“I survived being hanged in Kamiti Maximum Prison, to come die in freedom,” says Mr Kisilu Mutua, the man who was convicted for the assassination of Pio Gama Pinto in 1965.
At only 23, he was jailed for 36 years for the killing of the fiery politician two years after independence.
Kisilu, who was pardoned by President Daniel Moi in July 2001 after a campaign by his family and pressure groups, insists he was not responsible for the murder of Mr Pinto who was involved in the independence struggle.
Now 80, Kisilu laments that a recent development threatens to rob him of his life in old age. He regrets that a plot he was gifted by the government in Kiambiyo area in Eastleigh Section III after his release, is about to be taken away from him.
At the time of his release in 2001, his mother, who had last visited him in 1971, had died. His father had long died prior to his arrest. In early July 2001 authorities took him to their home in Machakos where more shock awaited him.
“I was taken to the Ministry of Home Affairs and transported to my home in Machakos where my family lived. But my mum had died and I remember the last time she visited me was in 1971. Now I was free but she was no more. My two brothers also had passed on, and my other sibling disappeared to Tanzania, that’s what I was told,” Kisilu recollects.
With none of his immediate relatives around, their land had new occupiers.
“When I got home, I was extremely scared because people had occupied our land. So I thought, they will kill me since may be they have heard of what I was accused of,” Kisilu recounts. He opted to return with his benefactors to Nairobi.
“I opted to come back in the same car, to go back to the ministry so that they could help me get somewhere to settle.”
The ministry instructed the Nairobi City Council to find a place to resettle him. That is how he secured the Kiambiyo plot and authorities permitted him to establish a carpentry business. He put up at a temporary premise paid for by the government as the paper work for the plot was processed.
But his joy was short-lived as his new home was being claimed by a church. One Sunday morning in 2004, the land dispute turned ugly when his makeshift iron sheet house was demolished.
“Some people came and removed my house, and went with all the materials. I was called by some boys who told me people from this neighbouring church had removed everything. I found the last person carrying the last iron sheet,” Kisilu remembers.
This account is corroborated by copies of various correspondence, one of which is a 2006 letter by the Eastleigh South ward manager. The letter addressed to the Provincial Probation Officer also confirms the state’s move to resettle him.
“I refer to the above memo dated 1/12/2005 to confirm to you I have visited this site given to Mr Kisilu Mutua and confirmed its not illegal… Please do the necessary,” reads the letter dated January 16, 2006.
A year later, Kisilu complained to authorities that members of a nearby Church had “demolished 11 poles, which had been reinforced with cement and concrete.”
“The plot had been identified and given to him by the ward managers … The chief valuer had given direction to the ward manger to identify the plot in his letter dated 1st December 2006. Please assist Mr Kisilu to get back the said items,” Ms Jane Mwangi, the Provincial Probation Officer, wrote on June 19, 2007 to concerned authorities.
Kisilu says the threats of evictions never quite went away and have become bolder recently, prompting him to speak out, especially given that he now has a family looking up to him.
“I had to get married and get children. I lost everyone, including my family while I was in prison, loneliness is what kills you inside there and I never wanted to feel lonely again,” he says.
On Wednesday, the Nation visited his home, an old two-room iron sheets house, sitting on the 40 by 80ft plot that is at the heart of the protracted dispute.
Inside the humble abode, a black 14-inch TV is placed on the far right side of the room. In the middle is a wooden black table with pieces of food. A panga can be seen under the curtain that divides the living room and the bedroom. The other room doubles up as a store and a carpentry workshop. An old green kerosene stove stands at the farthest corner of the room next to an old sofa.
Kisilu, seated on a stool facing his TV, stares at the blank screen for a while before he raises his head to recount an attack that convinced him the threats weren’t idle. He had to send his wife and two children back to his in-laws in Machakos.
“I have three children, two boys and my small girl. I am scared for them. I had to send them home because in April I was attacked. Five men armed with pangas broke into my house at 12am. My family was asleep. I woke up and grabbed a panga. I was scared but I am a father, I have to protect my family,” he recalls.
“I knew that was the day I was going to die, but luckily three of the men recognised me during our time in prison. They spared me. That’s why I had to send my wife and children back home in Machakos because I don’t want to risk their lives,” Kisilu says.
“I learnt carpentry while in prison and now I make sofa sets for a living, but I cannot display them because the church has built a wall in front of my house. Now people cannot see what I have made, that was my source of income.
“I have never done anyone wrong, I was falsely accused and did 36 years in prison. And it’s the government that put me here. I have built a home here, I need help. If they can attack me while there was no wall, now that I am enclosed what will happen? I am scared for my life,” Kisilu says.