A family is in mourning after a young husband and father died in an Ethiopian jail. This comes because Kenyan authorities supposedly ignored all appeals for help.
Mr Zakayo Gatimu, an information technology consultant, died last Saturday at Kalit Prison in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa where he had been held since January 10 last year.
He was arrested alongside a colleague, Mr Jedrick Mugo, just a day after arriving to do a site survey for installation of a Vsat Network in the town of Jigiga, some 620km north-west of Addis.
Mr Mugo was working for Space Engineering Limited and is still in custody awaiting trial.
The trial has been postponed numerous times for lack of witnesses, interpreters or absence of the magistrate.
Mr Muriuki was employed by BSS Ltd and was on the same contract with Mr Mugo.
Whey they arrived in Jijiga, they were arrested and charged with installing communication equipment without a licence. They were also accused of abetting terrorism. In the Kalit Prison, the duo found two other Kenyan telecommunications consultants, Mr Osborne Namai and Mr Maxwell Odhiambo, who have been languishing there since October 2014. The two were working for a different Ethiopian company, Skyline Communications, and are also facing charges of interfering with telecommunications facilities and supporting terrorism.
Since the arrest of Mr Muriuki and Mr Mugo, their families made frequent appeals to the government to help. They believed the charges were spurious and the accused would not get a ffair trial.
The families wrote appeals to the Kenyan ambassador in Addis, Ms Catherine Mwangi, deputy ambassador Aggrey Shitsama, the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amina Mohammed, former PS’s Foreign Affairs, Mr Karanja Kibicho and Ms Monica Juma, and Director of Diaspora at Foreign Affairs Washington Oloo.
None of the letters got a response. Family members travelled to Addis Ababa and met with a lower-ranking Kenyan embassy officials who promised to help, but nothing came of it.
Last year, Mr Muriuki’s father, Mr Emmanuel Gatimu, used an intermediary and met Foreign CS Amina Mohammed and PS Kibicho. Both pledged to help but nothing was forthcoming.
As the situation became increasingly dire with both the accused in poor health, the senior Mr Gatimu wrote to President Uhuru Kenyatta in August this year seeking intervention at the highest levels.
He detailed the circumstances of the arrests, that the two were jailed in “in despicable conditions and one of them, Zakayo Muriuki, is in poor health.
Their matters have been adjourned numerous times on flimsy grounds”. There was no response.
In October this year, things seemed to be looking up, says a friend of the family Anthony Nderitu. The judge at the Arada High Court indicated that he was fed up with numerous adjournments, and said he would make a ruling on October 27. Mr Muriuki and Mr Mugo went to court in high spirits, confident that the long ordeal was finally at the end, only to get another shock because the judge was absent,
A new hearing date was set for January 4, 2017, and both accused went back to remand. Mr Muriuki died later of suspected meningitis.
On Friday, Government spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the government had been working with Ethiopian authorities to have Mr Muriuki and Mr Mugo released and returned home.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said the Kenyan embassy in Addis had been in touch with the accused during his time in prison and had been engaging authorities to have him released.
The official said the embassy has already sent an inquiry to the Ethiopian government to demand answers on the cause of his death but declined to divulge further information noting it is sensitive.