Prison is a shitty place. In fact, let us rephrase that, next to hell for theists, prison is the next worst place you can ever be. There is always something trying to kill you, suck your life and blood or sodomize you, if not all three.
#7 Naivasha Maximum Prison
As one of the country’s maximum-security prisons, Naivasha GK Lice Prison has seen more than its fair share of successful prison escapes. Its most notorious record prisoner hemorrhage to date was the escape of 28 prisoners on April 21, 2004. Two dozen plus prisoners simply vanished from the prison. Some reappear on a later entry on this list.
It is like the prison guards weren’t even trying.
The government, ever eager to pass the blame, thought so too and quickly blamed inadequate staff and laxity of prison warders. We don’t know that much about how the labor system works but of course 300 worker bees will appear lax if they are doing the work of a hive of 900. But who are we to judge the government, the government knows. We will move on now.
After the December 2007 escape of seven death row inmates, the opposition party at the time, ODM, claimed that the government had deliberately assisted the prisoners to escape to assassinate top ODM leaders. The news of the escape quickly faded from the public limelight as we started cutting and torching each other while digging into our tribal cocoons. If ever there was a group of prisoners to benefit from a Force Majeure then it must be the Naivasha 7. What was that?
The PEV was not an Act of God?
I thought the deity was to be blamed for everything, being omniscient and all
#6 Kamiti Prison (mostly attempts)
It is perhaps not surprising that there are very few, if any, successful escapes from Kenya’s most secure and most notorious prison. If Jonah Anguka and John Kiriamiti are to be believed, Kamiti is actually worse than you think it is. Take a minute; imagine how horrendous life must be in Kamiti prison. Now, multiply that by the largest figure you can come up with and then divide that by the number of lice colonies you think you can sustain during a life sentence. If your worst nightmare does not include some big burly prisoner making you his mtoto then you are not thinking of living within the walls of Kamiti. You are thinking of a nightclub.
One of the first reported attempts to escape from the place where lice has more freedom than men was in February 2000. Eleven years later, on September 21st 2011, six inmates also tried to escape by cutting the metal grills in their cells. They had already exited the cells when a warder spotted them. The cockblocking warder-a crude analogy given the prison context-was most likely rewarded with a pat on the back. The ‘Kamiti 6’ are still the laziest group of prisoners on any list of prison escapes in Kenya-they had figured out how to get out of their cells but had no idea about how to exit the compound. You can imagine the walk of shame back to the cells.
There is the small issue of whether prison escapes from Kamiti have been hidden from the public eye. One example is the case of three Langata Road execution victims. Remember the front-page images of a Flying Squad cop executing three men who had surrendered and were lying on the road in broad daylight? The one that was a national outrage for all of two minutes before we quickly reverted back to our usual apathy and showing justice the [[midfing]]? Well, there was a deeper story, one of the men was supposed to be in remand at Kamiti and the other two had been released only halfway into their sentences.
Hussein Gichuki Mwangi (Ochuka), the ringleader, had been sentenced to death while the other two. Hezron Mwangi and Paul Njomo, had been sent to the slammer for seven years each for robbing Kenyan tycoon and politician Cyrus Jirongo of jewelry worth KES 750, 000 in 2004. Gichuki’s appeal had yielded a retrial but he was not released on bond-he was expected to be in prison but had presumably levitated out of a maximum prison and back into the crime world. What men who were supposed to be behind bars were doing in the free world, we will never know.
Kamiti is famous for other things, like the prisoner who went beserk and killed two others in the sickbay by?strangling them with crutches, and the video of brutal beatings during a prisoner search in 2008.
#5 Sonko Escapes from Jail
The Tana River escape was the center of one of the latest prison escapes. In it, three serial killers charged with over 38 murders escaped from their prison cells at the standard hour for prison escapes-3.00 am.
Shimo la Tewa has a less glamorous history. In the most recent escape, two murder suspects constructed a ladder in the prison workshop and hid it within the compound. They then used it to climb over the wall. It turns out that the seats in the refurbished Parliament are not the only tools to be made in a prison workshop and then used for criminal activities. You are in good company, MPigs!
A ladder is not exactly Scofield’s ducks.
But perhaps the most famous prison escape was the 1998 escape of the future MP for Makadara and Senator for Nairobi. You know him as the man with a lizard on his head, more metal than a steel mill…he often looks like so much is happening around his fashion sense that nothing sensible is actually happening, as if he attempts to put his audience into a trance so they dont hear the stupid he spews out. His most recent? During a recent parliamentary debate, the also-why-wont-you-shut-up Anyang Nyongo made a reference to Hugo Chavez, the now dead socialist leader of Venezuela and the prison escapee thought he was referring to Rachel Shebesh. I will wait for you to stop laughing.
