Renowned human rights warrior Wangui Mbatia has died at a Kericho hospital where she was being treated for cancer.
Wangui was an indefatigable and relentless civil rights campaigner, who engaged in many street battles for many struggles, ranging from the rising cost of living to greedy MPs awarding themselves lavish sendoff packages.
Over the years she was arrested and charged a dozen times, tossed in jail, teargassed and beaten by police in the streets of Nairobi.
Wangui died on February 10 and had been ailing since 2014, She had been reduced to seeking public help to cater for her hospital bills. In one of her Facebook posts, Wangui said cancer treatment had drained her finances to the last coin. Her friends had set up an account to raise funds.
“Please help me if you can, time is of the essence. I am doing better, day by day,” she stated.
Her death came 10 years after she organised her first major public demonstration against MPs, who planned to raid the public coffers.
In 2007, alongside other civil society activists, she organised a huge demonstration outside Parliament to protest against plans by the MPs of the Ninth Parliament to award themselves a Sh1 million gratuity per legislator.
Wangui has died at a time when the 11th Parliament has proposed to award itself Sh3.3 billion in ‘severance’ pay for the 416 lawmakers.
Had Wangui been alive today, she would likely be engaging police in the streets to save a new generation of taxpayers from the clutches of outgoing MPs of the August House.
She was also behind the push to have MPs pay taxes, for which she was arrested and charged. She was released together with other activists after each paid a Sh20,000 fine.
Wangui was later arrested and charged over the demonstrations, but later released.
She was a celebrated street fighter, who did not shy away from raising her voice for a just cause.
Wangui was the executive director of the Kenya Network of Grassroots Organisations.
Doctors had given her only two months to live when she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
Wangui will be remembered both in the advocacy community and beyond for her courage, resilience and passion for a just society that saw her in and out of police cells and the courts.
Her activities were noticed by then US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, who mentioned her, among a number of other activists, in a secret cable to the State Department and later leaked by WikiLeaks.
Despite financial and health problems, her fighting spirit was strong and she was supporting the current doctors’ strike from her hospital bed.
On January 10, she addressed the doctor’s strike in one of her last posts, “The doctors’ strike means that most public hospital are not admitting patients to hospitals, like St Mary’s. Those who will come after the last bed is taken will be turned away. A few lucky ones will get into another hospital. The majority will go back home to wait for the strike to end. Some will survive, some will die.”
She is survived by her widower Polycarp Nyauma and daughter Celine Gesare.
It is with humble acceptance of God’s will that we announce the death of Tfosa Wangui Mbatia Nyauma of the Kenya Network of Grassroots Organisations (KeNGO).
Beloved wife of Polycarp Nyauma. Mother of Celine Gesare. Daughter of the late Josphat Mbatia and the late Nelly Wambui. Sister of Wanja (KNA), the late Kinuthia, Wanjiku, Wangari and Kiambuthi of Kinoo, Kiambu. Daughter in law of George and Celine Nyauma of Oloosirkon, Kajiado. Sister in law of Fridah, Shila, Angela, Njoki, Wanjiru, Kibe and Nyutu.
Family and friends are meeting at Holy Family Basilica daily from 5.30pm and at the parents’ Kinoo and Oloosirkon homes. Main harambee will be held on Tuesday 21st February at 680 Hotel from 5pm.
Burial will take place on Friday 24th February 2017 at Oloosirkon, Kajiado County.