FREE AT LAST
On 20th September 2018, an overjoyed Morris Kaberia was released from Kamiti Maximum Prison, in Kenya, after serving 13 years in prison. In an emotional farewell to his Kamiti law class, his colleagues were filled with mixed emotions, some shedding tears of joy as they recalled the impact he had in their lives. They remember him as one who fought fearlessly for the rights of other inmates and most of all as a team player at the Kamiti Legal Aid Clinic.
Kaberia was arrested in 2005. He spent 9 long years on remand until his trial in 2013, where he was sentenced, “to the only available sentence in the law, that of death by hanging until certified dead for the offence of Robbery with Violence.” A sentence that was commuted to life by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2015.
Kaberia had been working in the Kenyan Police Force for 12 years when his promising career was suddenly brought to a halt. “The memories of the doors locking behind me as I was escorted by prison wardens to my new home are still fresh in my mind. This marked the end of an active life fighting crime in the streets where I had almost lost my life through a bandit’s bullet just four years after I had been enrolled into the force,” he recalls.
Kaberia had often dreamt of becoming the best detective and senior officer but most importantly to see his children through their education, providing a comfortable living environment for his family. All this was cut short, as his wife and children were left to fend for themselves.
As a police officer, his passion for serving people often conflicted with the norms of the brutal police force that he served in and many would wonder how he helped people without expecting anything in return. On several occasions, he would argue with his colleagues over how well he handled people. Little did he know that this conflict of interest would later contribute to his arrest. An incident which he says he knew nothing about.
But life would never be the same. After his imprisonment, Kaberia’s uniform changed from that of a neatly pressed police officer into the patched and faded zebra-striped clothing worn by the very same people that he had previously put behind bars.
He soon fell into depression and spent his first days there trying to come to terms with what was happening to him. “I was destitute, lonely, discouraged and felt unwanted after having lost all my friends. In 2010, I experienced my most painful moment in prison when I lost my best friend - my father. Even worse, I was unable to attend his burial.”
Gradually, he met some of his current colleagues, Wilson and William, who encouraged him to join the law programme offered by APP as well as other church activities within the prison. It is at this point that he met a priest who assured him that God had great plans for his life. He encouraged him to pray consistently and read the Bible regularly for inspiration. “This priest taught me how to embrace a smile in order to get peace in my heart and with those around me.”
Since childhood, Kaberia had had ambitions to become a lawyer. He would listen to barristers on the radio talking about how they engaged witnesses in court and raised defensive arguments for their clients. He was fascinated with how the same law could be used by both sides to make different arguments at the same trial.
Today, at the age of 47, Kaberia is currently in his third year pursuing an LLB (Bachelor of Law degree) with the University of London following an education sponsorship programme provided by APP, through our Justice Changemaker Programme.
The Power of The Law
Kaberia’s life has seen unexpected twists and turns, from a police officer to a prisoner and now an aspiring lawyer. His story has also generated interest in Kenya’s leading newspaper. Fellow inmates formed part of the legal team in Kamiti that prepared court documents to help him successfully defend himself in court. On his second appeal, 13 years after his arrest, the court found that Kaberia’s rights at trial had been violated and ruled against both his sentence and his conviction.
“It would have been too emotional for me to do my own case, so I brought my files to class and my brothers stepped in to help me,” says Kaberia. “Joining the APP programme has completely changed my life. I got back my hope and dignity with the opportunity to attain my dreams once again. APP has taught me that everyone deserves a second chance in life and equips prisoners with the knowledge to offer legal advice and assistance to others.”.
As a freeman, Kaberia looks forward to reuniting with his family, completing his LLB and assisting the poor and marginalised to gain access to justice.
Find out how you can help others like Morris Kaberia become changemakers who use the law to help those who need it most.