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Legend of Gelert the dog and lessons it holds for Kenya

DCI Headquarters, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The legend of Gelert the dog is a folk tale that has taken many forms as it is being told and retold around the world.

It generally revolves around this dog that had been entrusted by the owner to protect his baby as he went hunting with the other dogs. However, one evening he comes back from his hunting mission to an unsettling site of Gelert running towards him with his mouth full of blood. As he gets closer he sees more and more traces of blood and pieces of meat.

With his heart now pounding furiously, he rushes to the baby’s cradle only to find it empty. There are sputters of blood all over and more pieces of meat. He is now madly convinced that Gelert had done the unthinkable. He charges at the dog with his sword and kills it in an instant. But, as the dog is taking its final bow, the hunter hears the baby crying from a corner of the compound. He gets there in a rush only to find the baby safe and unhurt. Not far from him is the carcass of a badly mutilated giant wolf.  Apparently, the sputters of blood and pieces of meat had ensued from a fierce struggle between Gelert the dog and the wolf as it strived to protect the baby.

The hunter deeply regrets his rash decision as he now realizes Gelert was not to be killed but to be celebrated.

This is a story I have been thinking of a lot for the past few days as the new administration makes good its threat to go for individuals at the DCI and the defunct SSU unit that are accused of a myriad of crimes. For weeks, since the purge started, I have focused solely on one side of the coin; the side from which every human rights crusader will look at it. The tales of abductions and extrajudicial killings as have been narrated by affected families and documented by various organizations such as Haki Africa are heart-wrenching.  The stories from Yala of bodies being found tied up in sacks and which we carried many times in our bulletins was tormenting.  Extrajudicial killings are definitely a no.

Nonetheless, today I’am flipping the coin to juxtapose the current happenings with this legendary tale. Could the former DCI chief George Kinoti be the Gelert that had the blood of struggle all over him as he protected the baby? Through the many formations including the now defunct SSU, Kinoti’s main assignment was to keep Kenya safe and secure and just like Gelert the dog, he probably did so to the best of his ability. The increasing number of reported cases of violent crime in the city since the purge began could be a testament to the same.  

It could be that when the truth finally comes out, the hunter will regret having publicly shamed a whole policing unit. Officers that have seen their colleagues being publicly condemned even by their own head of state are likely to hold back from confronting the wolf. The baby is in danger once again and Gelert is dead.