Technically, Sonko did not escape from Shimo la Tewa prison itself but from the Coast General Hospital where he was chained to a bed. He bribed his way throughout the whole process in 1998, and then again a decade later into parliament. He had paid some guy to make his faked illness look even more legit, and then paid off almost everyone?El Chapo Guzman style-before making the successful escape. His later defense was that he had gone to bury his mother. Urmmm, what?
Did I mention that he was disguised as a lady? The Standard issue of May 18, 1998 was not clear on whether he added boobs to his charade but given his antics over the last five years, we would be safer assuming he even had mascara.
Oh, and he and Pastor James Nganga were cellmates at Shimo la Tewa, whoever says that we do not rehabilitate properly needs to see these guys. Who says our correctional facilities are just cholera and sodomy centers Oh wait, that was me.
Remember that book, John Kiriamiti’s My Life in Crime, where he escapes from prison? Sonko claims that inspired his escapebefore he goes onto to quote from the bible.
#4 Kingongo Prison ‘Break attempt’
This one doesn’t even qualify as a jailbreak. It is here because the government propaganda machinery first branded a case of brutality as necessary force to foil an attempted jailbreak.
On 3rd Sept 2000, 6 death row inmates died in King’ong’o Prison. The prison department attempted to cover up the killings and recorded them as being the result of fatal falls from the 40ft wall during the attempt. They hurriedly buried the mangled bodies and then went back to taking bribes and not fighting cholera.
The official story was that two escapees had managed to escape but one had been caught later randomly strolling in a nearby village wondering what to do with his new-found freedom. But the story refused to go away. First, there was the issue of the hurried burial and the horrendous state of the bodies.
After the intervention of several human rights groups, a lethargic Moi government began an inquest that ordered the exhumation of the six bodies. The official story was fraught with loopholes. The postmortem noted consistent extensive injuries inflicted with a blunt object. . This differed from the incident report recorded by the police of the cause of death as gunshot wounds . None of the prisoners had any bullet wounds and all of them had signs of extensive injuries including broken skulls, jawbones, rib cages and gouged out eyes. Way to foil an attempted escape Prison Department! Way to go!
Nine prisoner warders were charged with murder, and all were found guilty and handed the mandatory death sentence on 18 December 2008. Five filed successful appeals but the appeals of the other four were denied in April 2013.
It must be sad-and dangerous- being an imprisoned former prison warder. Think about how the ‘mendes’ (the sodomizers in Kenyan prisons) will pass you around while making you wield the knob and open the cell door. I think something like that happens much later in the Prisonbreak series plot, the warder going to jail part, but luckily after Tbag was out.
In 2010, two inmates tried to scale the wall but were captured after they fell and broke their limbs. At least someone had thought up something slightly legit about the high wall in the 2000 escape.
#3 Mageta Prison Escape
At the height of the state of Emergency, the British government established several camps away from the conflict zones to house political prisoners and suspected Mau Mau insurgents. One of those places was Mageta Island, a small Island on Lake Victoria.
On February 5, 1956, 11 prisoners (or 9, depending on the source) escaped from the treacherous island. First, they hacked a fisherman, Onimbo Haulu, after he refused them use of his canoe. They hid his mutilated body in a nearby bush and it became the source of propaganda. The official story spread by the local authorities was that the escaping prisoners had used Onimbo’s blood and body parts to perform an oathing ritual. Most historical accounts are unclear about whether this actually happened, but that does not matter, what followed in the news does.
They vanished as soon as they arrived in Usenge. The obviously overzealous security forces killed three during the subsequent hunt. An angry mob killed Jotham Njoroge in Alego and another killed two of his colleagues in Sakwa. The rest managed to escape.
Mageta contributed somewhat to the post-independence animosity between the Kikuyu and the Luo since most, if not all, of the escapees hailed from Central Kenya. The rumor that they sacrificed Onimbo portrayed them as brutal savages, an effective tool perfected by the colonial government. One wonders what happened to the other five (or three).
#2 The Embu GK Prison Escape
The most badass prison escape in postcolonial Kenya, the Embu GK prison escape of 2006 makes the other entries on this list look like skipping school. It was as much an escape as an attack; a group of gangsters stormed the prison, in stuff that you only expect in cliche movies, armed several inmates, and then shot their way out of the cholera and sodomy. You probably know this plot line from several terrible movies where the villain is imprisoned and his minions stage a badass attack to free him. They shoot everyone who is anyone, and then drive out with guns sticking out through the windows. Embu was no different.
