Chief Justice David Maraga is a man of religion. It is said he downs the tools at sunset on Friday, goes into Sabbath mode, and will not lift a finger to do anything until Saturday sunset, when the Sabbath ends.
Admirable principle, given the temptations that public service in Kenya invariably dangles on weekends: nyama choma with fellow government bigwigs, frothy liquids at the right temperature with this and that personality – the CJ is a teetotaller, good man – the list of bad things to do on Saturdays is endless. He has, however, resisted all these temptations rigidly.
One temptation the CJ does not mind falling for, however, is the trappings of office. CJ is a big office in Kenya - it brings with it unfettered access to the President and to State House, big, fat cars and a full motorcade and unrestricted access to VIP lounges at Kenyan airports. In theory.
But as the CJ is now finding out, theory and practice are different things – he finds himself being treated with disdain by the same government he has been serving.
This is the same CJ who likes patronising government functions, even when he should stay away. In one such event in his own backyard, an impression that the job was given to him by The Executive was made and he had an opportunity to set the record straight, but he chose to ignore it.
The CJ needs to brush up on his Luhya folklore – for the CJ’s people, the AbaGusii, hail from the same roots as those of the AbaLuhya. And among the many folktales of the AbaLuhya, the story of the hyena that ate his protector stands out.
One day, it is said, a beautiful but stubborn woman was tending her garden when a massive hyena came running to her, pleading for help. The hyena was panting and was covered in blood.
On closer inspection, the woman realised that it was not the hyena’s own blood - the blood was smeared all over the hyena’s snout and paws. This hyena had been interrupted while feasting on something.
The woman nearly took off in fright, but the hyena reassured her, saying he only wanted her help to hide as a group of hunters were bearing down on him and wanted to kill him. The woman took pity on the hyena, and quickly led him into her house not too far away. She put a large basket over him, covering him completely, and threw some clothes and skins on the basket for good measure.
Shortly afterwards, a group of hunters arrived. They asked her if she had seen a large hyena passing by. They added that the hyena had been ambushed while in the process of eating some poor man, and they wanted to kill the hyena so he wouldn’t prey on any more humans.
The woman replied, saying she had not seen any hyena around the area. The hunters were suspicious and, looking towards her house, warned her that it would be foolish to conceal the hyena as he was dangerous. The woman insisted that she hadn’t seen any hyena around the place. The hunters left.
Moments later, the woman walked back into her house, removed the concealing basket and told the hyena the hunters had come and gone, and he was now free to go. The hyena asked her to check and be sure.
She stepped outside, had a look around, came back inside and confirmed that the hunters were indeed gone. Whereupon the hyena jumped up, seized the woman and proceeded to eat her – as she screamed for mercy.