Monthly Archives: January 2014

Saturday 16th March 2013

Part 1 of this story can be accesed by clicking on any part of this sentence. 

It had been a long week for Roy and his companions. They had sat in front of documents since Monday, looking at forms released by the IEBC, looking at the official results as announced, looking at voter registers, looking at voter turnout, names and names and names. 290 constituencies added up to some 33,000 polling stations. 86% voter turnout, more than 11 million votes cast and 10 people looking through these things. It had been hard work, mind-numbing work.

One thing that helped was the importance of what they had been doing. The orientation program on Sunday was organised like a political campaign. They had been told about the gravity of what they would be doing, it looked like and would at many times feel like busy work they had been told but it was also important work.

”You are the eyes of the country, guarding democracy, preserving faith in institutions, what you do is something whose effect will run down generations. What you work for, what you achieve, whatever the decision will influence Kenyan life and politics for decades, be proud that you were called here. This is not about political affiliations but about the defence of the nation.”

Words and their effects wear off but the money helped. Oh, the money helped. Mikey had not been joking when he said they paid well. 10,000 shillings a day, every day for paralegal work. When at the end of every day 100,000 shillings was brought into the room they worked in and they were dismissed each with 10,000 shillings in hand it made everything so much better. The first thing Roy had noticed was how tiny an envelope is needed to fit in 100,000 shillings, no bigger than the envelopes he would put letters in back when he wrote them. The second thing was how numbing it was to receive so much money, day after day. Money had stopped meaning so much to him, a nagging voice told him to save but on the way back to the hotel room he and his friends would feel the need for a good meal, they would walk into a restaurant and make their order. 3,000 shillings later they felt sated and went and plonked themselves in their beds. Woke up early the next day and began again. Then that evening they would all get another 10,000. Add this to the 5,000 shillings saved from the previous day and he had 15 to do with as he pleased.

Tonight they were at a club in Westlands with women famous for their gold digging ways. There was a thing about money that people could sense. Roy felt it tonight as he had been feeling it all week. He walked a little straighter, his confidence was a lot more evident, and he didn’t have to look for girls. They could smell it on him. The girl he was currently with asked for another shot and he got impatient. There was really no reason to keep feeding her alcohol in such small quantities, plus stopping to call the waiter always reduced the intensity of their necking. The next time the waiter came around he just asked for a bottle. The music was too loud to hear anything she said and today he didn’t really care; this was not a girl whose giggle he would be thinking about in a week, this was not even a girl whose body he would be thinking about in a few hours. She shot back the bottle of tequila like an old pro and suddenly he was tired of her. He reached for his ultimate excuse,

“I need a smoke.”

He walked out and found Anto, one of the few smokers working on the petition, already there. He walked towards him, struck a match and a conversation.

“Didn’t I tell you renting a room for the three of us would be a good idea?”

“1,000 shillings a day and no worries about waking up late because the office is right there, I have to admit it was a good one. One thing though.”

“And what’s that?”

“Have you given thought to how early you’re going to have to kick this girl out of your place? We have to be back on the paper trail by 8 in the morning, if she continues drinking the way she has been she won’t be awake till 8 in the evening.”

“don’t worry about that, we have that pill at home that we’ve been using to keep ourselves fresh despite nights like this, a few of that, a friendly taxi guy, knowing her address before we go to sleep and I’ll be good. How about you?”

“My girlfriend, remember she was against this whole thing about us living together until you talked to her, well this was the reason, the temptation. What did you tell her anyway?”

“The truth, well some of it.”

“And what was that?”

“That I couldn’t live at home while I worked for what my father calls the enemy and I couldn’t afford to live by myself and all the reasons about not being late to work.”

Saturday night was when Roy had told his family about what work he was going to be doing.

“You’ll be working for who? Doing what?”

“Its important work and I doubt I will ever get to meet him.”

“You’ll be contributing to his baseless claims by researching them? Have you no respect for the fairness of an election, for this democracy that you talk about. A decision reached by 6 people who we never chose can never have the same power as a decision reached by 6 million people. Remember what happened last time? You can work for the man who would not accept defeat until it was forced on him? Do you remember what happened to our country?”

“It wasn’t only his fault.”

“Yes it was. It was not the rigging that both sides did that led to the fighting, it was the incitement that one did”

And they had the same argument they had had so many times. Then he asked his father the question that he had really wanted to. He asked him why they should be so accommodating of a family that stole their land more than anyone else’s. How could tribal unity be  a reason when that had happened , when there had been a  crackdown on the Mau Mau and all those young men had been killed under a Kikuyu president just a few years back, he had finally asked him what loyalty he owed to those who had none even to their own.

If his father had not been drinking since 3 this may have been met with a stony silence instead he cracked.

