"Asylum Denied is riveting and essential reading for anyone interested in the lives and struggles of immigrants. Kenney's story will astonish, frustrate, and inspire you."–Dave Eggers, author of What is the What
"This is a fabulous book-a love story, a law story, a struggle against death, a battle for justice, and much more. I urge you to read it."–Bruce Ackerman, Yale University.
"This is a powerful story, human and legal. It is as tense as a fictional thriller, but it really happened. The hero battles official torturers in Kenya, then American bureaucrats out of the pages of Kafka." –Anthony Lewis, author of Gideon's Trumpet
Chapter 1: The Farmers’ Boycott
After the security officers decided not to shoot me in the forest, they blindfolded me again and forced me back into the van. I lost track of how much time passed as we drove through the night. They told me to get out of the van. They took me to a building and led me through it. They removed the handcuffs from my wrists and the blindfold from my face. My eyes adjusted slowly to the light from the only bulb. I could see that I was in some kind of prison. Heavy wire links covered the window.
They ordered me to remove all of my clothing. When I was naked, they pushed me through a doorway. I fell into what seemed to be a dark room. Soon I realized that it was a small cement cell below the level of the prison floor: in essence, a pit. This was the beginning of the worst ordeal of my life.
I landed in cold water, up to the level of my ankles. The lights went out immediately. There were no windows in the pit. I was very cold and in total darkness. I was completely disoriented, and more frightened than I had ever been.
I ran my hands along the walls and felt the corners where they met. I stretched both my arms and touched the walls on each side simultaneously.
I heard the officers’ footsteps receding somewhere above me. I was in some kind of small tank or box. There was no sound. Then the water level started to rise. It came up to my knees, my waist, and my chest. I thought that my jailors were going to drown me, because the walls reached above my head. I had no way to climb higher to escape the rising water.
After a while, the water receded, back to ankle level. This became the pattern for days: at apparently random intervals, the cold water would rise and fall. When it was high, I had to stand to avoid drowning. When it was low, I tried to curl up and rest on the wet floor. The cell was not wide enough for me to lie down without twisting myself around on the wet floor. I could not sleep for more than minutes at a time, because I was afraid that the water would rise and drown me while I was asleep.
I was entirely without light. I never had any food. There were no toilet facilities. To stay alive, I had to drink the water on the floor into which I had urinated and defecated. I could estimate how long I was in that cell by the length of my growing whiskers and by comparing how hungry I became with how hungry I had been, a few years earlier, when my brothers had forced me to live as a homeless person on the streets of my village. By those measures, I was in the water cell for about a week.
Eventually, I had the experience of leaving my body. I felt that my mind separated from my physical body. I could see my body lying naked on the floor, as if I were floating above it. In my mind, I had long conversations with my dead father. Once, I walked over to my body on the floor and kicked it. I saw my own death, and I attended my funeral. I was only about 20 years old, but my life seemed to have ended.