Kenya’s first female prison commandant Margaret Wanini Keriri died on Tuesday 31, May at a Kiambu hospital after a short illness. Kireri who is an author of two books rose through the ranks of the Prisons Service to the position of Senior Assistant Commissioner General and the Commandant of the largest Prisons Staff Training College in Ruiru.
The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Interior & Coordination of National Government Dr. Fred Matiangi has mourned Keriri saying “In the sudden death of the Senior Assistant Commissioner General and the Commandant, Prisons Staff Training College, Ruiru, Margaret Wanini Keriri, the country has lost a rare trailblazer who embodied effective public service and who was an inspiration to many.”
Keriri’s death was announced by the Kenya Prisons Commissioner-General John Warioba who described her as a gallant, dedicated selfless and committed officer. “Her illustrious career saw her serve in the service in various capacities. On my own behalf and on behalf of the Kenya Prisons Service. I wish to convey my heartfelt condolences to the family and the Kenya Prisons fraternity as I join them at this moment of grief” Said Warioba.
Ms Kireri be remembered for her contribution to the prisons reforms while she was in charge of the Langata Women’s Prison where she introduced beauty pageants, dancing and drama competitions, and media visits among other transformational programs. She is also a professional counsellor, lecturer and author of two books titled The Disruptor, describing her journey through the service and last year Leadership Through the Eyes of a Prisons Officer.
Wanini Kireri was enlisted into the Kenya prisons service in 1982 as a cadet officer and was first posted to Langata Prisons as a duty officer. In 1986 she was promoted as the Officer in Charge of Embu Women Prisons where she endeavored to improve the lives of both inmates and the staff at the prisons by ensuring that high levels of hygiene were upheld within the accommodation areas.
In 1993 she was promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Prisons and moved to the Prisons College as a Senior Lecturer where she also served as the College Adjutant. Later she was transferred to Nakuru Women Prisons the Officer-In-Charge.
She pioneered the open-door policy under Vice President Moody Awori who opened up the prisons to the “outside world” and welcomed partnerships from various organizations, including churches, Human Rights organizations, amongst other organizations, were up in arms against the perceived torture behind bars. Several organizations came on board and offered a helping hand to the prison by donating beds and sanitary towels.
She also championed formal education for the inmates and had well-wishers support through the provision of stationery. She continued with her reforns journey even in Shimo La Tewa, a male-only prisoners institution where she was posted in 2006 as the first-ever female officer in charge of the prison.
In 2010, she relocated back to Nairobi as Provisional Prisons Commander, which later changed to Regional Prisons Commander of Nairobi in charge of supervising all the prisons in the Nairobi region. In 2017 she moved from the Nairobi Region to Prisons Headquarters as the Director, Legal Section where she worked until she was transferred to head Prisons Staff Training College in Ruiru.