Sunday, 10 January 2016
TRIBUTE TO A FALLEN COMRADE AND SOLDIER.
That day,you sat across me,sipping fruit juice from that tall glass, i couldn't have guessed what was going through your mind.I remember how you hugged me when i honored our meeting,despite knowing too well that i don't hug men.As a rule.Then you sat back to laugh sheepishly at my reaction,for i was both clearly taken aback and baffled.You didn't like the fact that i was in no mood for a meal,only a glass of water.You know,had i known that you were subconsciously trying to say your good-byes to your best friend,i would have approached that last meeting differently.But you kept it to yourself,didn't you.
Not many things,you kept from me.I can't sit here now that you are gone and say that.I'd be lying if i do.To me your life was like an open book.Even where it wasn't, you made sure that you made it so.As a friend i couldn't have asked for more.Looking back now,i can only begin to fathom what sacrifices you made,what pains it caused you.And that you pulled off that last meeting with a straight face,not even once betraying the turmoil that was inside you,was to me the most ironic feat you have ever pulled off in my presence.
Hill of Peace
Look,i don't know how things look like over there(Heaven i mean,where you surely must be). For no one ever makes it there,then write back a report of what they've seen.But God says its cool.....like nothing we can ever imagine.Beautiful,peaceful.I believe him.I don't know if,if given a chance,you would want to come back.Because your description of beauty and peace,you derived from that hill in the outskirts of town that you always went to,whenever you wanted to write something.You said it gave you a feeling of being the only one in the universe,and that from there,you could let your mind wander and be truly free.That your imagination and creativity were at their very best,away from all else and every one else.
And to be honest,i didn't believe you.I thought your mind is your mind, and from wherever you are, you want to use it,you use it.Surroundings not withstanding.Yet i couldn't have ignored the fact that every time you descended from that hill,lap-top in hand,you always had a victor's smile on your face,writing being one of your most successful battle-grounds.Maybe that's why your thrillers did so well.Maybe that's why your commentaries on social ills were always so spot-on.Maybe that's why they felt so alive and real.No reader would dare put any of your works down,once they start reading.At least none that i know of,both now and then.
But the days you tagged me along,so we could see if the air atop the hill would work for me too,my fear of snakes wouldn't let me settle down for any constructive writing.Every time a twig moved,a branch snapped(oh,and they do that a lot out there)or every time the wind blew on the grass,producing that 'swooshing' sound,you'd laugh your head off as i,like a born soldier,would snap up onto the rock behind us,on which you placed your lap-top casing.And even though i laboriously wrote a sentence or two,i always had to do it all over again from the comfort of my room.I laughed every time i went through my work later, for one would have been forgiven to think that whoever wrote the texts may have probably done it from a parachute,on its way down to the hard ground!. But not you,my friend.Not you. As you confided,everything you wrote from that hill was final.Amazing.
But i'm mad at you,because you never prioritized on how to help me get over this fear that i have of snakes. Or the thought that one could be lurking nearby somewhere. I say that because,come to think of it;that hill,our hill, will never get to see us together again.I would have been the one to go up there to tell the rocks,and the trees,and the insects,and even that howling dog that we never got to see, though it kept howling each time we ascended up there,that my friend,our friend,you,is no more.But i won't,because i keep thinking some cobra will spit on me.Or some two-headed Anaconda.
Now grass will tragically grow around the spot you used to sit.The path you walked,uphill and downhill,will in due time be covered by vegetation again.Maybe even the dog,will this time descend and show himself up to the world,or give himself up to the dog authorities, if he is some kind of a criminal dog in hiding,or alienated by other dogs,having committed a serious crime in the dog world.Maybe when he can't smell your scent anymore up the hill ,he'll reckon the world is gone, and so are his crimes,then opt to come down.
