Tweeting from a prison cell in Kenya
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The man behind the alias “Modern Kenyan Corps” works as a prison warden in Kenya, but doubles as an activist, using social media to expose corruption from within the Kenyan security forces. On Friday, however, he was arrested on suspicions of graft. Despite the fact he was going from prison warden to prisoner, Modern Corps remained an activist: he managed to live tweet his arrest and his experience being held in deplorable conditions at Ruiru Police station. Activists who visited him also contributed photos and tweets about the case and the conditions of the cell.
The activist known as "Modern Kenyan Corps" (right) tweeted while in custody at Ruiru police station this weekend, including this selfie with visiting activist Cyprian Nyakundi (photo: Twitter)
The man behind the alias “Modern Kenyan Corps” worked as a prison warden in Kenya but doubled as an activist, using social media to expose corruption from within the Kenyan security forces. On Friday, however, he was arrested on suspicions of graft. Yet, despite the fact that he was going from prison warden to prisoner, Modern Corps remained an activist: he managed to live tweet his arrest and his experience while being held in deplorable conditions at Ruiru Police station. Activists who visited him also contributed photos and tweets about the case and conditions of the cell.
Until he was arrested, few people knew the identity of the man behind “Modern Kenyan Corps” and several exposés of corrupt, high-ranking police officers. However, all of that changed Friday, May 22. In the morning, Modern Corps—whose real name is Patrick Safari—tweeted about a summons he had received.
Just been summoned to Prisons Training College, Ruiru..So far nothing more has been communicated to me.. Nikiwekwa Ndani nitasema— modern kenyan corps (@moderncorps) May 22, 2015
Things quickly got hairy.
Have just been arrested at Ruiru Prison College..Somebody alleging I conned Him some cash during 6th may Kenya Prisons recruitment..— modern kenyan corps (@moderncorps) May 22, 2015
Being Held at Ruiru Pol Station..— modern kenyan corps (@moderncorps) May 22, 2015
Police took away Modern Corps' phone. Though his Twitter account was silent on Saturday, Kenyans who had seen his tweets starting drumming up support under the hashtag #FreeModernCorps.
A group of fellow activists, fearing that Modern Corps' arrest was a ploy to silence him, went to Ruiru police station on Sunday to find out more about the charges against him. They were accompanied by a lawyer and members of Modern Corps' family.
The police are investigating #FreeModernCorps for obtaining money using false pretense. He allegedly sold fake prison admission letters. 1/5— Boniface Mwangi (@bonifacemwangi) May 24, 2015
Police say Modern Corps and another warden allegedly received 570,000 Kenyan shillings for fake admission letters to a prison warden college, according to activist Boniface Mwangi. The police claimed to have recordings of the transactions. Modern Corps claims he was set up.
The activists discovered that while the police’s case against Modern Kenyan Corps is tight, he is being kept in deplorable conditions.
"The conditions there were terrible. There were 15 men in his cell. They were using metal buckets as toilets and had no blankets. Somebody can be a criminal but it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to food and clean water. People have rights. We took pictures to highlight the conditions we saw," said activist and blogger Cyprian Nyakundi, who was so shocked by the conditions that he plans to launch a campaign for prison reform in the upcoming days.
The visiting activists negotiated for Modern Corps to get his phone back, supposedly so that he could call his family about the cash bail. However, Modern Corps began to tweet again, exposing the conditions in the prison.
Still Being detained at Ruiru Police Station... In the 21st century inmates still using buckets as toilets. pic.twitter.com/YPyo59P9du— modern kenyan corps (@moderncorps) May 24, 2015
He also alleged he had been assaulted.
They detained me since on Friday, they assaulted me, the OCS said I should not communicate with anybody.. But am still STRONG.— modern kenyan corps (@moderncorps) May 24, 2015
When FRANCE 24 spoke to activists on Sunday evening, they said Modern Corps was supposed to be released on bail by 7:30am on Monday, though police planned to officially charge him with the alleged crimes later in the day. However, by Monday afternoon, Modern Corps was still in prison and his Twitter account had gone silent.
When contacted by FRANCE 24 Monday, Nyakundi said police had taken away Modern Corps’ phone. He also said:
“The DCIO [Director of Criminal Investigations Officer] in charge of Ruiru station is mad that we tweeted the pics exposing the conditions of the cells and that is why the matter hasn’t been resolved yet. Modern Corps told me they may take him to court.”
Police in Ruiru and neighbouring Thika were unavailable for comment.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Brenna Daldorph (@brennad87)