Last updated on September 20th, 2020 at 08:52 pm
Small crimes big jail terms. Petty theft like the stealing of mangoes, eggs, torch batteries and ball pens could condemn you to rot in one of Kenyaâ€™s congested prisons where you survive on half-cooked â€˜Wairimuâ€™ beans floating in a sea of watery soup served with ngumi-size ugali.
Small crimes big jail terms.
Small crimes big jail terms. This happen as suspects in multi-million shilling heists freely drink cappuccino in shopping malls during the day and imported liquor in private membersâ€™ clubs at night as they continue cutting deals.
Take the case of Joseph Omwoyo, the 25-year-old man who was sentenced to two years in jail this March. His crime? Shoplifting two hand and body lotions valued at Sh780 in a supermarket.
The lotion was for the wife heâ€™d newly married. The sentence appeared too harsh, at least in the eyes of those in non-judicial quarters. Joseph Omwoyo wanted to express his love, but poor guy had no source of income, he later told the court. So, when his sweetheart needed lotion to smoothen and moisturise her skin, like any of Nairobiâ€™s socialites, Omwoyo shoplifted the Sh780 lotions, but unfortunately got caught that March 6Â morning.
He was arraigned before chief magistrate Daniel Ogembo to whom he revealed the motive of his crime – his inability to maintain his new wife hence the itchy fingers that got hold and pocketed the lotions.
The chief magistrate denied Omwoyo cash fine as he was a repeat offender, having been previously charged for a similar offence. Omwoyo was sentenced to two years in the slammer.
But Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) got wind of what had befallen the newlywed and took to social media; tagging the Chief Justice and other senior names in Kenyaâ€™s Judiciary. Such was the outpouring of their outrage that Chief Justice Dr Willy Mutunga not only promised to look into the case with the possibility of a review, but actually recalled the file which is currently under review.
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Omwoyoâ€™s case, however, is just one in a raft of court cases that have left Kenyans questioning the working of Kenyaâ€™s sentencing and judgement system: just why do seemingly minor, or what would pass for petty crime attract such harsh sentences so fast? Omwoyoâ€™s case took only two days to be determined.
Omwoyoâ€™s case aside, jail sentences and petty crimes are no respecters of age.
Risper Ongwena, 87, was remanded for allegedly stealing two plastic chairs worth Sh550 each in Migori on January 5. The story elicited sharp reactions from Kenyans on social media who were dissatisfied with the Judiciaryâ€™s handling of the matter.
It took the intervention of Nairobi Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko and Migori politician Solomon Odoh and other well-wishers who camped outside the Migori GK Prison to demand the grannyâ€™s release. Senator Sonkoâ€™s personal assistant, George Omollo, said they settled the Sh5,000 cash bail imposed by the court to secure the grannyâ€™s release.
Following the story. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keriako Tobiko, issued an order for the case to be dismissed and the matter be settled out of court. Despite DPP Tobikoâ€™s orders however, the paperwork involved impeded the clearance process, keeping the granny in remand for at least five more hours.
Funny how it was her grandson who had stolen and dumped the seats at her house leading to her arrest, according to Margaret Onyango, the accusedâ€™s daughter, who added that theyÂ failed to get their granny released as they couldnâ€™tÂ make bail or get money to hire a lawyer to represent her.
Besides seats, stealing poultry has been known to occasion sentences that got many shaking their heads in disbelief. Committing Small crimes tag to #Small crimes big jail terms.
Take Fredrick Otieno and George Onyango for instance.
Both were found guilty of stealing four chickens between December 1 and 2,Â 2014 at Lundha sub-location in Gem Sub County in Siaya. They were sentenced to six years imprisonment by a High Court in Siaya County.
Three years earlier, Francis Gitau was caught red-handed slaughtering one of the two rabbits he had stolen on March 19, 2011 at Mugira, Murangâ€™a County. The rabbits were valued at Sh400 and were the property of 10-year-old Anthony Kaira, who found his rabbit cage empty upon returning home that evening. He made a couple of enquiries in the village and stumbled on Gitau slaughtering one of them.
The 42-year-old was jailed for two years.
That same year, a bicycle thief in Thika was jailed for two years too. Antony Kamau Ngugi admitted to stealing the bicycle valued at Sh9,000 on August 14 at Landless estate. He stole the bike while the owner, Hamis Ali Obare, was in a mosque.