Now,you left before i got to ask why you always tapped your feet on the ground,each time you wrote something.You may not have noticed,but the spot where you sat,had turned into a tiny,little desert.Ironic because, you kept writing about how to care for our environment,yet the one spot you frequented,you turned it into a desert!. And the topics that made you tap your feet most,i guess,must have been the ones that meant most to you.Like when you wrote about the spirited defense of a corrupt regime,by a section of the population that considered the regime as 'its own'. And the suspects of corruption as 'their sons'. You took off your sneakers,maybe to inflict some gentle pain on your own sores,as if that would drive the point home better.
And i tried to reason with you,saying that three quarters of the demonstrating crowd didn't even know why they were on the streets,or why the international community was slapping their 'sons' with a travel ban and assets freeze.All they knew was that 'their people' were under attack by some 'other people',in the same nation,thereby dividing the nation even further.And because of that,they saw it reason enough to spill to the streets to defend 'their people' at all costs,even to the extent of bloodshed.
But you typed on,clearly agitated by this blindness and loyalty to tribe,and 'our own' mentality,that so afflicts this young nation,that has seen its wings virtually crippled and almost severed.And even though i felt your frustrations,its the tapping of your feet that i couldn't wrap my mind around.and almost laughed at,but decided against it after taking one look at your face.
I guess i'll never get an answer to that,unless i make it to where you are and not to a different place.
As i write this,i have a copy of The Late Ken Saro Wiwa's 'Silence Would Be Treason',beside me.Knowing it to be one of your favorite books,its mere presence near me is comforting.I may have my own issues with most West African novelists,and their portrayal of the continent as one huge, uncivilized,almost primitive area, but as you always argued,a man should be judged by their own individual deeds.Even God,you argued,has repeatedly said He's interested in a man's own heart,not a community's.Or a tribe's.I guess that means if you fix one man at a time,then soon you'll have the whole nation fixed.Maybe that's the secret Africa,and more so,Kenya misses.That even if we all collectively burn each of our neighbors houses,because of a wrong supposedly done to us by the neighbor's father,mother,leader or god,we each will stand before the final authority,God, individually.
I hope when you stood before Him,He had only praise for you.For yours was a life that made a mark on this part of the planet,whether civilized or primitive-your articulate articles being an accurate pointer to that.
Active Participation Against Corruption and Injustice.
The activists,your fellow activists,though heart-broken,still have the desire to fight on.Your demise has left a gaping hole ,yes.But the zeal to speak for the weak and the down-trodden has never been fiercer.
Yesterday,we gathered for a little demonstration in celebration of your life.We didn't make it past Freedom corner,the spot where our mother's faced the dreaded General Service Unit,those many years ago.Teargas canisters literally fell from the sky in their hundreds,as overweight policemen,tired of all the running,chose to use the shortest fly-dispersion methods at their disposal to ensure we dispersed,so they could go back to their beer and Nyama Choma before dark.And the traffic cops could proceed with their fifty-bob taking ritual as usual,at the height of artificial traffic jams,specifically created by them,to maximize collection.
Yet,when paid hooligans and idlers close the streets for hours on end, as their corrupt leaders are paraded to court,in a carefully choreographed show of willingness to fight corruption,these same overweight cops,blinded by a monthly token of willful slavery called a salary,stand by and watch.But between these two gatherings,ours would easily be the peaceful one,by anyone's either quick or detailed assessment.
System Turning Against Its Citizenry.
Take for instance, the day we demonstrated against the fencing off of Mwanainchi Primary School playgrounds,a public school attended by slum-children,whoever those are, for 'development',by an unknown 'private developer'.(By the way,if we can tag little kids 'slum-children',because of where they come from,i wonder why we act surprised when they grow up and join the enemy,say a nearby terrorist cell).The clobbering and the arrests,were totally unprovoked,because all we did was chant against wanton grabbing of public land.How could we have known that this 'unknown developer',would turn out to be the police chief himself?The look you gave me,as we both lay injured across each other in hospital,said it all.I knew that look-you were willing to give your very life to the struggle.I saw a fire in your eyes,that has to date,been the source of my own fire.
