The two ninjas take their time as they escort me out of the 4 by 4 through a crowded parking lot full of reporters, and into the holding cell. In truth, there’s a back door that accesses the courthouse and would be convenient as you just get out of the car and step into the building right away without much fuss. But that would deny the waiting press the chance to take countless photos and barrage me with silly questions as I did my perp walk in chains. From the look of things, the two ninjas thoroughly enjoy the spectacle.
The cameras click and flash, flash and click. At one point, my escorts stop me and we face the press for better shots. My hands are still handcuffed in front of me. A chain is now around my waist and my ankles as well. I try to cover my face but the grip on both my elbows is so firm it could literally break my bones. No need, I say to myself, and take the embarrassment like a man. I’m literally like a piece of fresh carcass out in the savanna grasslands of Africa, with hungry vultures mercilessly descending upon it.
After what seems like an eternity, we finally enter the courthouse, walk down a long hallway, and turn right to the holding cell. Oduh finds his way there as well after he parks his Mercedes. He shooed away the reporters with the usual, “No comment for now. We’ll see you after the hearing.” He can’t wait for round two where he’ll gladly answer all their questions. This guy lives for such drama. He was born to shine and he glows under the media spotlight.
He lets me know what to expect. I can barely collect my thoughts and miss two-thirds of what he says. Only thing that registered was when he said the bail hearing proceedings would be televised live. Suddenly, I look up into his eyes. But there was no time to ask any follow-up questions. An officer in uniform suddenly storms into the holding cell, gets the chains off and hurriedly ushers me into the courtroom.
I wonder why Judge Achieng’ would allow the media to air the case. I assumed it was for transparency, given her Integrity mantra. Or maybe the high-profile nature of the case.
The hearing was short. Just as Oduh had warned me. I pleaded “Not Guilty.” The defense and prosecution each had a few minutes arguing back and forth over legal technicalities. Oddly enough, I still found it difficult to be present. So, my recollection of the proceedings is checkered.
All I remember was seeing Sisi seated behind the defense desk, where Oduh and I were. Her eyes were wet and red. She was rubbing a piece of tissue over her nose.
The prosecutor would be Bono Godana. A fierce wolf who gladly devours the accused for dinner. He holds a law degree from the University of Nairobi and a postgraduate from Cambridge. A former KDF man, he joined the army after the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi. He felt a calling to fight for his country and preserve our dignity as he’d later say during a public vetting exercise by parliament. I was in class three at the time. Sisi was in kindergarten and had barely learnt the alphabet.
He was part of the regional troops that were scrambled to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a peace keeping mission by the East African Community after the turn of the century. After serving for seven years, he was honourably discharged and appointed by President Kibaki to lead the war on drugs as the NACADA chair. The position, though glamourous, was uneventful and he missed the adrenaline rush he had gotten accustomed to in the battlefront.
When a prosecutor’s job opened up at the Milimani Law Courts, he was gladly offered the post. An advert was posted in the dailies and interviews conducted. But this was all useless procedure. Bono had already secured the gig. And he knew it.
Putting away criminals was more fulfilling than pushing papers at NACADA.
“Bail is denied,” Judge Achieng’ pronounced as she banged her gavel. Suddenly, I’m present again. Even though I expected it, the ruling caught me by surprise.
“Wait, so we’re half Kenyan, half Rwandese?” That was my initial reaction when I heard Sisi had found him. Suddenly, my 6-foot height is explained. My sister’s beauty as well.
It was a conversation my mom never envisioned having with us. But still, she knew it was in a way inevitable. She sat us down in the living room and for the first time, gave us our family history.
Turns out, our father had another family in Kigali which my mom did not know of until she was heavily pregnant with me. The pain of this discovery almost led to a miscarriage. She, however, pulled through. And somehow accepted that she’d be a co-wife. She says our father must have cast a seriously powerful Rwandese spell for her to agree to being a mistress.
Two years later, Sisi was born.
Dad would visit regularly. Each visit would see him stay for a week. Sometimes a fortnight. Mom rarely made the trip to Kigali unless business necessitated it.
After Sisi turned two and a half, the visits were becoming shorter and far in between. Then by the time I was joining class 1, they stopped altogether. I was barely six years old and my memory is fuzzy. It’s now been twenty-five years since I last saw him. I would pass him by the street if I met him.
Mom burned every photo, every letter, anything that would remind her of him. That’s how his memory died as well. And our small family of three moved on as if he never existed.
After Judge Achieng’ denied me bail, I’m ushered back to the holding cell. Oduh joins me a few minutes later. The judge had summoned him and Bono to her chambers immediately after the hearing.
Sisi comes in shortly after and she looks teary eyed.
“Don’t worry siz. I’ll be fine,” I say as we walk towards each other. We embrace warmly. Then she breaks down and starts bawling like a baby. I knew my sister loved me but not this much. Someone would think that I’d just been sentenced to death, yet it was just bail denied. We still had a long legal way to maneuver.
“Come on Sisi. Trust me, I’ll be okay. Come on now. You know how seeing you like this makes me feel. You’re going to make me start crying and we won’t like the sight of that, will we now?” My subtle attempt at humour hits a brick wall. She’s crying even more and is now breathing heavily.
I push back from her, my hands on her shoulders, and look her in the eyes which are now pepper-red. Her face is pale and damp. The last time I saw her this broken was seven years ago. I remember it well because it was when our beloved dad died.
That’s when I realized the tears weren’t for me.
Nice piece brother,kudos