Wilson Kinyua’s Release
After serving 19 years in prison, Wilson Kinyua finally got his date with freedom on Wednesday 13th February 2019. “I cannot describe how I feel at the moment. I had anticipated freedom but did not expect it to come as soon as it did.’’ Wilson was released alongside 5 others whom he had personally represented, after presenting a constitutional petition with 11 others as the lead petitioner, before presiding Judge Luka Kimaru.
Wilson’s time in prison began on 17th December 1998. At that time, Kenya was still due to face its worst drought in 60 years. That was the year Google was founded but Microsoft had already become the biggest company in the world. David Beckham had been sent off with a red card in England's World Cup game against Argentina. And Arsenal - Wilson’s favourite team - ended the year as Premier League and FA Cup double winners.
In prison though now, life changed dramatically for Wilson Kinyua: “Have you ever [been] dealt with a major injustice and the world moved on as if nothing happened?”
Wilson was arrested on his first year after high school 19 years ago. He is a country boy with no urban experience and was accused of bank robbery on his first visit to the capital, Nairobi. Now Wilson is a final year law student [LLB] studying with the University of London via APP’s Justice Changemaker Programme.
Wilson first wanted to be involved in the University of London [UoL] programme as a result of his personal experience in court. Unable to pay for a lawyer, Wilson had to represent himself and recalls it being an exceptionally intimidating process. Later, having already trained as a paralegal by Kituo cha Sheria, Wilson was keen to equip himself further so as to support those inmates in prison without the means to pay for representation. He got a chance to meet Alexandra McLean, APP’s founder, and joined the UoL programme soon after. At first, he says, it was just something he did to pass time but soon he grew to love the work he does.
Although the shortest in class, Wilson is often times the loudest in the class. Determined to ensure clarity on every lesson and of every debate, Wilson is always the first to provide an answer or raise a question. On days when Wilson seems somber, and less full of laughter, one can feel the mood of the whole room change. His is a character that carries others.
He talks of the change he has seen in Kamiti over the last 19 years. With APP’s presence in Kamiti, Wilson states that it has helped grow the relationship between inmates and staff, reducing the ‘us and them’ mentality of prison life. Now the prisoners are becoming students and the prison staff are becoming teachers, with the school having grown from nothing to a strong educational facility in the past 5 years.
To be able to represent his peers in prison and become as qualified as possible to support their appeals has been Wilson’s main focus.
“With knowledge comes better self-expression and communication, using the knowledge we are getting from our legal aid team and UoL, we are better equipped to support our peers, and are able to grow,” he states.
Alongside his UoL studies and paralegal work, Wilson has also studied accountancy and been a teacher of Business and Math. He also heads the drama group - Sparks of Justice - which takes real cases in order to act out the trial. This helps inmates learn how to approach the court process effectively, and for those who have to self-represent, how to do that proficiently as well. Additionally, Wilson has been attempting to put together a rights education magazine, with news and updates from within and outside the prison walls. He hopes that in the future he will be able to circulate it outside the prison, as a way of creating a link between the inmates and the outside world as well as being able to deter Kenya’s youth from ending up where he was.
And yet, Wilson explains that even these accomplishments cannot make up for all the years he has been away.
A day after his release, he talks about going to Nyahururu to visit his father - as well as to visit his mother and sister’s graves who died whilst he was in prison.
Wilson wants to settle down and hopefully start a family. He wants to use the knowledge he has received to do work which will allow him to continue helping others. He also wants to follow up on the ones he stood in court with - just yesterday. He explains that if things go as per the plans he has made, he hopes to help those behind bars get the justice they deserve.
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