Fare thee Well Rita Tinina, a magnet of true friendship

Former KTN News Journalist Rita Tinina. [File, Standard]

The last ever conversation you and I had was through a phone call at 1.38pm on February 10, 2024.

In your characteristic style, you burst into hearty laughter when I called you. You were driving and you thought I had spotted you on the road.

The call ended with us scheduling a meeting in Nairobi before March 2024 ended. Instead, I’ll now be attending your burial on Wednesday at your parents’ home, Noosupeni Farm Olokirikirai, Narok county. That’s how God, in His own wisdom, intended life to be a puzzle!

You’re one of the few media personalities I have religiously kept in touch with since I resigned from the Nation Media Group in February 2007 to pursue other goals in life.

I can’t recall the exact year our paths in life crossed at the Nation Centre. I was a print journalist and our newsroom was based on the 3rd floor.

You had landed a reporter’s job at the NTV, after graduating from the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC).

Your newsroom was on the 6th floor of the building, christened the Twin Towers due to its landmark towers. You were a young and beautiful girl. I was eight years older than you.

Being the lead journalist on crime and security at the NMG, I found myself covering some of Kenya’s worst and most complex crimes, which shattered many families’ lives and dreams. 

This, I guess, is what attracted you to my path. Due to your great passion for storytelling, you made it a habit of virtually passing through my desk, almost every morning, before reporting to your newsroom.

You wanted to know the story I was chasing so that you would accompany me to the crime scene.

Mostly, these chilling stories on murder, police executions and robberies occupied prime pages of the Daily Nation, the Sunday Nation and news on the NTV channel.

Being a greenhorn reporter, you relied on me to show you the right people and police chiefs to interview to make your story unique and powerful.

The more stories we did together, the more you gained confidence and sharpened your skills on news gathering and storytelling.

When Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to the mustard seed, which a man sowed in his fields and suddenly ballooned into a huge beautiful tree, that’s how you made a big name for yourself in broadcasting while working for NTV and KTN. You instantly became a celebrity on our TV screens.

It wasn’t a surprise to me when, as a senior reporter at Standard Group's KTN, your bosses spotted your talent and sent you to The Hague in the Netherlands to cover two high-profile cases facing six of Kenya's most powerful men, including the son of founding president Jomo Kenyatta, two Cabinet ministers, the head of the civil service and a former police chief, accused by the International Criminal Court of committing "massive crimes" during the 2007 election crisis.

Uhuru Kenyatta, then Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, was the highest-profile of six suspects for whom indictments were sought by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.

In a case that struck at the very heart of the of the Kibaki Administration, Uhuru was accused of murder, rape, deportation and persecution, alongside Francis Muthaura – Head of Civil Service and a close aide of President Kibaki - and  former police chief Hussein Ali.

In the second criminal case, detailing similar charges, Opposition-leaning William Ruto – a powerful Cabinet minister – and the Industrialisation Minister Henry Kosgey, as well as the radio presenter Joshua arap Sang, were targeted. Ruto and his two co-accused faced charges of planning and inciting ethnic violence in the Rift Valley province, where the worst attacks took place.

All six men denied the charges. The cases later collapsed due to lack of evidence after key witnesses declined to cooperate with the prosecution after some of their colleagues were eliminated in baffling circumstances.

Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto – antagonists who weren’t on the presidential ballot in the 2007 disputed polls - rose to become Kenya’s 4th and 5th presidents’ respectively.

The ICC trials and TV coverage thrust you into instant international stardom. However, you never allowed pride and arrogance to rule over your life due to your new status and fame. You opted to remain a humble TV girl.

Rita Tinina requiem mass at Holy Family Basilica Nairobi, on Monday, March. 25, 2024. [Samson Wire. Standard]

Our friendship went beyond the newsroom. As our professional relationship blossomed, you turned out to be one of my best friends.

You were a magnet that attracted true, warm and lasting friendships – due to your golden heart and the trademark laughter and infectious smile you always flashed.

Whenever both of us were at the Nation Centre during lunchtime, you made it a habit of tagging along when I or my circle of friends were going out on a bite.

Whenever your mother came to see you in Nairobi, you always called me asking me to go greet her.

Countless times, I would join you and her at a cafeteria that was on the ground floor of Kimathi House, a few yards from the Nation Centre.

The glue that held our friendship still held firmly after I left NMG.

When I told you I had fallen victim of cancer and put on the deadly chemotherapy treatment in 2009, you cried for me.

Luckily, the Lord spared my life after I completed the six-course chemo treatment and our warm friendship continued flourishing.

When a journalist called me on March 17, 2024, after I arrived home from a church service, informing me you had died in your sleep, I was devastated. I was heartbroken . . . and thunderstruck.

The sting of death was instant, dreadful, vicious and painful. I was engulfed by thick sorrow in my mind and heart. My mind instantly flashed back to the contents of our last conversation.

Watching on the TV screen as an ambulance carrying your lifeless body driving from Brooklyn Springs Apartments in Nairobi‘s Kileleshwa suburbs, destined for the mortuary, it was a demonstration of how fragile life is.

You died aged 46. You were like a rose flower that blossoms at dawn and then weathers at the crack of dawn.

Rita, this is a special prayer for you from my shattered heart . . .

I cherished and appreciated you very much. For you were a true and loyal friend.

My heart will surely miss you, your warm love and true friendship.

You have only faded away from us physically . . . but in the hearts of those who truly loved you, your spirit shall never die!

Your life was an epitome of humility, hope, encouragement, love, kindness, generosity, empathy, care and inspiration.

When Angel Gabriel piloted your beautiful soul to heaven on Sunday, you left a legacy of love, hope, encouragement, kindness and generosity.

Your lifetime service to humility and self-sacrifice for others will forever serve as a special monument of love in our hearts for the exemplary woman you were.

Your amazing bond of love with your daughter, your family and other loved ones, your compassion for others, your humility, your integrity, your outstanding honesty and hard work will continue to inspire those who knew you and truly loved you.

Indeed, death has shut down a colourful chapter of the scenic life you had on this earth.

And an everlasting chapter has opened in heaven where your beautiful soul shall suffer no more pain, sorrow, grief or tears.

For all the love you gave everyone who came into your path of life . . . I say a heartfelt thank you!

Oh Lord, we are gathered and united in this forum to solemnly convey our deepest gratitude for the precious moments we spent with your compassionate servant, for the strong bond of sweet friendship we shared, for the heartily laughter we shared . . . and we remain hopeful we shall be reunited with her in your Vineyard one day.

Rita, may you find the everlasting sunshine of love, peace and happiness in the Lord’s Paradise.

Oh the Almighty God, may you heal the hearts of our friend’s family from the immense pain, grief and loss of the departed loved one.

May Rita Tinina’s loved ones find solace in "It Is Well With My Soul", also known as "When Peace, Like A River", the most-loved and inspiring Christian hymn of all time, penned by hymnist Horatio Gates Spafford, an American lawyer and Presbyterian church Elder.

A beautiful soul has rested!  

Stephen Muiruri is a former Editor (Crime and Security) at the Nation Media Group and a former Editorial consultant of The DCI magazine