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Grounds where men robbed of dignity, hope meet in despair

By Josaya Wasonga | April 26th 2020

Near where I live in Donholm Phase 8, there is a large open field – Jacaranda Grounds – where, during electioneering periods, charged political rallies are held.

The land is an emotive issue in Kenya. As such, the jury is still out on the ownership of Jacaranda Grounds. Some claim this prime parcel of land was “given” to an opposition big wig. Others claim that it belongs to the Kenya Prisons Service. And others say that it is the property of a local university.

Well? Right now, that’s neither here nor there. At the moment, Jacaranda Grounds “belongs” to men who have been put out of work by this pestilence. Many men make daily dreary pilgrimages to this field early in the morning and shuffle home just minutes before the 7 pm curfew.

Let’s keep it real. It’s men who have been hardest hit by Covid-19. Men who are breadwinners have been turned into beggars. They go to Jacaranda Grounds to “kill” stress, hoping against hope that they will return home with manna for their families.

Men who had roofs above their heads have been rendered homeless and virtually destitute, and some have turned the lone thorn tree at Jacaranda Grounds into their bedroom.

Some have turned the open trench that runs along the fence of Jacaranda Estate into their bathroom. It’s that bad, and the pestilence isn’t even full-blown yet.  

These are men who have been forced, by Covid-19 and the system’s catastrophic failure, to lose all sense of dignity. Once men lose their sense of dignity, they are as good as dead. And once men are as good as dead, the country has lost its very soul. Next stop? Societal disintegration, perhaps. A revolution, maybe.

Three years ago, politicians from both divides hogged Jacaranda Grounds as they promised the masses – again, mostly men – all sorts of goodies. Now, when you visit this ground, the haunting silent cry of sons, husbands and fathers – who are seated alone or in little groups – is: “Where are our leaders?”

Last week, Alex*, a young man came to the thorn tree, where men usually meet to shoot the breeze or study the Bible – as they furtively watch for cops who have orders to break up any perceived group meetings – and told the gathered men that his brother had committed suicide the previous night.

That was around 1 pm. The body was still in the house.

As Alex rushed back to the suicide scene after the pastor prayed for him, I couldn’t help but swear that Covid-19 had everything to do with the suicide.

Desperate times

Three days prior, the pastor counselled another man who had reached the end of his rope and wanted to take his life, because he lost his job due to Covid-19.

Around the same time, before the government gave an order that nobody could travel in or outside Nairobi, the men at the Jacaranda Grounds liaised with the rural family of a young man who was sleeping in the reeds next to the thorn tree, who sent bus fare for him to return to their upcountry home.

If the government needs to know what’s really happening on the ground, they need not go any further than Jacaranda Ground.

To put it plainly, the vast majority of men at Jacaranda Grounds, and many other parts of the country, are angry.

Yesterday, a father who had slept hungry swore, while staring at the posh estates that neighbour Jacaranda Grounds: “If this continues, and nothing is done, I won’t watch as my family dies of starvation. We’ll raid those gated homes.”  

All the men under the thorn tree concurred. Politics divided these men in 2017. A pandemic has brought them together, for worse or worst. 

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