Death sentence for attackers of Kenyan writer

By Robert Hummy

Nairobi - During a homecoming after a 22-year self-imposed exile, Thiong'o was brutally beaten by four men in his apartment in Nairobi. His wife Njeeri was raped and burnt with cigarettes on the night of the attack in August 2004.

"The offence of robbery with violence is notorious in Nairobi and must be discouraged by imposing stiffer penalties," principal magistrate Julie Oseko said when passing sentence.

The three attackers - Richard Kayago Maeta, Elias Sikuku Wanjala and Peter Mulati Wafula - were convicted on Wednesday and have been given the death sentence. They said they would appeal.

While the death sentence remains on Kenya's statutes, it has not been used since perpetrators of a 1980s coup attempt were hung.

Four men attacked Thiong'o at the high-security apartment complex of a city-centre hotel. His nephew, John Kiragu Chege, was cleared of charges this week.

Thiong'o, a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California Irvine, was jailed for a year without charge in 1977, then fled Kenya in 1982 after troops razed a theatre where one of his plays was being performed.

The novelist and playwright's works have been critical of British colonial rule and also, implicitly, of Kenya's post-independence governments for corruption and exploitation of the poor. His best works include Weep Not Child, A Grain Of Wheat, Detained, Petals Of Blood and Devil On The Cross.

The magistrate said the 2004 attack was a normal case of robbery with violence, with no political overtones as Thiong'o had alleged. A lap-top and jewellery were stolen.

Nairobi is notorious for violent crime - drawing the name "Nairobbery" from expatriates living here.

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