Will Joseph Irungu “Jowie” be Hanged at Kamiti as Ordered by The Court?

11 mins read

Joseph Irungu alias Jowie in the dock at the Milimani law courts on March 13, 2024, while being sentenced for the murder of businesswoman Monica Kimani.

No executions have taken place since 1987, when Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu were executed for their role in the failed attempt to overthrow President Daniel Arap Moi in 1982.

As Kenyans know Jowie faces death by hanging at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison after being sentenced to death for murdering businesswoman Monica Kimani in 2018.  

He should be in Kamiti Max right now. The way the system works, once you are sentenced on any charges that takes you to Kamiti you first go to Nairobi Industrial Area Remand Prison, INDA as we used to call it when we were there.

In Jowie’s case he would be put in a solitary cell next to other death row inmates. From INDA he is moved to Kamiti Max which is a completely different world. In Kamiti death row prisoners are locked away by themselves and the idea was that sooner than later they face the hangman and that is it and they are done with.

Joseph Irungu, famously known as Jowie

That has changed since 1987 when the last hanging was done in Kamiti. I was at Kamiti medium prison in 1987 when those two patriots Hezekiah Ochuka and Pancras Oteyo Okumu were hanged. It was bad for us as students at Kamiti because the reason we were in jail started way back in 1982 when the Moi government claimed we supported the coup attempt.

I was the Secretary General of the Students Organization of Nairobi University (SONU) so the Moi Special Branch just grabbed me in the streets on August 3, 1982, and I spent 9 months in INDA waiting to be jailed but Moi released us because of international pressure from groups like Amnesty International.

Later I was arrested in 1986 as a member of Mwakenya and that is how I ended up in Kamiti Medium Prison when the hanging of those two took place.

The hanging takes place at the Kamiti Maximum prison next door but prisoners in the Medium prison like me had everything to do with it. First the day before the hanging all prisoners in the medium are locked in and nobody steps out.

Then they set up something called ‘Special Gang” at Kamiti Medium and they put all of them in one place. We were told the Special Gang prisoners were given great food

The job of the Special Gang is that once the hanging is done they go to bury the bodies in some unknown secret plot in Kamiti farm come back and completely shut up. For one thing, the Special Gang never gets to see the dead bodies because by the time they are brought to them, they are already in those wooden coffins and the job of the Special Gang is to dig the graves throw the coffins in and bury them.

One of the big deal about this secrecy is that the government never wants anybody to know where dead bodies from Kamiti are and it has stayed like that since the colonial days when the wazungus built the hanging joint at Kamiti. I suspect the body of Mzalendo Dedan Kimathi could be in one of those burial grounds.

It was after the burial that my life at Kamiti Medium became a nightmare. Every prisoner has the gang where they work every day. My job was to clean the uniforms of prison officers from both Maximum and Medium prisons.

We had a cleaning place which consisted of some cemented pad where we pound the clothes after putting them in water with soap. Then we dry the clothes, iron them, and hand them over to the officer in charge. I was the prisoner given the responsibility to supervise the whole cleaning of prison guards uniforms and I was given the dirty clothes got them cleaned, ironed, and handed them back.

On the day after the hanging, the prisoners I was working with to do the cleaning were putting up a rebellion against me. Everybody told me not to give them the clothes of those who did the hanging. I told them I could not figure that out and they said that I should clean all the clothes myself.

So here is the reason I was facing this rebellion. The hanging place was built in the 1950s by the wabeberus and it had turned into a complete mess. Prisoners are hanged upstairs and once they are hanged their bodies drop to the floor downstairs.

The problem was that the hanging machine was so old that when the bodies dropped to the floor they were still alive and looking around. Then there is a team of prison guards downstairs to bludgeon these half-dead hanged men to death using special big rungus for that job.

Now the prisoners working with me to wash the guards’ clothes said they don’t want to touch the clothes of the guards who were doing the bludgeoning downstairs because they will be covered in blood of those killed. I told the prisoners I was not the kind of person to report to the guards and tell them they had refused to clean their clothes because they would be beaten badly.

So we agreed that this time instead of washing the clothes using their hands they put water and soap and just step on the clothes on the cement pad and then rinse them and iron them. That is how I got out of that mess and later went back thinking I needed to be moved to a different gang.

Kenya’s Judiciary Proposes Abolishing Death Penalty, Reducing Sentences

FILE - Kenya's Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Koome attends the swearing-in ceremony for Kenya's President William Ruto, in Nairobi on Sept. 13, 2022. Koome has sent proposals to Kenya's parliament to do away with the death penalty and make other sentencing changes.

After that hanging Moi got a lot of heat from the international community because those being hanged had run to Tanzania after the coup and were protected by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) before Moi sent a gang of undercover police to go to Tanzania grab them, tie them up in ropes knock them unconscious and smuggle them back to Kenya.

It is possible that is why Moi stopped hanging those on death row altogether because he got a lot of heat for what happened.

Now the only option for Jowie is to be of good behavior at Kamiti Maximum for about 20-30 years and then if he is nice he will be given a blue badge on his shirt and he can be taken to medium prison.

We had one guy like that from death row and in fact, after 30 years the guards will even send them out for a few hours and they just come back.

That is Joseph Irungu Jowie’s last chance at some kind of freedom. Good luck with that. Maybe God will free him but I suspect the old man (God) might be busy right now with a few other things in Kenya where women are murdered every day.

Meanwhile, Jacque Maribe is already on tour with her new boss Moses Kuria after being appointed by God knows who to be the Head of Communications in Kuria’s office. When the gods laugh with you they laugh very loudly. Maribe could have faced accessory to murder charges but she was overcharged and walked.

‘I stand with Jacque Maribe’ – Moses Kuria
Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria chilling with former TV journalist Jacque Maribe. PHOTO/Maribe(@jacquemaribe)/Instagram
Public Service Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria chilling with former TV journalist Jacque Maribe. PHOTO


Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria has thrown his support behind former TV journalist Jacque Maribe amid confusion surrounding her alleged top job at his Public Service, Performance and Delivery management ministry.

In a statement released on his official X account, Kuria expressed his solidarity with Maribe citing their longstanding friendship of 16 years.

“Meanwhile, I stand with Jacque Maribe, my friend for the last 16 years, and I will stand with her just like I stood with Gov Kawira Mwangaza in the wake of unjustified bullying,” Moses Kuria wrote.

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