The memory of how his brother fought, holding onto his last breath, is still clearly painted in his mind. It is the same fight that Andrew Karanja has kept for the last 24 years, seeking justice for his brother who died in a hit-and-run accident right before his eyes.
His brother, Isaac Karanja, was among five pupils who were run over by a vehicle as they cheered safari rally cars in Ruiru. Three died on the spot. His sudden death on April 12, 1993 was as shocking and painful as the family's efforts to seek compensation from the car owner, Mr Kimanu Kirunyo.
The compensation case was dismissed by High Court Judge R V Wendo at the Milimani Commercial Courts. The judge was then a Senior Principal Magistrate and could, therefore, not hear an appeal. Karanja was unhappy with this because it had taken the family 10 years to get this judgement. This happened even after the family changed advocates in the course of the proceedings. They felt they were not given a fair judgement.
“The family feels they were not given a fair representation and hearing even after we changed advocates during the court proceedings,” Karanja said.
He added that they had sued the driver of the vehicle for negligence that led to the death of Isaac, but the court dismissed the compensation suit because they could not prove their case.
“My father, Joseph Mwangi, was the only witness who testified. The magistrate said the case was dismissed because there was no proof and the court could not tell if indeed the defendant was negligent without the plaintiff (Mwangi) supporting the allegations,” Karanja said.
The family had moved to court in August 8, 1994 and the judgement given in 1998 but accessed it in December 2008. When all hope seemed lost, Karanja decided to seek help from Mwai Kibaki, who was the President then.
On Kenyatta Day in 2008, Karanja went to Nyayo Stadium and positioned himself at a strategic point waiting to catch the eye of the President, who was coming to preside over the celebrations.
“When Kibaki entered the stadium, I went forward, raising my voice to get his attention, but my efforts were thwarted by the swift action of the presidential bodyguards who stopped me and shoved me away,” Karanja said.
He said he wanted to have audience with the President and tell him that justice had not been done. He said he still hears the cries of Isaac, who was then a Standard Six pupil at Ruiru Primary School before he died and recalls the vehicle veering off the road and running over his younger brother.
Karanja, who is the first-born in the family contacted Kirunyo regarding the compensation, was told that he had already paid it to the lawyers. The court awarded Sh80,000 that the family of Karanja was to receive for damages for loss of expectation to life and funeral expenses.
Undeterred, Karanja sought help from the Office of the Ombudsman in May last year.
“It has been months since a letter was written to the advocates from the Office of the Ombudsman and nothing has come out of it,” Karanja said.
The letter ordered the advocates to refund Sh80,000 that was awarded to the complainant in court, but Karanja said they were yet to get the money.