February 11, 2005

A Letter of Interest to All Those who Consider Human Rights to be Precious RE Ngugi Wa Thiong'o

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4038183.stm

January 14, 2005

Dear Friends,

As you may already know, world-renowned Kenyan playwright, novelist and social critic Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and his wife Njeeri Wa Ngugi were brutally attacked on August 11, 2003 in an apartment in Nairobi, Kenya. Ngugi was severely beaten and burned with cigarettes, and his wife, Njeeri, was raped in the ordeal. Subsequently, several people were arrested in conjunction with the attack, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this was a politically motivated assault on a leading international intellectual and his wife. It was the first time that Ngugi had returned to his home country after 22 years of political exile.

We are writing to ask you to take a few minutes of your time to send a letter to the addresses appended below to encourage the Kenyan courts and government to take this attack seriously, and to prosecute not only the direct attackers, but all those involved in the attack. This is not only an issue of paramount importance for political liberties and the rights of intellectuals. It is also a critical test case for overcoming a culture of silence and impunity surrounding violence against women in Kenya (and, in many ways, the world at large).

We have included a letter, both in the body of this mail and as an attachment, that exemplifies the spirit of the pressure that we believe it is necessary to put on the Kenyan government to insure that these attacks are treated in the most appropriate and deliberate matter. We fear that without this pressure, the political forces behind this attack may go unpunished, and the issue of rape glossed over. A letter of any length, either in your own words or borrowing from the language of the one included here, would make an immense difference. Please send your letters to as many of the appended addresses as you wish and also forward our call to others who might want to join our efforts. If the Kenyan government in compelled to see the overall importance of this trial, we will win an overwhelming victory in our struggle against violence against women and for the rights of public intellectuals. Thank you for your time.

Gabriele Schwab,
On behalf of The Ngugi and Njeeri Solidarity

Board Members:

  • Gabriele Schwab, Chair, Chancellor's Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California-Irvine.
  • Etienne Balibar, Distinguished Professor of Critical Theory, University of California-Irvine.
  • Sia Figiel, Writer, Samoa.
  • Patricia Hilden, Professor of Native American History and Comparative Ethnic Studies, University of California-Berkeley.
  • Witi Ihimaera, Writer, Professor of English at Auckland University, New Zealand.
  • E. Ann Kaplan, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of the Humanities Center at SUNY Stony-Brook.
  • Simon J. Ortiz, Poet and Writer, Professor of Native American Studies and Creative Writing, University of Toronto.
  • Timothy Reiss, Professor of Comparative Literature, New York University.
  • Sonia Sanchez, Poet and Writer.
  • Manuel Schwab, Writer.
  • Gayatri Spivak, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities Director, Center for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University.

Please forward additional copies of the letters you send to ngugisolidarity@gmail.com for our records.

Please write to one or more of the following contacts:

1. Kiraitu Murungi

Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs

State Law Office, Harambee Avenue
P O Box 40112, Nairobi
Tel: +254 20 227461Minister:

Minister's email: minister-justice@skyweb.co.ke
Permanent Secretary: Dorothy Angote
PS Justice & Constitutional Affairs
Please use fax: 254 20 316317

2. Attorney General
State Law Office
P O Box 40112–00100, Nairobi
Tel: 254 20 227411
No email address. Please print and mail or use fax:
254 20 315105

3. First Lady Lucy Kibaki
State House
P O. Box 40530–00100, Nairobi
Tel: +254 20 227436

4. John Githongo
State House
P O Box 40530–00100, Nairobi
Tel: +254 20 227436

5. Office of President
State House
P O Box 30510–00200, Nairobi
Tel: +254 20 227411

6. Hon. Ayang Nyong'o
Ministry of Planning & National Development
Treasury Building
P O Box 30007–00100, Nairobi
Tel: +254 20 252299

7. Phillip Murgor
Director of Public Prosecution
State Law Office
P O Box 40112–00100, Nairobi
Tel: 254 20 227411
No email address at DPP, but send e-mail to him
through his law firm: murgor@nbi.ispkenya.com

Please forward a copy of all letters you send to the
following addresses as well:

1. Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya
Amboseli Road off Gitanga Rd.
P.O. Box 46324 Nairobi, Kenya
Jane Onyango, Executive Director:
Hellen Kwamboka: hellen@fida.co.ke

2. The Ngugi and Njeeri Solidarity Committee

3. Kenya Human Rights Commission
P.O. Box 41079–00100
Nairobi, Kenya

-Thank You
The Ngugi and Njeeri Solidarity Committee

Template Letter

To Whom It May Concern:

We are writing to appeal to the Kenyan government to react appropriately and with all deliberate speed to the brutal attack on Ngugi Wa Thiong'o and Njeeri Wa Ngugi and the rape of Njeeri. We write to stress the urgency of an appropriate response that will hold accountable not only the direct attackers, but also all those who are responsible for what we see as a politically motivated attack by enemies of what Professor Ngugi Wa Thiong'o stands for in Kenya,
Africa and the world.

The world community continues to watch this case closely, first and foremost because we are shocked by the brutality of this attack and rape, but also because of the grave implications impunity for the perpetrators would have. International organizations, including women's groups, civil liberties organizations, and organizations of writers and intellectuals are but a few of the members of the international community deeply invested in how the present administration will respond to this attack.

It is critical for the Kenyan government to rebuff this grave attack against an internationally celebrated public intellectual whose commitment to his country and the empowerment of ordinary people has been unwavering. If this attack on the occasion of his first return to his home country, after 22 years in forced exile, is not condemned, and all those responsible pursued for their crimes, a chilling blow to intellectual liberty will have been dealt. Such blows have impact the world over. This one, in particular, would send a sad message regarding Kenya's capacity to overcome its political past. This government must respond firmly to demonstrate a commitment to the political future of the country.

It is equally critical to demonstrate a willingness on the government's part to respond to the full gravity of the rape of Njeeri Wa Ngugi. The culture of silence around violence against women in Kenya fosters repeated and widespread abuses against the human rights of women. A full length Amnesty International report on violence against women in Kenya (March 8, 2002) cites several national and international instruments that hold governments responsible for failures to prosecute with "due diligence" any violence against women.

We want to express our unconditional solidarity with Njeeri Wa Ngugi in her ongoing struggle to stand publicly against the epidemic of violence against women. We believe that the government of Kenya has both the opportunity and the responsibility to meet the challenge of supporting her. This challenge consists in bringing all those responsible for this attack on Njeeri Wa Ngugi and Ngugi Wa Thiong'o to justice. But steps must also be taken to end the conditions that foster this culture of silence. Systems must be put in place, as in other countries, for women to anonymously identify their attackers. Every form of sexual violence against women must be treated as a crime of the gravest consequence.

The victims cannot be left to fight alone. To that end, we hope that this administration will not set the precedent of allowing Njeeri Wa Ngugi to stand alone. At a time like this, when we are seeing political violence erode so many countries in Europe, North America, Africa, and indeed on every continent, it is doubly important for people in positions of power to stand against the impunity of perpetrators. We hope that with your actions, you will set an example for Kenya and the world.

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