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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

In Kenya, When You are Poor - You Die Alone

By F. Itam

Today I found out JG, someone I knew died. Personable and intellectual in his way, JG always struck me as someone that was curious about the world. JG had an opinion on everything, be it politics, the economy or even the winner of the 2010 World Cup, sadly which he will not see.

Though the father of three sons (whom he was immensely proud of) had his personal demons - JG was always there to lend a hand. With the practical knowledge he had acquired in his 36 years of life, JG always had a solution. And there was nothing that was impossible to him  - until he tried it.

JG went missing on Monday evening. On Tuesday his family and colleagues assumed he would show up. It was not the first time JG who enjoyed his tipple had gone missing in "action". But he always showed up - cowed by the anger and worry he had brought on. However, within a few days, JG would be back to his form - giving advice on the life situations we found ourselves in.

But this Tuesday and today - JG did not show. After visiting hospitals and police stations, JG was found at the mortuary. It turns out that he died on Monday night under circumstances we shall never truly know. But like the others who die in poverty, it took searching  throughout Nairobi for him to sadly surmise what befell him. You see in a country with high mobile phone usage rates, unfortunately even the police are unable to inform the next of kin when they come upon a body.

I once asked JG how come he knew so much and he told me that during the Kenyatta and Moi regime's his father had been a senior civil servant. This meant that he had the opportunity to attend a good school in Nairobi. Unfortunately, JG's father was part of Daniel Moi's purge on all that was above mediocre and his father was detained for years. Such punishment was not only meted out on JG's father but ultimately his younger dependent children of which JG was one. Thus JG was pulled out of the Nairobi school and wound up in a rural one. The frustration of his unquenched curiousity for knowledge not being met and adaptation to rural life meant that JG's education henceforth was erratic. Later on he had to make do with the university of life, taking on any job there was.

It is ironic that the ICC have today granted the Louis Moreno Ocampo’s request to launch an investigation on crimes against humanity in Kenya covering the period between 1st June 2005 and 26th November 2009. This is because people like JG are not alone in having had to suffer the death of their aspirations long before the expiration of their mortal bodies. However, the people that were behind the regime that ensured that JG would never go far in life remain un-prosecuted.


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