“Me against my brother. Me and my brother against my cousin. Me, my brother, and my cousin against our village mate. Me, my brother, my cousin, and my village mate against someone from another village. This is the reason. Roy, I know more than you about the wounds we have all suffered in this country. Do you really believe that I don’t know the Kenyattas have hurt us? Only the blindest and most fanatical Luo will not admit that the Odingas have done the same, molasses are not just a thing that is used to make sugar. Back in the mid 70’s there was an atmosphere of fear, the shadow of  Tom Mboya’s death still hang over our country. You think it was easy being a Kikuyu then when every Luo looked at you as if you had personally held the gun to Mboya’s head? Do you think living in the recent past you have experienced hate?  And just a few years later we began infighting. There were bombs and shootings and worst of all the rumours that all this was done by some of the northern clans to embarrass the old man because he had not shared enough of the tribal cake. 5 years later he was dead and Moi was president, 24 years in the cold taught us that it is always better to have one of your own inside than anyone else. And this man, Raila, have you seen his eyes, have you looked in them. The red of their hue is not the red of a forgiving man, he holds things in his heart, rage and anger and pain and if allowed to he would spill it all over us. You say you are doing this for the money? Well then if it is enough for you to forget about your nation it is enough for you to find somewhere to live. I cannot imagine coming home to see you every day after you have been working for that man, I can’t tell you what to do but I can tell you where not to. If you are going to work for him I don’t want to see you living here until after he has well and truly lost.”

So Roy had found a place to live. The first night he spent in the lodging he would take girls to when he couldn’t take them home. By the second night he had sown the idea in the heads of some of his friends who were also working there. There were no down sides, none of them wanted to be going back home every day, it was the ultimate bachelor’s getaway and they had all grabbed at it. Well Anto’s girl had to be talked to though Mikey had jumped at the opportunity without a look backwards. He finished his drink and went back in.

“Let’s go,” he said to the girl.

“It’s time to go.” He repeated a few hours later, bundling her into a taxi and then ravenously eating all that was left in their room. By 8 they were all back at the office, up to their socks in numbers and numbers and numbers. A lot had to be prepared for the filing of the case and the petition team held everything back until the last possible minute. For those last hours adrenaline soaked the air, there were all the various strata of the legal profession sitting down and collaboratively working. The paralegals along with people who had just become advocates doing the bulk of the donkey work, the advocates of a few years doing research on the results of various presidential petitions, comparatively studying constitutions from different jurisdictions, looking for articles by well respected and admired jurists, the senior counsel taking all this information, distilling it into a coherent argument, figuring out how to present it to court.

This is how it was for some moments in every day; the workings of a finely tuned clock were on display as things were passed up and down and back again. Sometimes the famous people would pop into the room. The love and loathing felt for them by so much of the Kenyan public gave them an aura as if they were the Greek gods of old who became more powerful with each new supplicant. They would come in and have a quiet word with the paralegals, here away from the cameras their voices were rarely raised. Instead they were measured as if to fit the room. An instant intimacy and connection was created and when they squeezed his forearm in gratitude Roy felt as if he would fight to the end for them. He could tell how they had made it this far in politics, charisma leaked out of them even when they walked.

“Good work guys. This is very impressive, today we can turn in early, you can finally sleep for a bit before going out to drink.”

There had been crowds outside the Supreme Court waiting for this announcement. Well not the announcement that they could go sleep and then drink but that the petition file was ready and would be taken to court soon. The sweat was dripping off the people in the streets as they shouted and made faces. They talked in a language Roy could not understand most of the time. When they spoke English they spoke it with a pride and a sense of entitlement that Roy could admit to himself disconcerted him. The way Raila had turned politics into a kind of religion with him as the deity was the thing Roy feared the most. If his father was right and the hate had never gone away then this man had an army of people ready to take back what he thought was his.

“Why look so sad? Is it because of the way you are stabbing your tribe in the back? Better to think about the woman you were stabbing in the morning, I heard you rush her out. Well in my friend, well in.” Mikey said to Roy

“ah the girl, to tell you the truth it was pretty boring, if this is how it feels to get a girl purely with money I can’t say I like it.”

“Empty experience, yer a guy once said sex without love is an empty experience but as empty experiences go it’s one of the best. Guess he hadn’t tried been sworn in as president without winning an election HAHA. So what’s the plan tonight? Come with us, some of the guys who’ve been working at the campaign for a while are going out for a couple of drinks, come join us, let us see if we can convince you that your vote was wrong”

“You don’t even know who I voted for.”

“That’s right, you had a choice of three this time. But my friend you are too much of a pragmatist to vote for Peter Kenneth and as it looks it was even less practical to vote for Karua than Dida. So… I think I can tell where you put your tick. Anyway too late for that, only 6 people’s votes matter now and you are hard at work swaying them, so we thank you.”

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Saturday 9th March 2013

Roy finished his cigarette thinking about what a mediocre night it had been. There was some happiness to be found in waking up in a house that was not his own and even  that was just in finishing up his pack of smokes. He got into the waiting matatu and walked straight to the seat with the nearest open window, no matter what anyone said about him he was a considerate man, not one to inflict the smell of stale liquor on his travelling companions.

