"This is my father. We are going to the market."
It’s a son defending his father’s honour, confirming his identity to a policeman on patrol.
It’s 3.30am in Nairobi’s Kawangware slums, a tough place for anyone to be at any time of the day. But father and son have been down this road enough times to feel safe in each other’s company.
The father has enough confidence in that hell-hole where he has made a home for 20 years — longer than the boy has been alive. It’s hard to believe the boy now chaperoning the father is only aged 14. It’s as though the English poet William Wordsworth had him in mind when he wrote: The child is father of man.
- 1 England to allow 4,000 fans at elite events in lowest-risk areas
- 2 Burnley get first win with Wood strike against Palace
- 3 Suspension of African football boss opens field for new faces
- 4 German FA to review state of national team on December 4
The boy has just sat his final primary school exams, an affirmation, if anything, of the family’s faith in the ideals of education and meritocracy.
Father and son also believe in honest toil; they are headed to Gikomba market to buy vegetables for retail. Actually, their only fear has been about being waylaid by thugs and having their shopping money snatched.
So it’s a little comforting to meet a policeman on patrol even in that ungodly hour.
The man does not speak, perhaps not trusting his voice. Or it’s because the barrel of the gun is pressing his trachea.
Maybe his voice would have sounded contorted, and serve to irritate the man holding gun on him.
I wonder if eye contact is possible in the waning light of dawn. I think the man would have lowered his eyes, lest his gaze is misconstrued as challenging the authority of the gun bearer.
Still, silence would have been misread, for there is psychopathic pleasure in hearing a human plead. It’s an affirmation of our power over life and death.
Goats bleat when a knife is held to their throats before slitting. A rooster will crow before the neck is snapped.
But perhaps the man is paralysed with fear. I wonder if somebody frisks his pockets to confirm he has money for the market. I even wonder if he offered the money to buy his freedom, or even promised if he knew his life was at stake.
Because the gun bearer knows the man will not need money where he is going. There is overwhelming power in that, holding other people’s future in your hands. The ability to see beyond the bend.
The gun bearer does understand bit of law; at Kiganjo, he was taught how to uphold the rule of law. He was also taught to shoot at targets, and these targets are completely stationery; he can shoot with his eyes shut.
In the distance, an engine roars. His quarry will be here with no time, with props for the next act.
He clicks his gun. The boy crumbles to his knees and begs for his father’s life. "This is my father," he wails for the umpteenth time. "We are going to the market." The gun bearer notices the gunnysacks. They could be used to take the bodies away, he thinks. This is what it means to think on one’s feet.
They say walls have ears, but the walls of Kawangware have acute hearing. Not only do they record the deafening blasts from the gun heard on Tuesday night, they also bear the scars of the bullets that killed two innocent Kenyans the police were meant to be protecting.
Ibrahim Okech Ondego, 46, and his son Joseph Nyaberi, now lie dead on a cold slab in a morgue somewhere in the city.
If you feel like shedding tears for the widowed woman, or for the children made fatherless, please do not.
Weep, instead, for our beloved country, which has lost the capacity to feel the pain.
Surely, justice can fly, and
this is no flight of fancy
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has many bright ideas that should be given a chance.
The brightest of them all being the provision of choppers to deliver justice to Kenyans in far-flung areas of this country.
He does not think chopper hiring is cost-effective in the long-term, he thinks the acquisition of two or three choppers for his team would do the trick. Why, there are places where judges and magistrates spend several days on the road to reach their destinations.
Naturally, this occasions unnecessary court delays, while direct costs are incurred through per diem payments to court officials and support staff, not to mention fuel and vehicular maintenance costs. Considering the runaway fuel costs, Willy’s proposal makes perfect sense. And it is even more sensible to expect chopper costs would be considerably cheaper since it can serve as a matatu when not fully needed at Sheria House.
I think this is an idea whose time has come. It would have instant impact, quite unlike the abstract and unnecessarily expensive things that others have been calling for, such as the staffing of the Judiciary and equipping courts with expensive recording devices. There has been this grand talk of posting all court files online for easy retrieval, mainly because that’s been the key avenue for inordinate delays and corruption. Files at Sheria House actually develop legs and walk, and are routinely reported missing.
Willy surely knows this. He also knows if one wants to succeed, one must start at the top, and this chopper idea is no flight of fancy.
After the affair, now Swazi queen sees red
I thought I’m the only one who had developed a liking to pepper – the green pepper – mainly to spice American meats that taste like sawdust.
I learnt this week that red pepper is even popular, especially with American police. They used it to disperse peaceful crowds in New York, and later at a university in California.
Then I read somewhere that the 12th wife of the Great King Mswati of Swaziland had been banished from the king’s palace, apparently for using red pepper on a palace guard.
Nothando Dube is the queen, who was in the habit of disappearing whenever King Mswati was away, apparently seeking some marital justice with the then Justice Minister, some guy called Ndumiso Mamba.
I initially thought the queen sprayed the guard to prevent him from seeing something she wanted to smuggle in, particularly because the king is away.
But I read she was provoked to spray the guard because he wouldn’t let her leave the compound, although she had a sick child who needed instant medical attention.
That’s perfectly understandable. I just hope the queen had not accidentally used the red pepper on the child, since I assume she keeps it as part of her First Aid kit.