On June 1, there were reports of the death of a man popularly known as ‘Baite’ in Nairobi’s Mathare slums through a suspected police shooting.
The killing of the man, presumed to be a cart puller, for allegedly violating the dusk to dawn curfew prompted public outcry.
His shooters probably thought the death of a faceless man with no known relations would go unnoticed.
But not so for family and close associates of 51-year-old James Murithi who has been described as a dedicated husband and father to three children. His kin says he was actually a well-educated man.
Murithi hailed from Makandune village in Mitunguu, Meru County, where he studied his primary and secondary education. He then joined the National Youth Service in 1990 where he acquired a Diploma in Automotive Engineering.
Afterwards, Murithi worked as an instructor at Kinyanjui Technical Training Institute and then as a workshop foreman at Optic Limited.
In 1999, Murithi joined Umoja Mechanical Engineering in Nairobi as a co-director and worked there for three years before he quit to try his hand in business.
That was when the rains started beating him. A few years into his mtumba business, his fortunes started dwindling.
“When his business went under, he started doing menial jobs like carrying luggage to send money back home to his wife so that she could take care of the children,” said Naaman Kimencu, his uncle.
Life for Murithi became so difficult that he disappeared into a faceless slum dweller in Mathare, doing odd jobs to eke a living and he mostly kept to himself. Many just knew him as Baite which is Kimeru for “you guy.”
His wife of 21 years Christine Mumbua, 45, a casual labourer was overcome with grief at his funeral on Wednesday as she eulogised him as a gentleman who always provided for his family no matter the situation he was in.
The children Edwin Gituma, 20, Martin Mutua, 17, and Eunice Kariungi, 14, described their father as a caring parent who was very passionate about education.
“Our father loved education. Every time he called us the first thing he would ask was how we were doing in school. He would then ask if we had any problems and how he could help,” said Gituma.
The last time Murithi had gone to see his family was in January but he kept in communication.
The news of his demise reached his wife via a call from Johnie Benson, a friend for four years who also lived in Mathare. One the fateful day, the two had spent the day together.
“I used to give him work like sweeping the shop and carrying parcels for me. He would use my phone to call home so when he died, I had a way to contact them,” said Benson.
His family is now calling for speedy investigations into their kin’s murder.