Ivar Kituyi died in his prime and a bright star was dimmed too soon

“We always take it for granted that when we bring up our kids they will be there till we pass on. The children will see us to the grave, not the other way round. So to lose our eldest son at the young age of 30 has been extremely difficult to take. But our future is not always in our hands.”

Those were the words of Dr Mukhisa Kituyi when he eulogised his son Ivar Makari Kituyi at St Austin’s Church in Nairobi on a sombre Thursday afternoon as other people went about their business elsewhere in the city, oblivious of the agony the family, relatives and friends were going through as it finally dawned upon all of us that we will never see Makari again.

In the front pew were the nuclear family members: Dr Ling Kituyi, Mukhisa’s gracious and lovely wife; Leif Sitati, leading his siblings Laila Mayilila and Thor Masalule; Makari’s wife Bahati Clare Moloney and their two children Brendan Oysten Miyesa and Mikal Mukhisa Kinzan. Other close relatives flanked them, comforting them from time to time as sorrow frequently stung with the sharp tongue of a bee when memories too cherished were unveiled in the tributes making the loss of Makari an even more impossible task to bear. The service, elegantly managed by the clergy of St Austin’s, befitted the reassuring dignity with which the young Makari always carried himself.

I have known Mukhisa Kituyi since the late seventies when I taught him political science and political economy at the University of Nairobi. He was obviously one of the best; he never disappointed in his academic performance which was always interlaced with a keen concern for public issues. That he grew up to join politics was no surprise. How we became colleagues in the Second Liberation is the subject of a book yet to be written.

Much more important, however, is that we lived together in Mountain View Estate to the west of Nairobi in the early nineties. Makari and Sitati were more or less the same age as our four children: Lupita, Omo, Fiona and Esperanza. Our eldest daughter, Zawadi, was a little bit older than them, but she was always with them in various family interactions.

Quite often Ling, Dorothy, Mukhisa and I took turns driving the children to school, or herding them together in one house as we adults went about our various businesses. It was not unusual to hide the children in one house while political activities were going on in another house during those days of severe political repression and the need for progressives to undertake clandestine activities. But again that narrative will await to be recounted in another book altogether.

On Wednesday evening this past week I was on the plane from Kisumu to Nairobi with Lupita. I reminded Lupita that the next day, Thursday, would be Makari’s funeral service. Her face dropped and a cloud of sorrow enveloped her. She could only whisper an extremely painful question: “Why did Makari have to die? Why? And so young! And daddy I can’t even say goodbye to him because of all these prior commitments! Really this is unbearable.”

Then she told me a story which was typical of kids and the mothers who saw them as part of a single family.

“One day Makari, Sitati, Omo and I decided to walk from Mountain View to Kangemi to see the Nyang’ayas (our relatives). We thought it was a wonderful adventure. And we did it successfully. When we came back mummy asked us where we had been. We told her we had been to Kangemi to see the Nyang’ayas. She asked us who had taken us there. We told her proudly that we had actually gone by ourselves on foot. Mummy made us all lie down and spanked us thoroughly, telling us never to do that again. We were too young to be out that far on our own. When Makari and Sitati went home they told Ling the story, expecting sympathy from their mum. They received an even worse spanking from Ling!”

It was wonderful seeing the kids grow up into adults, and Makari has been a wonderful go-getter in all aspects of life; a leader in high school, good academic records, married in his mid-twenties to a wonderful wife, family man before thirty and a CEO of a cutting edge technology company. As his father noted, what was more important in Makari’s life was his character and his sense of social responsibility. Let me be allowed to be biased here a little.

That particular aspect of Makari’s life I attribute to the work of Ling Kituyi. Quite seriously we politicians don’t give enough time to our families; our wives do. And Ling is just a gem in this respect. Notwithstanding her equally demanding work, I always felt when we were at the Kituyi home that she connected with everybody in a very special way; she was a real mother at home.

Maybe the life of Makari will be an example to many young people in Kenya today of the importance and joy of having a family. There are several issues involved here, many of which no one person can pretend to know much about.

But as I teach graduate students at the University of Nairobi some have told me in private conversations that life has become so expensive that a good number of them fear to take up the responsibility of getting married. When I got married life was equally expensive relative to now — we did not have the comforts of life because we could not afford them. But when two partners get together they must accept to struggle together to build their future.

One of the problems I see today is the temptation for young people to access “the comforts of life” too quickly and too soon. This mentality can easily creep into a marriage, making one partner impatient with the other, and hence leading to premature break ups. One does not need to be a marriage counselor to see this. Just talking to young people who are separated or divorced reveals a general trend of impatience of one partner or the other.

Perhaps the social networks that can help to enforce and sustain certain values other than materialism are also lacking or weak in our societies. I must, however, commend Mavuno Church for the efforts it has made to inculcate progressive and constructive values among young people.

We have too many evangelical churches or “ministries” which have spiritualised materialism, or materialised spiritualism, much to the spiritual detriment of the young people.

The young people who found leadership in Makari were eager and ready to learn from him because of who he was, how he led his life and how he tried to connect with them with an E.M. Forster passion.

There is a beast and a monk in each one of us. If we leave the beast to reign supreme we easily become the detestable self-regarding creatures that Thomas Hobbes feared. If we become exclusive monks we shall only wallow in our holiness as we lose the rest of the world. Makari was a quintessential and successful mixture of both.