Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Nairobi on Thursday to demand justice for a Kenyan rape victim, whose attackers were sentenced to cut grass. The case has sent shockwaves around the world.
Waving signs and placards, some holding women’s underwear strung together as a message against sexual violence, protesters from across Africa marched from Nairobi’s Uhuru Park to the gates of the inspector general’s office, united by a single message: Justice for Liz.
“We are here just to call the attention of the government of the police of this country to take the issue very serious,” explained Rafa Machava, a protester from Mozambique.
The rallying cause is the case of a 16-year-old girl, given the pseudonym Liz by the Kenyan media, who was gang raped in June while walking back from her grandfather’s funeral in Busia county in western Kenya.
She was so badly injured in the attack, that she is now confined to a wheelchair.
The rapists, whom she identified, were taken to the local authorities who ordered them to cut grass in the police station compound as punishment. They were then set free.
“I would like to see them brought behind bars,” said Vincer Mwali, who came to the protest with a group of women from Mombasa, on the Kenyan coast.
“I’m a mother who has children, I have a girl, who like one day if such a thing can happen to her, how can I feel? So I want justice to be done to Liz,” Mwali added.
The demonstrators delivered a petition, signed by more than one million people in an online campaign, to the office of Inspector General David Kimaiyo. The petition demands the arrest of the rapists and punishment for the police officers involved for mishandling the case.
The case, originally reported by Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper has gained the attention of African rights groups.
Emma Kaliya, chair of the African women’s development organization Femnet, said activists from 21 countries across the continent joined Thursday’s protest.
“Everywhere in Africa these things are happening," she noted. "And that’s why we are demanding it in a very holistic way. We are not only talking about Kenya, we are talking about all the countries in Africa to do something about this problem.”
Kenyan officials, including Inspector Kimaiyo, have offered assurances that justice will be done.
The director of the public prosecutor’s office says he has ordered the arrest of the six suspects involved. But so far, none have been apprehended.