Charles Rubia: Tortured MP Who Demanded Largest Compensation in Kenya’s History

Veteran politician and former Starehe MP, Charles Rubia, died today, December 23, aged 95.

Charles Rubia

The former political detainee, who was also the first African mayor of Nairobi, was renowned for his political activism together with former Cabinet minister Kenneth Matiba.

Most notably, the two were largely involved in the calls for multi-party democracy and were both subsequently detained by President Daniel Arap Moi.

In February 1987, Rubia was arrested and accused of financing the Mwakenya Movement and working in cahoots with church leaders to import guns for purposes of overthrowing the government.

He was, however, released after being detained for five days at Nyayo House in Nairobi without being arraigned or charges being preferred against him.

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Rubia with Kenneth Matiba. The two suffered inhumane torture for their political activism

On March 3, 1990, Rubia together with Matiba held a historic press conference at Chester House, Nairobi, where they called upon the Moi-led government to embrace multiparty politics and consequently called for a peaceful rally in Kamukunji on July 7, 1990 (famously referred to as Saba Saba).

This led to his arrest on July 4, just before the rally, and detained for nine months.

What happened during the detention could only be termed as inhumane.

In June 2019, Rubia, through his lawyer Murang’a Senator Irungu Kangata, made a compensation claim of Sh40 billion against the state for illegal detention and torture, the largest such demand in Kenya’s history.

According to a report published by Nation, Rubia had claimed Sh40,674,544 for special damages and Sh150 million for loss of businesses, calculated with interest as from May 1991 to date of payment.

In the court documents, Rubia revealed how he was blindfolded and driven in circles, denied the services of a lawyer and kept for long in dark underground cells in solitary confinement.

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Nyayo House, Nairobi where Rubia was reportedly detained.

He also claimed that he was stripped half-naked and made to lie on a cold floor, kept in dark and very cold cells, denied good nutrition and food and water for many days, denied good medical treatment and subjected to poor and unhygienic sanitary conditions.

Consequently, he was released from detention two weeks after doctors from Nairobi Hospital informed Kenya Prisons authorities that he required urgent medical attention.

He underwent vigorous and prolonged treatment in Kenya and London, but he was left with severe disabilities in his speech among others to date.

He claimed that the detention broke down his wife, who never got to recover and eventually died. He also said in court documents that his children were denied employment opportunities whereas he was removed from directorships of various parastatals and companies warned not to do business with him.

Rubia was MP for Starehe constituency for a record 19 years stretching through four consecutive terms.

“Our intention is to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that Mr Rubia is compensated for the illegal treatment and torture he underwent and from which he has never recovered,” Kang’ata told the Sunday Nation then.

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