Other than having pairs of titanium balls and tonnes of nongiveafuckery, the gangsters had had previous target practice. Embu GK seems to have been part of a systematic plan to free a specific gang of criminals. First, Silas Mugendi Njeru, one of the masterminds of the prison attack, had himself escaped from Shimo La Tewa prison a few months before. The other target practice was Entry #7 when two dozen plus prisoners levitated from Naivasha GK and the other was an escape of 29 suspects from Meru courts. Career prison escapees looking for a new thrill.
While the bro-code is unclear about what one should do when a bro is in prison, we are sure it does not include getting guns and shooting your way in. Maybe something less murderous, like giving money to their wives (criminals always have several) and lecturing their children. Among the prisoners who escaped were Simon Gitau Saitoti and Godfrey Mulwa Kitheka, two of the most badass criminals in modern Kenyan crime history. The two, known in the crime world as Saitoti and Ngilu, were later shot and killed in typical extrajudicial execution style.
The whole shenanigans led to four deaths: a trader, a gangster, a remand prisoner, and a prison warder. Wait, what was a businessman doing in Cholera country? We might never know.
#1 A picnic on Mount Kenya, or the Oxo Tin Escape
So, how can a 1943 prison escape win dibs on a list that includes the classic storming into a prison with guns blazing, jumping over the wall, and masquerading as a woman? What can outdo the public execution of prisoners who had teleported from maximum-security prison walls? I’ll tell you what-an escape so badass that the prisoners walked back to the prison after they were done doing even more badass things. Hell, the escape even spawned a book!
In January 1943, a group of Italian Prisoners of War (POWs) escaped from the POW Camp 354 in Nanyuki. The three prisoners, Felice Benuzzi, Dr. Giovanni Balletto and Vincenzo Arsotti escaped from prison, went on a three-week adventure, and then walked back into the prison. That last part seems to defeat the entire logic of a prison escape, doesn’t it? Why would you bother to, say, dig through a pit latrine to the other side, or sneak through barbed wire, only to stay three weeks free and then walk back?
But you are not Benuzzi and Co., and history will soon forget you.
In context, Felice Benuzzi was a man who didn’t like to get bored. He was that eccentric friend you still hung around despite your guts instincts repeatedly warning you that one day, one of his stunts will kill both of you.?
Benuzzi first pitched the idea of escaping the boring POW camp to a professional mountaineer. He didn’t intend to have them walk all the way to Italy, which would have been sure death, but wanted them to escape and climb Mount Kenya, which was even surer death. The expert mountaineer, in following with the script that all experts are douchebags unless you are paying them, trashed the idea. Benuzzi should have listened to the advice on food and ideal wear but he was not a man to get bogged down by such details.
So he went for the next best pair, a doctor and a sailor. Perhaps he figured the sailor knew a thing or two about being in places with funny weather and a million things that want to kill you, and the doctor would, well, do whatever witchcraft it is that doctors do. Suck on that expert mountaineer!
On the 24th January, the trio begun what would be an 18-day odyssey. They presumably drew a phallic image on the mountaineers forehead with prison marker pen-equivalents before sneaking out while giggling like the badass metrosexual prison escapees they were. The only map they had of the mountain was the label of an Oxo tin …of course, because they were guys, they would rather consult a food tin than ask for directions. The sailor fell sick at the base of the mountain but the relentless Benuzzi and the doctor soldiered on for 17 more days, reaching a point at about 5000 meters on the North West ridge. They planted the Italian flag and left a message-bottle on Point Lenana, presumably a dedication to Mussolini and a prayer to the gods. You can see the logic in the act, it was high up in the mountain, the gods live up there, it was closer.
You can imagine the shock of the camp commandant when the three POWs leisurely strolled back into the camp on 10th February. He was so impressed that he reduced their month-long solitary confinement to a mere week, a nod to the daring act. A prison escape so badass that the guy who should be punishing you reduces the punishment and then proceeds to telegraph his superiors a story they will need likely not believe. It is a manual on how to win respect from your jailers, and your fellow prisoners from whom you stole food and supplies.
The British government then sent an expedition to remove the Italian flag and host the Union Jack, but nothing they did could remove the embarrassment. The?escape was so badass that it spawned a book and has been the subject of many documentaries and spin-off books and a point on Mount Kenya is named after the man who led the escape because that is what we do, we celebrate achievement, not means.
One story is good,
till Another is told.
Last modified: June 9, 2016