And just in case you don't follow the news from there,just know that the project has since been abandoned and the kids do now have their play ground back.They may not have decent housing in the slums ,but at least now they do have their play ground.And movie makers must shoot their clips of endless columns of shanties to entertain their audience in the West,so slums must remain.That,i understand.But you must ask St.Peter to tap your back,for your efforts were not in vain.Even though i know it still must pain you to play back the memories of a cop, in a torn sweater, running after and clobbering with a stick,a ten year old kid,who's only wish was to have a place to play,to live a kid's life like this cop probably did himself.Yet i insist you must also look back and be proud of moments like when the American President,in recognition of your noble efforts,took note of you in that gathering of the civil society.Its moments like those that will not allow me to draw back to my cocoon and hide.Silence here,would surely be treason.
Consequences of Abetting Corrupt Practices.
Well, there's nothing i can say about the drunk truck driver who rammed into your little car,that we fondly called 'Mr Bean',ending your life so unceremoniously.You see,the fela had gone past many police road blocks (Or,like you used to call them, "state-sanctioned toll stations,that have nothing to do with security"),each time bribing the officers,so he could continue his drinking spree inside the driver's cabin.He didn't even realize he was going off his lane,even as we sped to the airport so you could catch that first flight to Mombasa.When i saw the truck,though i instinctively swerved,it wasn't so i could save our lives.Those, i knew, were over even before the crash itself.
Waking up in hospital,therefore,with only some cuts and bruises,and with you gone,was a huge surprise.I took one look at the white gown of the doctor,and thought i was looking at God Himself,thinking i was dead.(Somebody get the good doctors off those white,long over coats,before a patient wakes up from the dead and,upon seeing them,dies again).
So my friend,corruption did cut your life here short.But it prolonged your legacy,in an ironic way-that your life's legacy,rather than start later,starts now.Your books have never been read this far and wide,and at the U.N convention on crippling corruption in third-world countries,your article about the International Criminal Court was read in tribute to your deep insight.Your assertion that the reason most African governments felt targeted by this court, was because they fuel,rather than curb,that which this court was formed to fight against, was not lost on almost all the participants.
Your Mum,as she received a medal in your honor in front of a cheering crowd of world dignitaries, shed tears of anguish for loosing her son,mixed with pride for being the mother of a gallant soldier of equality and justice for all.Some quarters still insist that you were assassinated by people who felt that you were interfering with their normal schemes of looting.But as your friend,take this from me;that the only one who assassinated you, was this monster that has been welcomed,fronted and defended so vehemently by government after government-corruption.
I hope that you will watch over me,as i dodge more teargas canisters and live bullets,meant for armed robbers,even though the last time i stole something was from my mother's bedroom, over two decades ago.And that was a crisp,new Sh.20 note with the sole intention of knocking myself out with a full loaf of bread,soda and Kaimati, a nondescript cluster of oily, ground wheat whose origin no one seemed to know.But Kibae,the shopkeeper not only declined to make this huge sale, he frog marched me back to my mother to explain this sudden acquisition of 'wealth'.I am in no mood to talk about beatings of any kind,so i will skip what transpired thereafter.Let's just say,by the time my mother was through with me,we both knew one thing for sure-that for as long as i was going to live, i was never going to steal anything from anyone again.Period.Stealing was aptly,authoritatively,summarily buried that day from my life.By a mother determined not to be overrun by her son and a shop-keeper who wasn't related to me.Today,bar-owners will sell alcohol to twelve-year olds,wielding countless a thousand shilling notes.I will not get into that either.
I will keep you posted on what happens next,now that the general elections are around the corner and politicians,after their five year sabbatical leave in the capital,are now back to their tribal cocoons,to whip up tribal emotions that will translate to votes.The few thousand deaths of peasants,that will most likely occur as a result,being a rather small price to pay.
May God give you a good spot,from which,even as you rest,you can watch life for us unfold,maybe even send an angel with your wise counsel,and pray that we don't mistake him to be from the 'other tribe' and set him on fire.But for now,my dear friend,May you rest in eternal peace,AMEN.