the Kalenjin and Kikuyu ethnic groups. Her colleague, John Makanga, was arrested and beaten on 25 February 1993 (see UA 54/93, AFR 32/06/93). AI is concerned for her safety.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AFR 32/07/93
Distr: UA/SC
Please draw this action to the attention of the person responsible for outreach
work in your section as it is felt that appeals from women's groups and
environmental organizations might be particularly effective
UA 58/93 Fear for safety 4 March 1993
KENYA: Wangari Maathai (female) - environmentalist, opposition
activist
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of Professor Wangari Maathai,
who has gone into hiding in fear for her life.
Wangari Maathai went into hiding following a public accusation by President
Moi on 20 February 1993 that she was distributing "inflammatory leaflets" in
a violence-torn area in western Kenya, and after the abduction and beating
on 25 February 1993 by masked assailants of her colleague, John Makanga, at
his pharmacy at the Nairobi Hilton Hotel. John Makanga was brought to court
by the police on 1 March and charged with distributing seditious publications.
He showed signs of new injuries evidently sustained in police custody, and
his assailants had clearly been police officers (see UA 54/93, AFR 32/06/93,
2 March 1993).
Wangari Maathai has expressed fears that she could be attacked by unidentified
security agents, arrested for "sedition" and jailed in an unfair trial, or
even killed, because of her allegations of government involvement in the
violence in western Kenya.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
In February 1993 there were renewed clashes between members of the Kalenjin
and Kikuyu ethnic groups in Uasin Gishu district in Rift Valley Province. Several
people were killed near the town of Burnt Forest and hundreds were forced to
flee their homes. Wangari Maathai and John Makanga had apparently visited Kikuyu
victims of the clashes who were being helped in church refugee centres. They
reportedly distributed leaflets about a "Tribal Clashes Resettlement Volunteer
Service" which criticised the authorities for encouraging or condoning the
attacks by Kalenjins (members of President Moi's ethnic group) and which urged
Kikuyus to defend themselves, as the police were failing in this task. Wangari
Maathai rejected accusations by government members and Kenya African National
Union (KANU) party officials that she was provoking the violence under the
cover of the Green Belt Movement; she said her purpose was to prevent violence
and help the victims. She had appealed to the Police Commissioner to attend
a public meeting about the clashes but instead the police arrested John Makanga,
a fellow opposition activist, who was due to attend this meeting with her.
Similar "ethnic clashes" in 1992 left tens of thousands of people displaced
and over 700 people dead, many of them allegedly killed by a "secret army"
of "Kalenjin warriors" supported, armed and funded by senior government and
KANU party figures. The authorities have taken no action against any of those
named in 1992 in investigations by a church-sponsored inquiry and a
parliamentary committee.
Professor Wangari Maathai was educated in the United States of America and
was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. degree in Kenya. She became Nairobi
University's first woman professor, in the department of veterinary anatomy.
She left academic life in the mid-1970s and founded the Green Belt Page 2 of UA 58/93
Movement, an environmental campaigning group. In the early 1980s she was
chairperson of the National Council of Women in Kenya, and was awarded several
international honours including the Alternative Nobel Prize and the United
Nations Environmental Program Global 800 award.
In January 1992 she was arrested by police who forced their way into her
barricaded house. This was because she and other prominent government opponents
gave a press conference expressing fears of an imminent pro-government army
coup and a conspiracy to assassinate themselves and other opposition activists.
She was freed quickly on bail after being charged with publishing false rumours:
the case is still pending. In March 1992 she was beaten unconscious by riot
police when demonstrating in Nairobi with other members of the Release Political
Prisoners (RPP) campaigning group (see UA 74/92, AFR 32/04/92, 5 March 1992).
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail
letters either in English or in your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of Wangari Maathai after the public
accusations against her and the arrest and ill-treatment of her colleague John
Makanga;
- appealing for guarantees for her safety;
- stating that she should not be subject to imprisonment or ill-treatment for
the peaceful expression of her opinions and seeking to protect people's human
rights.
APPEALS TO:
1) His Excellency President Daniel arap Moi
President of the Republic of Kenya,
Office of the President
P O Box 30510
Nairobi, Kenya
Telegrams: President Moi, Nairobi, Kenya
Telexes: 22003 FOREIGNRB or 22696 FOREIGNRB
(via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Faxes: + 254 2 33 7340 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Salutation: Your Excellency
2) Mr Philip Kilonzo
Commissioner of Police
Kenya Police Headquarters
P O Box 30083
Nairobi, Kenya
Telegrams: Commissioner Kilonzo, Nairobi, Kenya
Salutation: Dear Commissioner
3) Mr Amos Wako
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
P O Box 40112
Nairobi, Kenya
Telegrams: Attorney General Wako, Sheria, Nairobi, Kenya
Faxes: + 245 2 211082
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
COPIES TO:
General Secretary
National Council of Churches in Kenya
PO Box 45009
Nairobi, Kenya
and to diplomatic representatives of Kenya accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 15 April 1993.

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