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Woman arrested on her first day in Nairobi, spends year in jail

When six women were arrested by Flying Squad officers at a clinic in Soweto village in Nairobi’s Kayole in 2014, one of them had no idea what was happening.

It was Peninah Kerubo’s first day ever in the big city and she thought all that was a prank. Little did she know that the arrest on July 7, 2014 would see her languish in remand for a whole year.

“At first I thought that it was some sort of prank. Everything happened so fast as if we were acting some movie,” says the 30-year-old.

Her cousin Abel Onwong’a, who had picked her from Country Bus in Nairobi, had left her at a pharmacy and told her to wait for his wife who was to take her home.

“He (Mr Onwong’a) showed me around and I even went to Uhuru Park and enjoyed riding a boat in the waters,” said Ms Kerubo.

ORDERED TO BOARD LAND CRUISER

When Mr Onwong’a left, she sat at the chemist that was owned by a woman who she later learnt was called Sera Ambiyo.

All of a sudden, plain clothes policemen arrested them and ordered them to board a waiting Land Cruiser.

As the officers were pushing them to the vehicle, Ms Kerubo said that journalists started flashing their cameras on them and unlike the other women who were hiding their faces, she looked at the journalists in dismay.

Ms Kerubo also said that she had no previous convictions and had never been reported to the police.

“Before I was mistakenly picked up by the police, nobody had ever reported me to the police for anything,” said Ms Kerubo.

ARRESTED INNOCENT WOMAN

As the vehicle drove away, she tried to explain to the officers that they had arrested an innocent woman but all her pleas fell on deaf ears.

That night she was forced to spend her night at the Pangani police station with the other women. She was lost in thoughts, wondering whether it was illegal to sit inside a pharmacy in Nairobi.

“Thoughts raced through my mind. I tried to ask the women why we were arrested but they all looked at me and ignored,” she said.

Ms Kerubo did not know the “grave offence” for which she had been apprehended until the following morning when they were taken to Milimani Law Courts.

“We were charged with child trafficking and each one of us was released on a bond of Sh10 million or a cash bail of Sh5 million,” she recalls.

TAKEN TO LANG’ATA WOMEN’S PRISON

She could not raise the money and she was taken back to the police station before being taken to Lang’ata Women’s Prison.

From the dock where she was standing on the day she was charged, Ms Kerubo remembers how she kept on throwing glances at her relatives and exchanged smiles with them as the proceedings went on.

“I thought that the magistrate would realise that I was mistakenly arrested. But my joy was cut short when the court slapped us with the bond,” said Ms Kerubo.

It is from that ruling that Ms Kerubo’s one-year spell in the Lang’ata prisons began.

She said that every time there was a hearing in the court, the magistrate kept on deferring the case and that became her life for a year.

“I then became prayerful and started reading the Bible in jail, believing that one day I would finally taste freedom,” she said.

Then one day when she appeared in court, Ms Kerubo did not believe it when a police officer from the CID department said he was ready to testify in the case.

FINAL JUDGMENT

The magistrate then gave a date when he would hear the case and make the final judgment against Ms Kerubo.

“All this time I was already crying and the fact that my relatives were also in the court made me cry even more,” she said.

As they left the court, Noah Chemweno, the prosecutor, followed her and for the first time she felt that she was about to walk free again.

The prosecutor then told her that investigations had proven that she had committed no offence and was mistakenly arrested with the rest.

“The prosecutor then asked me whether I would be the key witness in the case as he promised me that in the next hearing I would be set free,” she narrated.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 is a day that will forever remain etched on Ms Kerubo’s mind. That is the day the prosecutor shot up from his seat and revealed that, indeed, she was mistakenly arrested.

Ms Kerubo said that the magistrate then ordered that her case be struck out while the cases against the five other women should go on.

FACES LIGHTING UP

“As the magistrate went on reading his ruling, I could see the faces of my relatives lighting up with smiles,” she said.

She says her parents were forced to sell their land in order to raise money to secure her bail.

Her pains worsened when she realised that her husband with whom she had a son dumped her and married another woman after learning that she had been jailed.

“My son also dropped out of school during the time I was in jail as there was no one to pay his school fees,” Ms Kerubo said.

However, she says that she is recovering and she has forgiven all the people who were involved in her arrest. She is currently a businesswoman in Kisii town, dealing in cosmetic business.

“God has opened my ways despite the fact that the business I started has not picked well am trying. I also decided to forgive the people who were involved in my arrest,” she said.