[I wrote this as part of the script for Too Early for Birds – Tom Mboya edition. Written from the POV of a Luo man in 1969, the idea was to capture the (biased, yet legitimate) anger and hurt of his tribe right after Tom’s assassination. The pivotal moments that intensified the Luo-Kikuyu hatred that exists to this very day. It never made it to the final edit of the script. So I choose to keep it here, for posterity.]
When you people speak of Kisumo, your intentions turn stale like a fish that has been out of the water too long, and your voices crackle like wood being eaten by fire. Your ignorance is often too loud and sadly too confident. And most of the time, too hilarious. You talk of people who live here like you know them, but you don’t. Those loud people with skin the colour of strong tea and bodies with exaggerated features. Of course when you say it, you mean that in the most offensive way possible. Funny, though, because we do not even take it as ridicule (and neither do your women).
We are Luos. JoKisumo. Loud. Unapologetic. Volatile. And loyal to a fault. We walk and talk as if doing so on behalf of God himself. Yet for the longest time, we kept quiet with every humiliation and injustice levelled against us.
When the Mau Mau killed Ambrose Ofafa in 1953, we kept calm. We were told it was the mzungus who did it to sow division between us and we accepted the excuse. We took Ambrose back to his home in Alego Kalkada and lay him to rest beside his father and mother along the shores of River Nzoia. When Kenyatta decided that he had had enough of Ker Oginga Odinga and removed his powers as VP, we walked out of that your KANU party and joined KPU. It was a difficult decision because Tom was in KANU and Oginga was in KPU. We had to choose between the wisdom of the old and the vibrancy of the youth, but in the end, some things are still sacred to us; the younger follows the elder. It has always been the way of our people. We went with Oginga.
Then in 1955, the same Mau Mau who we assisted to escape the detention camp in Chula Mageta – an island off the shores of Usenge – decided to repay our kindness with killing and dismembering a fisherman called Orimbo. And what was his crime? He had changed his mind and refused to take part in the escape. But could you blame him? We had been told that the Mau Mau killed humans in order to drink their victim’s blood. So when we found his dismembered body behind the bush in the morning of their escape, what the hell were we supposed to think? Yet, in as much as two of them were hunted and killed in Alego and Sakwa, other Luo sympathizers still assisted the rest to escape.
Kasto in February 1969, CMG Argwings Kodhek – Chiedo Mor Gem- the cooking oil of Gem, the first black man to become a lawyer in the history of this country, died in a mysterious road accident. You said it was just that; an accident. We ignored the itch to react, however much we wanted to. Instead, we brought Okil Kamaloka back to Siaya Kababa, mourned him with our gods, rubbed our chests to assuage the grief of our bereavement, and begged the ancestors to accept ochot nyar musungu into their realm of the divine; to let him roam wild and calm and free as the waters of Nam Lolwe.
And then you people came for Tom Mboya. But it was not enough to just kill him, was it? You had to – and this is what infuriated us even more – do it so arrogantly. This time you did not even hide, or try to make it look like an accident. That okuyu of yours shot him twice in the chest; pumped him with metal in the full glare of everyone. In broad daylight. Barely six months after killing Kodhek. Such was the audacity of your cruelty.
His death tore our hearts to shreds. Women wailed because they have never been ashamed of their pain. Shameless tears flowed out of full-grown men like waterfalls. And children cried because that is what everyone else was doing. When you took the son of Leonidas, you left us with nothing. But what you did not know, is that when you took that life, you tickled the buttocks of a wasp.
Tom was ours. Perhaps he did not have pure Luo blood in his veins, lakini he was every bit a Luo. He spoke like us. He lived amongst us. He married our daughter. He took out his lower six teeth like every one of us. And even after he went back to the soil, his wife was inherited by his smaller brother like we do on this side of the world, and together they got a small boy who was named after Tom. He gave us Gor Mahia – chuor timbe, mayienga mayiengo piny- the army of green and white; followed with a fiery passion, more like a religion than a football team.
And yes, every now and then we brought up his Suba heritage to discredit him. But where is the ndhandhu of political drama and intrigues without a little ngerruok?
