Kind gesture sees rejected ex-convict get a home
Rehabilitation and integration of convicts who have been released from jail remains a challenge in most communities.
Not so many find themselves comfortable leaving with ex-convicts, hence the reason why they face rejection and often find themselves homeless.
But one young woman, with a heart of gold decided to welcome Peter Weru, prisoner number KAM/2403/2013/PP, who was violently rejected by relatives after serving 41 years in prison.
Ruth Wangu says she will give Peter Wachira, 72, popularly known as Kibaki within prison fraternity, a new lease of life, promising to fully support him including ensuring that he gets a wife and conducts a colourful wedding ceremony.
“At my family, we embrace all and discriminate none. When we next invite you, it will be to celebrate Weru’s wedding, and it will be colourful,” Wangu told a gathering at her home during the re-union.
At the age of 32, Weru was convicted to serve a life sentence for killing a friend with whom he had differed over campaigns handouts. In 2015, he was released from prison under Presidential Power of Mercy, but his immediate family at Karogoto Village rejected him.
“The villagers and relatives were very hostile. They bayed for his blood. We opted to get him a temporary home,” says Jane Nyaguthii, Nyeri County Director of Probation Services. She adds: “Having stayed too long in prison, Weru was very shocked to see women wearing trousers when we first visited him after his release.”
Weru was taken to St Joseph Cafasso Consolation House, where he lived with young boys until Wangu’s family accepted to shelter him, and as the government and other stakeholders worked on other logistics including constructing him a house at a piece of land donated by Wangu’s family.
Going by the way she was dressed during the colourful home-coming part in her old semi-permanent house, it is clear that Wangu, who is married to Weru’s nephew Wilson Wachira, is not richer than the ex-convicts immediate family members who rejected him in 2015.
However, she has a generous heart which has earned her a lot of respect at Gatuanyaga Village in Kieni East Constituency.
Her riches include only nine cows, having lost six others between last year and this year due to ongoing drought.
One gets attracted to Wangu because of her fluent mastery of English, perfect oratory skills and confidence. These reveal another side prompting one to dig about her past, a topic she tactfully avoids with a bright smile.
“My husband came back home one day to inform me that a friend of his had told him about a released uncle who was still languishing in prison since he had no home to go to,” says Wangu. “I encouraged him to visit Kamiti Prison to confirm the claims, which he did the following day.”
At Kami Prison, Weru disowned Wachira dismissing him as an impostor with ulterior motives. This forced Wachira to visit a second time, accompanied by Weru’s younger sister.
“He recognised our auntie but the problem was that after the initial rejection, Weru was unwilling to leave the prison premises. We later discussed his plight with my husband and agreed that we would host him,” explains Wangu. She poses: “If God has blessed us with good health and a home, why abandon our uncle after serving such a long time in prison for a crime he committed before we were born?”
The mother of three says she knew the next challenge would be to have the community embrace Weru considering that his immediate family had initially rejected him.
With that in mind, she assured her husband that she was going to convince the local community accept him back and
accord him the respect he deserved. She would do this as her husband embarked on other logistics involved in releasing his uncle.
“We had no cash to build him a house, nor financial muscle to support him. My fears were that we may not be able to fully support all his needs,” says Wangu. She adds: “We did not want a situation whereby our responsibility would be limited to feeding our uncle as idled the whole day. This would have stigmatized him even more.”
Wangu says they then decided they would give him a comfortable but active live to endear him to the community.
The local Nyumba Kumi chairman, Michael Warurete, says Wangu was able to convince the community that Weru was a reformed man.
“Wangu is a genuine, hardworking, supportive and generous woman. She has adopted a young child whom she is supporting and is always supporting and participating in community affairs,” says Warurete. He notes: “We had no reason to doubt her and even if we did, there was no way of saying no to her request because she is a very resourceful member of our community.”
Mary Mbau, Director of Probation and Aftercare Services says Wangu’s family decision to donate a piece of land to their uncle was a major breakthrough.
“We visited the home and they identified the piece of land they wanted to donate to Weru. We agreed to seek help from other stakeholders to assist in building a house and purchasing other household requirements from our partners led by Rodi-Kenya, FARAJA and Power of Mercy Advisory Committee- POMAC among others agreed to support the initiative,” says Mbau. He explains: “That’s how the house was built.”
Among the goodies contributed by included foodstuff, utensils, beddings, a water tank and furniture.
To reward Wangu’s family, Rodi-Kenya will train the local community on appropriate technologies, farming and entrepreneurship skills.
“My officers will visit the community to identify the areas of interest. Wangu’s kind gesture is unmatched and because of that we are going to reward the community by offering the skills and any other support to empower them,” says Ngunjiri Kihoro Executive Director Rodi-Kenya. He adds: “Weru will be among the beneficiaries and must be fully involved in the activities to be undertaken.”
Rodi-Kenya only supports convicts they have trained in prison but Ngunjiri said his organization was motivated by Wangu’s kindness to support the community, adding that her actions will be a blessing to the local community.
Michael Kagika, Chief Executive Officer POMAC says community should embrace and accept those released under Presidential Power of Mercy, saying it’s a very rigorous vetting process which involves tracking a convict’s records before sentencing, conduct in the prison, consultation with local communities as well as security and probation office. They also talk to local leaders and family members.
“Kenyans must learn to embrace those released under Presidential Power of Mercy which only allows those proven to have reformed and are remorseful to qualify,” explains Kagika. He notes: “I can assure the community that Weru is a reformed person and will be a resourceful member of the community.”