Today I was able to accompany Tuyombo Kyungu on a visit to the main Prison in the city. This prison was built to hold around 600 prisoners but the figure on the blackboard today was almost 1800.
Many die each year from malnourishment and Kyungu told me that if the prisoners have no family to bring them food then they are in trouble. Kyungu is sometimes able to take food when he visits and other groups do the same. Today we took 10 sacks of maize, 1 sack of peanuts, 1 sack of veg and 10 litres of oil. That will give half of the prison population something to eat today.
Kyungu does battle with the soldiers guarding the outside of the prison each time he visits. Each of them want money, food, biscuits and really anything else they think they can get. At least one of them was drunk today and how he remains so patient with them is a mystery to me. There was a jailbreak at this prison in 2011 when the leader of the Mai Mai militia escaped along with 967 inmates.
The soldiers and prison officers are all on the outside of the gate and once we went inside it was just us, the chaplain and 1800 prisoners. They have their own hierarchy and all discipline is dealt with internally. I asked Kyungu about violence and abuse and his reply was, “they suffer a lot.”
I’ve never been allowed to take my phone into a prison before but today the chaplain who showed me around actually encouraged me to take pictures at a few select parts of the prison. I was only allowed in one cell which I presume was the nicest one in the prison. 102 men sleep in it, some on the beds which are raised up on bricks and the rest on the floor underneath. If that was the cell shown to me to give the best impression of the prison I can only imagine what the others are like.
The service was opened by prisoners who have their own choir and band. (drum sticks on a wheel rim and empty oil drums). They were all encouraged to pray aloud and the leader did his best to get them wound up. After that I had had the opportunity to preach the gospel to the 300 or so men, women and children that had gathered inside and out. I don’t remember ever feeling more pressure not to miss it. I preached from Mathew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” The Amen’s and Hallelujah’s quickly stopped but they listened intently throughout as Christ was preached as the only way of salvation.
Please pray for salvation amongst the prisoners and also for Kyungu as he labours faithfully for the Lord in this place.
Jamie has permission to show these photos from the prison.