Author of ‘Deadly Money Maker’ allegedly told her interrogators in Rome, Italy, that she had been forced to swallow the drugs by unknown people while she was unconscious
As hundreds of inmates at the Langata Women Prison rose one after the other to receive their certificates during a graduation ceremony at the correctional institution that last Friday of July 2005, one inmate stood out from the rest.
Her name was Judith Akinyi, a former Kenya Polytechnic lecturer then serving a nine year sentence for trafficking heroine.
As the “headmistress” at the prison, Akinyi was directly in charge of 239 inmates undertaking various courses including dressmaking, crocheting, entrepreneurship, community, HIV peer education, attitude change, farming, embroidery and knitting.
Through her efforts inmates acquired skills that would help them earn a living away from crime after serving their terms. Akinyi was the unrivalled face of reforms in Kenyan prisons.
Speaking to journalists during the function then, she said how proud she was to be given a chance to help transform fellow inmates into good citizens. “When I first stepped into prison I lost weight and felt there was no reason to live,” she said.
In between offering lectures to fellow inmates, Akinyi would act as the Master of Ceremony during beauty pageants at the correctional facility. While in prison, Akinyi squeezed time to write the book The Deadly Money Maker, detailing how bad company had messed up her life. She captured in great detail her experiences in jail and her resolve never to return to drug dealing.
Her efforts were rewarded in April 2008 when, alongside two other inmates, they received a presidential review of their sentences and were set free. By the time of her release, Akinyi had served seven years after being found with 150 grammes of heroin at Entebbe Airport on arrival from Pakistan. It’s back full circle.
Akinyi was arrested in Rome, Italy in April this year. She was said to be having cocaine. Reports, though scanty, say Akinyi was found unconscious on a street in Rome and upon search, was found with the narcotics.
Apparently, she had swallowed pellets of the drugs, which burst in her stomach before she could reach her destination, leading to her collapse, the reports quoted Italian authorities as saying. It’s understood that Akinyi told her interrogators that she had been forced to swallow the drugs by unknown people while she was unconscious.
Akinyi’s account of her sojourn from a humble upbringing in the middle class neighbourhoods of Buru Buru and South B in Nairobi through school and college and later as a lecturer at the Kenya Polytechnic before she joined the dangerous trade that is drug trafficking varies from one interview to another.
In one account, Akinyi said she was lured into the business by a drug queen to recover Sh200,000 she had borrowed from her sacco. She said she had grown up in relative comfort and attended good schools. After Moi Girls’ High School in Nanyuki, she joined the Kenya Polytechnic to study institutional management, and upon completion, she taught at the Kenya Technical Teachers College in Gigiri.
Her parents owned rental houses in the area and charged her with the responsibility of collecting rent, and that, according to one interview she had given, is how she met “Queen”, the drug baroness who would befriend her and later abuse this “friendship” by using her to smuggle drugs into the country.
By this time, she was already married with four children and was in her second job as a lecturer at the Kenya Polytechnic. According to the interview, Akinyi had innocently developed a friendship with the drug baroness who owned a beauty salon in Gigiri and drove around in the latest top-of-the-range vehicles, wore expensive outfits and carried loads of money.
“At the time, I did not suspect this was a deliberate ploy to make me curious enough to find out where she got all this money from,” Akinyi had reflected then. According to this account, the drug baroness had one day asked Akinyi to raise Sh200,000 which would be sent to a contact in Pakistan to buy goods which they would sell for a cool Sh1.2 million.
Excited at the prospects of making a kill, Akinyi borrowed the money from her sacco. A month later, “Queen” would claim the contact in Pakistan had gone underground with the money and that she would be forced to repay Ms Akinyi her money, unless she (Akinyi) was willing to travel to Pakistan and fetch the goods her self.
With no options, Ms Akinyi had agreed to travel to Pakistan on a fake passport, only to be arrested at Entebbe airport in Uganda on her way back with the ‘goods’ – heroine. In another interview, Ms Akinyi candidly recounts how she knowingly joined the world of drug trafficking in order to fend for her four children as she was getting little support from her husband.
“You don’t want your children to suffer,” she had started. “Most of the time you will find a woman will want to do anything for her children.”