The first of some 7,000 prisoners released from Kenyan facilities was to begin Thursday with a group leaving the Nairobi West facility, local media said, as President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed that corrupt leaders should take their place.
Kenyatta’s remarks came during Mashujaa Day commemorations held at Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos. He told participants that the move will relieve overcrowding within the prison system while making space for more serious offenders.
More than 55,000 people are incarcerated in Kenyan jails, most of them because of petty offenses. Micah Powan, director of Kenya’s correctional services, told The Standard that the number was more than twice the capacity of Kenya’s jails, which are built to house 27,000 inmates.
Powon said that fines are set too high for poor Kenyans to pay, and tied to laws that fail to distinguish between a woman seeking firewood for her family and a logger in violation of the Forest Act. His remarks, made as a report on community service and probation options was revealed, stressed a new reliance on community-based corrections.
Kenyatta, who has the constitutional authority to grant the releases, said they should take effect immediately.
The Mashujaa events, as part of the annual Heroes Day celebration, included the unveiling of a statue of Paul Ngei, a Kenyan politician and leader of the anti-colonial revolution who died in 2004. Ngei was from the Machakos region.
Holiday celebrations were marred, however, when thousands of would-be participants were denied access because the stadium was full. Security forces tried to control the crowd as it surged, leaving numerous people and at least one journalist reported injured.
Image: President Uhuru Kenyatta