A Death Retold In Truth And Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder (2015)

by Grace A. Musila 

(James Currey 2015)

Cover smallJulie Ann Ward was a British tourist and wildlife photographer who went missing in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve in 1988 and was eventually found to have been murdered. Her death and the protracted search for her killers, still at large, were hotly contested in the media. Many theories emerged as to how and why she died, generating three trials, several ‘true crime’ books, and much speculation and rumour.

At the core of Grace A. Musila’s study are the following questions: why would this young woman’s death be the subject of such strong contestations of ideas and multiple truths? And what does this reveal about cultural productions of truth and knowledge in Kenya and Britain, particularly in the light of the responses to her disappearance of the Kenyan police, the British Foreign Office, and the British High Commission in Nairobi.

Building on existing scholarship on African history, narrative, gender and postcolonial studies, the author reveals how the Julie Ward murder and its attendant discourses o er insights into the journeys of ideas, and how these traverse the porous boundaries of the relationship between Kenya and Britain, and by extension, Africa and the Global North.

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 1.55.48 AMAnnie Gagiano in Safundi 

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Ruth Mumbi, Human Rights, and the Dhobi of Kenya

Ruth Mumbi (Visiting Fellow) Centre for Applied Human Rights University of York
Ruth Mumbi (Visiting Fellow)
Centre for Applied Human Rights
University of York

The gasp that escaped from the audience in response to the image projected before them was proof that Ruth Mumbi, angry tears shining in her eyes, had succeeded in driving home the reality of her message and cause – a reality worlds apart from that of those privileged enough to have attended Ruth’s talk last Friday on the 17th of October. Ruth herself was the subject of the photo and in it she was being dragged up by three police into the back of a truck.

She didn’t so much as blink when she proceeded to mention that she had experienced physical abuse during her time spent in police custody. According to Ruth, she was one of the lucky ones. Having developed a profile as a Human Rights Defender (HRD) many NGOs and other organisations were willing to post her bail. Those beginning to tread down the road of fighting for human rights in Kenya, those without a profile or history, are unlikely to have their bail posted for them. The police had seized Ruth on suspicion of her organising an illegal assembly in protest against a 16% tax increase on commodities (more details to be found here).

Ruth is currently a visiting fellow at the University of York, and is being hosted by the Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR). At the focal point of her talk here at York was the organisation Wamama wa Dhobi that she has been part of organising in order to address the maltreatment of informal domestic workers living in Mathare, an informal settlement outside of Nairobi. The troubles of these domestic workers has risen as a result of a stipulation in Kenyan law which recognises only those domestic workers who live with the family they work for. These women, known as Dhobi (which means ‘laundry’ in Swahili), are frequently exploited by their employees who offer them a below minimum wage and then assert the right not to pay the women if they have found their work for the day to be unsatisfactory. Instances of physical abuse and rape are not uncommon. Continue reading