Author ‘flees Kenya’ after court rules against her in Smitta’s sexual assault case
A woman who was ordered to pay more than Sh9 million in damages to newspaper columnist and author Tony Mochama has fled the country just days after the court judgment.
BuzzFeed reports that activist and author Shailja Patel fled the country a few days after the judgment that was delivered on August 6.
Two weeks ago, Principal magistrate Addah Obura ordered Patel and Wambui Mwangi to pay Mochama alias Smitta Sh8 million in general damages, Sh1 million in exemplary damages and to send him a written apology in 14 days.
She also issued a mandatory injunction against the two, restraining them from ever posting defamatory statements about the writer.
It all started back in 2014 when Patel and Wambui also an author, took to social media, accusing Mochama of sexually assaulting the former at a poetry party in Loresho, Nairobi.
They claimed that he had sexually assaulted Ms Patel at an event held at Wambui’s house.
Mochama sued Patel and Wambui in January 2015 after they started the Twitter campaign to have him fired by the Standard Group.
But after the magistrate ruled in Mochama’s favour, Patel has gone into hiding after refusing to comply.
After the judgement Patel deactivated her social media accounts and then once she had left the country, the 49-year-old writer and activist began to tweet about the alleged incident five years ago, and the subsequent grueling court case that led her to uproot her whole life.
“They will not humiliate me. They will not disappear me. They will not break me,” she tweeted.
I’ve left Kenya. I’ve gone into exile, knowing I face jail if I ever come home. Tony Mochama and Wanjeri Nderu-Musembi will not silence me.
They will not humiliate me.
They will not disappear me.
They will not break me.
— Shailja Patel (@shailjapatel) August 14, 2019
She now blames corruption and racial undertones for her loss. “We lost because the system is utterly and absolutely corrupted,” Patel told BuzzFeed. “I could have saved my time and not bothered to engage it at all.” The BuzzFeed article says Patel, being a Kenyan woman of Indian descent, is “deeply aware of the racial dynamics of her case”.
TRUTH FINALLY OUT
After the judgment was issued two weeks ago, Mochama expressed his joy, saying that the truth has finally come out.
“In this day and age, it is very cheap and easy to defame someone on social media but I am glad that the truth has finally come out. I believe in justice,” he said.
During the ruling, the magistrate held that the words in the tweets were defamatory and calculated to ridicule or lower Mochama’s esteem in the eyes of the public through social media.
She said the two, who did not strike as ignorant or illiterate, should have known that it was reckless and ill-advised to resort to social media to give damaging information concerning Mochama without any evidence.
“I have considered the legal position and re-looked at the tweets as well as the threads on Mochama’s documents. The truth of these tweets concerning Mochama has not been established,” she said.
The magistrate added that there was no doubt that the tweets relate to Mochama and that he is referred to as a sexual assaulter and a molester.
According to the court records, Wambui subsequently took to Twitter and published defaming words.
The campaign, according to Mochama, was to put pressure on organisations he worked with to relieve him of his duties.
Mochama claimed the tweets were malicious and calculated to tarnish his name. He contended that the publications cause him to be termed as a sexual molester, assaulter and rapist, which was unfounded and false.
But Wambui denied publishing the malicious claims. She, however, admitted that on September 20, 2014, Mochama visited her home and sexually assaulted Patel.
Speaking to Sunday Nation, Mochama said he was looking forward to the apology. “It is the apology that I’m most looking forward to,” Mr Mochama said.