Ann Birunji, a Uganda national, who was sentenced to life behind bars for drug trafficking by a Kenyan court regrets committing the crime.
In an exclusive interview with Citizen Television’s Janet Mbugua-Ndichu aired on Monday Special programme, August 1, Ms Birunji, an inmate at Lang’ata Prison, said she was arrested six years ago at Kenya’s busiest airport JKIA in possession of drugs.
“I came through South Africa, all the way from Peru. When I touched down at the JKIA en route to Uganda, I was searched and allegations of drug-trafficking were leveled against me. I went to lower courts in 2010, where I did my case and I was convicted. I am yet to file an appeal,” she said.
Ann, a mother, reveals she last saw her family in 2014 and terms her experience of being convicted in a foreign nation as “hard”.
“It is hard, especially being away from home is not easy; and I feel like I wasn’t given a fair hearing,” she adds.
Remorseful and repentant, Ms Birunji says she did not know what she was getting herself into when she breached a wall of the fight against drugs.
“Frankly speaking, before you get yourself into trouble, you won’t know the gravity of the consequences. What I have noted with my case and that of my colleagues is that before one sets to engage in the crime, he or she must have been pushed by a particular factor. We have kids to look after, and there are a lot of forces that push you to commit the crime,” says Ann.
“However, I won’t say this is the right thing that I should have done. After getting myself here (prison) I realised I can make it without committing a crime. By the time I considered drug peddling, I thought to myself: ‘other people have tried and made it, let me also try and make it’. At the end of the day I found myself in prison.”
Keenly thinking through what she did, Ann says she would not advise anyone – regardless of the pangs of poverty, hardship and hopelessness –, to engage in drug trafficking as a means of overcoming their troubles.
“What I did was very wrong. I wouldn’t want anybody else to do it. At the end of the day you are saying: ‘I am struggling for my kids; I want them to have a good life’, but then, what of those kids who are taking the drugs that you peddle?” she poses.
“I left my kids in Uganda. I have not seen them for seven years. My last born child was 1 year-8 months old when I left him; he doesn’t even know me. So, what have I helped him with? At the end of the day, there is no benefit in crime. You know the practice of using short cuts to get money in a quicker way is expensive – you will have to pay for it some day.”
Ms Birunji has a plea to Kenyan authorities. “My appeal is: if only I would be taken back home to serve my sentence there, so that I can be able to strike a relationship with my children, strike a relationship with my family, I would never complain; because I know what I did,” she says.
Terming her action as greed-driven, Ann says she wouldn’t let her children abuse drugs.
“Before I did this, I did not know about the gravity of the crime. I was being selfish. I was looking at my own side. I was not looking at the other people who take the drugs. It hurts. I wouldn’t want my children to take the drugs.”
But just what was her source of livelihood before she decided to wring money from drug-peddling?
“I had a restaurant and a salon. At the end of the day it is greed that drives you to do some crimes. I was able to take care of my children and feed my family. The urge of wanting more drove me into crime,” she says.
Ann is currently undertaking a course in dress-making and she is slated to sit for exams in the next two weeks. She is also the director of Crime Si Poa club – a society, comprising Lang’ata inmates, that raises awareness against crime.
“If I am released right now, there is no way I can go back to crime. I can do beadwork, catering, knitting and farming. Through that, I can sustain myself and my family,” she says, adding: “I have learnt that I can make it without rushing. I can live a life without crime,” she concludes.
There are over 630 inmates in Lang’ata Prison and 63 are foreigners. 30, including Ann Birunji, are in for drug-related cases.
Watch the full interview below: