The Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) office is located off Juja road in Nairobi’s Eastlands. It is situated in a single-storeyed building planted right at the edge of Mathare Valley. The building stands out in contrast to the sea of tightly packed shanty dwellings with rusty brown tin roofs dissected into two parts by the congested Mau Mau road running through the bottom of the valley. Dark grey smoke rises from the valley depths and one catches a glimpse of the murky waters of the Mathare river flowing parallel to the busy throughway. Visitors are primed to see ruins and deprivation, but residents speak of its beauty. A Rastafarian man named Jah Driver told me to think of Mathare as a chocolate city, and in a phrase, that captured the essence of Mathare’s complex sensory qualities.
“Justice, Justice, Justice for Sharon Beryl Otieno and baby Sharon”.
Sharon Otieno’s mother Melida Auma declared raised hand whilst wearing a stoic expression in her final emotional sendoff for her daughter on the 20th of October at Magare village in Homa bay county. The constant drizzle throughout the funeral service reinforced the solemnity of the occasion. It was one month and two weeks since the kidnapping and brutal murder of the seven month pregnant Sharon Otieno, the hitherto unknown student from Rongo University.
The heinous murder shocked the country and the story hogged the headlines for weeks. On the 4th of September the mutilated body of Sharon Otieno was discovered lying in the open next to a thicket on the fringes of Kodera Forest in Homa Bay. A farmer named Moses Ongili of Ogero village stumbled upon Sharon’s corpse while herding cattle and raised the alarm before filing a report at the Oyugis Police station.
It is 9am on a cool Thursday morning at Eldoret Sports Club. Sheets of puffy white clouds, hide the morning sun as a caravan in honour of the World Record marathon holder, Eliud Kipchoge prepares to hit the road. A convoy of vehicles are destined for Eldoret town centre for a grand homecoming of the running king.
It has been 11 days since Eliud Kipchoge broke the World marathon record in Berlin, Germany. Eliud is lean, sinewy and nondescript in casual clothes. He wears a dark polo shirt, running shoes and a branded cap. His words are measured. His tone of voice low, demands the rapt attention of a congregant in the presence of a respected padre. Sports journalists have warned of Eliud’s crisp responses and his zen like presence that deflates the exuberance of an eager interviewer seeking easy sound bites.
On 12th May 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the National Tree Planting Day under the slogan “Panda Miti, Penda Kenya”. It was another of those Jubilee-ese slogans that ring hollow. The event took place in Kamkunji sub-county at the Moi Forces Academy in the Eastlands part of Nairobi. This was the government’s knee-jerk response to the heavy long rains season that sparked an environmental crisis around the country. There were 32 counties affected and over 300,000 Kenyans were displaced. In his official speech, the President repeated the familiar pledge to achieve at least ten per cent forest cover, as required by the constitution, and to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Ask any child of the 80s what, “Polisi wa kae kama raia” means or why August is called the “ Black month” and the question evokes a chain of memories buried deep in our psyches. The children of the 80s try to forget but we remember.
I started my remembering again after I took my 26-year-old nephew on a trip down my memory road. Didi is the firstborn of my eldest brother John. He is a true blood millennial, born in 1991, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Falklands War, the failed assassination of Ronald Reagan and the assassination of Indira Gandhi.