Baraka Karama @PeopleDailyKe
One of Kenya’s oldest prisoners who just came out after serving 15 years has opened up with a harrowing tale of rampant homo-sexuality and other woes behind bars.
Eighty-seven-year-old Mzee Alfayo Gombe who was jailed for15 years and released in January, this year, reveals that curbing homo-sexuality within the congested jails might not be easy since many prisoners can’t speak out for fear of punishment by fellow mates.
“Hundreds of prisoners are subjected to homosexuality by force and just learn to live with it since the prison authorities avoid confronting the problem,” said Mzee Gombe who served part of his time in Kodiaga prison, Kisumu.
Mzee Gombe, who was the oldest prisoner at the facility when he was released, was jailed for defilement at his rural home in Kochogo, Nyando constituency, Kisumu county.
“The habit is widespread among prisoners at the Kodiaga (Maximum Security Prison) even as senior prison authorities deny any knowledge of the vice. I lived there and I can tell you it’s bad,” he said.
“Some inmates now negotiate for additional food or a more comfortable spot in the cells by engaging in homosexuality. At least 100 inmates are living as ‘couples’ in the prison that is very congested.
New prisoners are ‘grabbed’ by force and turned into ‘wives’ by cartels who control the vice,” he says, tears welling up in his eyes as he gave the interview to People Daily in Kisumu.
Kodiaga prison, according to medical records available at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Referral Hospital, has a HIV prevalence rate exceeding 50 per cent. Many prisoners have succumbed to Aids-related complications in the past five years.
“Despite my age, they tried to approach me but I refused, yet they kept trying to lure me until I was released,” said Mzee Gombe. He says it’s living hell for new inmates who either submit to the homosexual cartels or get sodomised when they decline.
“Most of those who lure them work with the kitchen teams. They are denied food until they give in and engage in the acts,” he said. The octogenarian says most of the victims who engage in the vice do it at night in the washrooms.
Other cartels have secluded cells that act as lodgings. “If there is a power blackout, they take advantage of the darkness but when there is light they sneak into the toilets or into corner cells,” he says.
The old man says while most of the inmates know those who engage in the act, the prison warders turn a blind eye. In 2009, a research that was conducted at 13 male correctional facilities countrywide by the Liverpool VCT centre revealed a rampant increase in the vice.
The report indicated that out of 410 inmates interviewed, 37 had homosexual affairs in prison and five tested HIV positive.
Nyanza regional prison commander Amos Misik denied the allegations and said he would investigate the matter. “If at all there are such incidents, then I call upon the victims to come to me and complain, otherwise I am not aware of anything like that,” he said.