NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 31 – Prison warders in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison on Wednesday blocked an attempt by inmates to escape the facility, sparking tension in neighbouring residential estates.,
Warders shot into the air to disperse unruly inmates, some of whom had defied orders to return to their cell-houses. The stand-off was sparked by an irregular search for illegal items.
Additional officers from the nearby Kasarani police division were deployed to reinforce hundreds of warders to contain the melee in the facility.
Security forces cordoned off adjacent roads and blocked traffic.
A group of journalists were barred from accessing the facility and some were even roughed up as they took photographs of the warders.
“We are on high alert, these are dangerous people they have been looking for such opportunities to try to escape but I can assure you they can not manage. May be anywhere else, not from Kamiti,” a warder told Capital News.
He said at least six other colleagues were wounded as they battled to contain the inmates, many of whom sustained injuries from the confrontation that started at about 5.00 am.
A death row inmate told Capital News in a telephone interview that tension was still high at the facility by 6.00 pm on Wednesday.
“We have skipped two meals since morning because these people (warders) are shooting all over and threatening anyone. We are even scared to go out,” he said.
Commissioner of Prisons Isaiah Osugo later told Capital News that the situation was under ‘total control’.
“Everything is under control. My officers are on the ground to ensure all the inmates are safe. No prisoner has managed to escape,” he said.
Osugo said prison authorities had destroyed an assortment of illegal items seized from inmates in recent months. They included 1500 mobile phones, sim-cards, portable radios, six DVD players, swords, marijuana other illegal items recovered from inmates, mainly those convicted to death or serving life sentences.
They were destroyed and set ablaze at an open ground at the Lang’ata Prisons in the presence Osugo and other senior prison officers.
Osugo said items were mainly recovered from the Kamiti, Naivasha G.K Prison and Kodiaga where warders have intensified raids in the past three months.
“The law requires that we destroy all contraband recovered from inmates and that is why we are doing it in public. You can see everything is here,” he said, adding that prison authorities’ will not allow contraband in the penal institutions.
“That is why we are intensifying raids,” he added.
Osugo said a recent probe implicated senior prison officials and warders of colluding with inmates to smuggle illegal items into the penal institutions, particularly Kamiti which is the largest in the country.
Officials have blamed smuggling for the death of at least four inmates in the past three months.
The latest was the death of two inmates who consumed lethal brew laced with dangerous chemicals smuggled by the inmates from the prison industry during Christmas day.
Three other inmates who consumed large quantities of the illicit brew lost their eyesight and were treated at the Kenyatta National Hospital and discharged. Their fate remains unknown.
“Our investigations have unearthed a major cartel involving even some of my senior officers who are to blame for the mess. I am in the process of dismantling all these cartels and any officer found culpable will face the consequences,” he said.
At least thirty senior officers have been sent on compulsory leave or interdicted in the past three months and Osugo warns more will follow. “I will not spare any one.”