Dear Andrew, I saw a man die. I have seen people die before, of course: In car crashes; in collapsing buildings; in the madness of war and terrorist attacks; even in the antiseptic serenity of hospital beds. But this death was particularly sad.
I keep wondering what went through his head before the hammer. Was this the nightmare he’d always feared, of being cornered and helpless? Did he think of his wife and children and wish, in those fleeting moments before life seeped away, that he could at least hug and kiss them one last time? Did he even have kids?
Did he think of his mother and feel a sense of disappointment come over him mingled with the blood? That he’d failed her by becoming a boda boda rider and was now also failing her by becoming one of those boda boda riders who fail to spot trouble when it comes in the shape of two young innocent looking men?
Maybe he felt rage. That after all, life had thrown at him, after deciding he would work long and hard even ride for fares late into the night to put food on the table and coin in the pocket, that it was all coming to this one-sided contest in which the cowards couldn’t even face him?
I don’t know. I know nothing about this man, except that he dead, son. Man dead. The next morning he was still there, lying where they left him.
There wasn’t even a white sheet to cover him with some dignity. He just lay there. Like a dog. Road kill. No name, no backstory. Just a statistic, an entry into an Excel sheet, an end only dramatic because it was captured on CCTV.
In a few days, he will be forgotten. There will be other gruesome clips shared endlessly in WhatsApp groups. We will shake our heads while noisily sucking air through our lips. Then open the next clip of slapstick humour. Life is a joke.
For family and friends, however, these are no laughing matters. I checked the clip again, Andrew; the CCTV clocked this murder almost exactly six years after yours. Can you believe it is already six years? Was it not just yesterday that your mother sat beside your coffin shaking with unspeakable grief? Was it not just yesterday that your father spoke of the tragedy of a parent burying a child?
I keep asking why they didn’t take the man’s motorbike and leave him to die another day. Why they didn’t take your wallet and stupid cheap Chinese phone and leave you to die another day. Life is cheap.
There was a sweep-up operation after you went. Three hundred people were picked up, they said. Mbu one was even charged in court. Many of the thugs were well known to the authorities. Some of the authorities were well known thugs.
One notorious thug who’d cut his teeth cutting through people like you, rose to a top position in the police. He, and others around him, then proceeded to carry out all manner of crime with the help of the badge.
It was like watching a train wreck in slo-mo. Before long it wasn’t just small people being murdered outside their gates; soon even big shots the ones with names and titles and ranks and bodyguards were taking big shots outside their gates. Gunmen had turned against fellow gunmen. The lunatics had taken over the asylum.
We hear that they are cleaning up. The news is full of previous untouchables being subjected to colonoscopies by the long arm of the law. Many hunters are spotted on the wrong side of the prison cell grills. Falcons drag falconers by the small hairs.
But impunity is like a genie; easy to rub out of the bottle, but notoriously hard to put back in.
Once the big people get away with stealing from the sick, once it becomes acceptable to trample upon the defeated and the damned, we return to the jungle; beasts in human form. People are murdered for trinkets.
They looked so young, Andrew, the killers, I mean. Early 20s, I’d say, yet savage and ruthless. They were full of life, and death. Dear Andrew, I saw a man die. And it is sad that he reminded me of you. We miss you.
Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and a poor man’s
freedom fighter. email@example.com