Tom loved us so much that he chose us. And we, him, even more.
And then you expected us to do what? Keep quiet and move on? Move on to what? When Tom breathed his last, so did our culture of silence. And we were going to make you pay for it. Nyasachiel, you were going to pay.
I was not in Nairobi when it happened. We just heard it on the radio. When they refused for Oginga to cry for his son. You blocked him from getting into a church. And so my brothers and sisters in the city rioted.
What happened next is not even a secret. How your president’s people fired teargas at us, beat us with batons and shot into the crowd. You people beat us for mourning. For mourning someone you killed. And then when Tom’s body had to pass through your gweng’ on its way to Kisumo, you pelted it with stones in retaliation.
They say numbers do not lie. If numbers tell the truth, how much truth is in 100,000? Because that is the number of people who showed up when Tom Mboya’s body finally got to Kisumo. I was there, in the mass. I mean, I did not get to see him, but I was there. And the truth that echoed from the grief of a 100,000 hearts strong was this; we would never forgive you. Gima lit to ok chwer remo ichako ihombo nang’o? Eh? How do you stop a pain from a wound that isn’t bleeding?
Lakini your president has hard eyes. It tends to happen to ungrateful amnesiac people who think ni they own the whole world. You people think Kenya is yours because you were in the forest. You conveniently forget that Achieng’ Oneko was also arrested with Jomo. You forget that “there was only one other person close to Kenyatta during the Lancaster House conferences; anyone wishing to see the Jomo at his hotel had first to get past Achieng Oneko, who slept in the next room, barring the door with his bed. With the continued death threats against Kenyatta, it was the mild-mannered Oneko who was, literally, putting his life on the line for him.”
And wasn’t it Oginga who told mzunguz ni Kenya is marwa whether they kithnid or they ndeknid? And wasn’t it Oginga and Mboya who refused to form a government unless Jomo was released? But your president is the kind that uses people and values things. And when he is done with you, you’re discarded like a used condom.
Three moons on the back of Tom Mboya’s assassination, he showed up at our doorstep, uninvited and unwelcomed. He was not even supposed to be there, but wira ni he was the president, he could do anything he wanted.
We all know that the osiptal we called Russia and the rest of you called New Nyanza General Osiptal, was the pet project of Oginga. It was his contact with USSR that made it happen, so it was his to launch. But Kenyatta insisted to be guest of honour. Whether we liked it or not. We made sure he knew we didn’t like it.
Wuod Nyalego said ni kamaler. Come baby come.
Oginga did not even need to organize or rally up his people against Kenyatta. Recent events already did all that for him. If there is a mistake governments make, is insult and belittle the collective anger of the people by equating it to the intent of the opposition. They think we are angry because we have been told to be angry.
Kenyatta was entering Kisumo from Kakamega, and as soon as the president got to Kondele, he found a hostile crowd. Ji ne ger ka sianda pino. We were over there chanting KPU’s slogan DUME! DUME! DUME! DUME! And then someone threw something. Tong’ motop…a rotten egg. Then others followed suit with stones. And small small, Kenyatta’s guard had to return stone with bullet. People scampered and the jarabuon made his way to Russia.
We found him at Kibuye where Russia is built. The sun was hot, but so was the fire in our chest. We got there and Kenyatta is sitting on the dais. When he came up to speak, we thought this man would – for once – dimbre himself a little at this nyasi because he was in our turf.
But what did he do? He went up there and said he would crush us – the opposition – like locusts. That did not bother us, though, because a bull is not insulted by the rambling crows of a chicken. Then he said it. People like to pretend that he didn’t but he did. He said something about the vaginas of our mothers.
Me I do not know about you, but where I am from, people do not talk about your mother’s ginene and you just shut up. Not us. Definitely not me. Me? Me Suna wuod Rapudo? Ng’ama pielo he bungu kasto kwero oboke ni an katieko tang’wedi? Me? You wanted me – a whole me – to just sit there and let this old man talk about the part of my mother I crawled out from? Ong’e jadha. Pokotumre ga. Mano temo Yesu gi ndawa.
