Wageuzi Basketball Team Tours Langata Womens Maximum Prison

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By Tito Mwangi

We didn’t know what to expect and even though we pass outside the Lang’ata women’s maximum prison on numerous occasions, the mixed emotions were real as we approached the outside barriers and the intimidating dark green colored gate of the facility.

The date is 23rd of December 2019 and it’s a cold morning in Nairobi graced by light showers and especially in the Lang’ata area where the women’s maximum prison is located.

The Lang’ata women’s maximum prison accommodates around 600 inmates from different backgrounds and nationalities. For some of us who our only prison experience is through what we’ve watched on the various television and docuseries like Prison break and Orange, we were in for a rude shock and some pleasant surprises.

On arrival at the gate a few members of the Wageuzi basketball team comprising of a diverse composition of professionals in different fields across Kenya and beyond but brought together by their love for basketball and country, were ready to spend some time with the inmates and encourage them as well as spread some cheer for the Christmas season.

The team which comprises of former Kenya national team  players, pro and semi pro basketball players that play or used to play in the local leagues has a strong membership of about 80 members with the main aim being to enjoy the game, encourage each other as we journey through life and deal with masculinity issues as well mentor the younger  generation.

On arrival at the main gate we were ushered in by Corporal Songok, a tall but jovial warden who gave us clear directions of the route to follow once inside. when the gates opened one would drive into another holding area for further processing. At this juncture the atmosphere though serene and quite changes as one quickly notices the black and white uniforms adorned by the female inmates and since it’s a cold morning we also notice the bright orange pullovers and leg warmers.

As one drives down the main road connecting the various facilities within the institution we easily notice  how well organized it is. The green grass is well manicured and clear directions given to the various facilities. Once parked we are met by our chairman Abraham Muthogo who was a little early and receive some more briefing on what to expect.

We are shortly ushered into the main prison facility where we meet Madam Zam Zam a no nonsense lady who by the looks of things comes across as a strict disciplinarian and a stickler to rules. Honestly she is as intimidating as her voice which we quickly encounter as she gave us very clear instructions

“Simu {telephones], car keys and bags will all be left here but first how many are you?”  This we quickly found out is one of the most important of the last screening areas that ensure nothing unwanted is smuggled into the main holding facility.

Having gone through and complied with the final screening process, we are escorted through the holding quarters of the inmates and the various blocks appear to be very neat and clean. We pass outside the expansive dining area where afew of the inmates are having their mid morning tea and the basketball court is now in site.

After a quick assessment of the basket ball court by Sadat Gaya who also happens to be the assistant coach for the Kenyan men national team, four stations are quickly established to take the ladies through some basic drills of the game. Today the ladies will learn how to shoot, how to pass the ball, how to protect the ball and finally how to do a layup.

As the programme is being  finalized, the deejay and sound engineer keep some great gospel music pumping much to the excitement of the inmates who freely and quickly join in singing and dancing while trying to sit at vantage position not to miss what was about to unfold.

Just before the drills start Cpt. David Mureithi  opens  the event with a word of prayer and again we cant help but notice the importance of faith to the inmates who tell us  that  the only thing they hold dear to and without which nothing much makes sense is faith and hope.

The event was graced by Senior Superintendent and also Officer in charge Madam Rhoda Anyim and The Deputy Officer in charge Superintendent Evaline Kaliti.

“We are extremely happy and encouraged that men can come together and show the inmates such love and laughter through a game of basketball. We hope this becomes the first of many visits and also an avenue through which real reform can take place even as you look forward to integrating the ladies back into society” said Officer in charge Madam Rhoda Anyim.

On his part Wageuzi basketball Chairman Abraham Muthogo ,

“As Wageuzi basket ball team we commit to walk with our sisters and the prisons correctional system  to make sure that  our sisters don’t  give up hope. We take this opportunity to  commend the prisons department  for the invite and allowing us to share some of the key fundamentals we’ve learnt through basketball”

While taking the ladies through these drills the wageuzi team had a lot of interactions and quite some sobering moments. The value of time, relationships and decision making was very much appreciated by both sides. The ladies kept smiling all through the various drills and openly confessed of their remorsefulness to whatever landed them in the institution with many stating that given another chance they wouldn’t make the same decisions that landed them in the institution.

The highlight of the event was an exhibition game between Wageuzi and the best of the ladies team led by Prison Constable Rachael Atieno who put up a brave fight clearly marshalling her troops to some lovely baskets from the perimeter and inside the paint. The coaching drills were very effective as the ladies easily show cased some of the skills acquired earlier on.

All along, the master of ceremony for the day Senior Sergeant  Susan Marita easily navigated through the institution’s  hierarchy and the inmates setting the mood right for some great interactions throughout the event. It was amazing to see the level of trust and commitment between the ladies and the officers.

Finally through the chairman, the Wageuzi Basketball team pledged to do up the basketball rims, provide balls and kits for the ladies and also send through a coach who will help bring the girls to better understand the rules and the game. In total close to 30 ladies came out to the court for the clinic with the next one taking part in the first quarter of next year.

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