We corrected him right there and then, the best way we know how to correct the foolishness spoken in public. We threw everything we could throw onto the dais. And we chanted DUME! DUME! DUME!!! And we shouted “WHERE IS TOM????”
We had heard about how he had responded to protestors in Nairobi during Tom’s memorial service. The news had left us furious, but not scared. Never scared. Nikech wan joluo bwana! In us runs the same blood of Gor Mahia of old, and Luanda Magere – the titan whose fear jolang’o suckled from their mother’s tits, and Nyang’or the legend of Alego Komenya who was buried with his war regalia upon his death so that he could go fight smallpox in the afterlife. And sure as hell, no smallpox ever touched any of his family members ever again. So what was a Kenyatta? Kenyatta could do us nothing!
But we were wrong.
He could do something. And he did it. The first to fire his gun was Dr. Njoroge Mungai, the Hypocrite. The doctor who forgot his Hippocratic Oath and shot into the crowd. Pssssh. Funny, coz we had been told for a long time ati okuche take their oaths seriously. And after that all of the presidential guard followed as if on cue. Bullet rang as dust rose in the impending stampede. Kenyatta was put into his motorcade and they sped off on the Kisumu-Nairobi Highway, and they did not stop shooting at anyone in sight all the way to Awasi, about 50km from Kisumo.
The newspapers say around 15 people were killed in the massacre, and hundreds others injured. But if you went to Russia – the scene of the crime – the full wards told a different story.
One of those stories being that of a boy called Alnoor Dahya. The 3rd born and only son to Mzee Abdul Hussein Dahya and Mrs Zarin Dahya. Mzee Abdul is a distributor for Nation Media Group newspapers and he lives near the newly constructed hospital, so when he heard that there was the grand opening happening, he joined the rest of us. Unbeknownst to Mzee Abdul, while the fracas was going on, one of the bullets from the police pierced one side of his son’s ribs and exited on the other who was playing in the veranda of their house with his sister.
Alnoor Dahya was nine years old.
39 or 9, it doesn’t matter. Your bullets – it turns out – do not discriminate on the basis of age.
You people have given us so much to resent you for, and then act surprised when we do. This is the hate you taught us. The only thing I keep asking myself is why? What did we ever do to you for you to kill us like this? What of yours have we ever stolen, or eaten or borrowed and refused to return? And how many of our dead bodies will be enough to exact this your revenge?
I do not think that your president is ever coming back these sides again. Good. For Him. Let him rule the country from over there. Because if he ever sets foot into the Kavirondo Gulf again, obiro yie ni kara ponge ok en mandas.
As I speak today, it is November 21st. A month and some change after the Kisumu Massacre. You’d think that that is the only event that has happened within that period. But uh-uh. First, there was the 6am to 6pm curfew that was put on JoKisumo for two weeks. Then on October 31st, Kenyatta banned KPU and put Oginga on house arrest. And then today we are hearing on the radio that the jarabuon who killed Tom Mboya was hanged.
I should be happy about it, but I am not a fool. It is said ati he was hanged on November 8th – but they kept it from us for three weeks. Then they said ati he was hanged at 3am, with nobody to witness it except the hangman at Kamiti Maximum Prison. No journalist was allowed. No priest was allowed to give him his last rites. And the only other person who swears that Tom Mboya’s killer was hanged is his lawyer – Samuel Waruhiu. Another okuyu. That is the person you want me to believe? The okuyu who was friends with Mboya in high school, but chose to defend the person who killed Mboya?
You people think we are stupid, donge? Uparo ni wiwa odhiek gi nyuka monindo? Hmmm. We are not children to be so easily amused. This your government has shown us things. Many things.
But not justice.
Too Early For Birds – Tom Mboya Edition will be staged one last time, due to public demand at Oshwal Center. November 9th will be on a Saturday, and you can choose to watch it at either 2pm or 7pm. Click on the poster below to buy your ticket before they get sold out. Trust me, it’s mostly funny, let this 50-year-old rant not lie to you.