 

As he sat there a man came on the matatu with a piece of paper. He shoved it under Roy and made some definite hand gestures. The legend on the piece of paper talked about Kithira School for the Deaf under this was a table with the familiar headings of amount and name. Roy shook his head and went back to the half-sleep state that he hoped would leave him automatically when he got to his stop. It had been two minutes and the deaf man was still talking to the lady next to him, showing her the piece of paper over and over. He wondered whether he should intervene but the smell of liquor coming off his pores made him feel as much of an intruder as the man. Finally he stared at the man, a stare that said move on. He looked back down and the deaf man ran his open palm against Roy’s face before he walked to the back of the matatu, Roy turned around ready to get angry then stopped himself, what could he possibly do? It didn’t look like anyone had seen what had happened and if such a situation turned into a situation he knew which of them would be kissing gravel.

 

He checked his phone again; it was already 8:20. He slumped back in his seat and waited for the air washing over him to have more than just a numbing effect. Suddenly he felt a sharp blow to the back of his head; he turned around in anger and alarm only to see the deaf man hustling to get off the matatu. He wanted to shout, he nearly did but the thing that always happened to him when he was around people he assumed couldn’t hear had already happened. A bubble of silence had come over him and things seemed to move a little slower and even in the state he was in he could appreciate the irony behind shouting at a deaf man. And again the fear of kissing the gravel came to his mind.

 

He tried to drum up support, turning around to see if anyone had witnessed this assault. There was nothing except a soft giggle from the lady seated next to the window. Well at least someone enjoyed this little episode. Now that he looked at her he noticed things he wouldn’t have otherwise, the way her giggles escaped a cell made of fingers clasped against her mouth, the way her eyes shined as she laughed, the way the half-submerged laughs shook the whole of her body.

“You should be kinder to people, you can avoid things like that.”

“DEF-initely.”

When she laughed at that he knew he should go in for the kill,

“Hi, I’m…”

RING, RING.

It was his phone and when he looked at it he knew he had to pick. The name on the screen belonged to a campus friend of his, one of those people who had been involved in campus politics and instead of getting shocked and getting out  had gotten inspired and stayed in.

 

“It won’t be the same for me.” Mikey used to tell Roy, “I have Kikuyu friends don’t I, look at you, we’ve been drunk together more times than I’ve been hangover alone. You know how God blessed me when it came to the thing of hangovers,” then he would let off one of those big laughs of his, the kind that made you feel he was already an old pot-bellied man picking nyama choma off his teeth, enjoying the 5th of his beers and flirting with waitresses way too young for him. “It’s just dirty right now and even to clean things up you have to get a little dirty, remember high school how we would stink after one of those clean up the latrine punishments? Well someone has to stink for the rest of us to stay clean and that one can be me. Just the other day I was talking to this guy who was running for a post and he was telling me one of his old war stories. I mean you and I already know that campus politics is a heap of tribal garbage but there’s much worse than just the blatant tribalism, bear in mind what I’m telling you happened after the 2007 elections. He was in one of the hostels in main campus when he was warned that some guys were coming for his head. He got out safe and he was angry, not thinking with this head anymore he drove into Uchumi and took a trolley and stacked it with pangas. At this point I like to imagine the shopping attendant. It’s 9 at night, maybe he knows there is a SONU election maybe not but he hears this rattling and this sound comes closer and closer to him and he looks and sees this guy obviously pissed off pushing a trolley full of pangas. What would you do? This attendant says very calmly that they can’t sell more than 2 pangas at once and especially not at this time. So this guy gets pissed off and walks away. He then calls a contact of his at the army, explains his situation and this guy agrees to hook him up fucking pangas. ”

 

Mikey had been working with the CORD campaign for some time now and he had promised Roy that if there was need of any legal talent he would give him a call.

 

“There is always paralegal work and trust me, in a campaign like this when they pay, they pay.”

Roy was always in need of money, especially after a night like the last one. His mind stopped for a minute immobilised by the girl next to him but it quickly reached the decision that he needed to talk to Mikey, he was a politician after all and there was no way Roy was the only one promised a job. He looked at the girl with the giggle, excused himself and picked up the phone.

 

“My friend where are you, I’m glad you still have that phone of yours.”

“In Nairobi, on my way home.”

“Good, good. I need you fresh tomorrow; I need the Roy who impresses lecturers, nice shirt, polite smile.”

“Why, what happens tomorrow?  The election is over; I thought you would call some time before.”

“Oh my friend, this is why you could never be a politician, always insisting on endings and beginnings, you should know most things in life are fluid and when it looks like it’s over its only just taking a different form. Don’t you know they say a cat has nine lives only because the sweet tongue of a politician stole away the other ninety?”

“No one says that.”

“Well, I do. And one day they will too. So, I hope you are free for a long time next week, I know you are just coming off of this year’s Post Election Vacation but I remember you as being a bum with nothing to do.”

“still as almost-funny as ever I see…”

“ok, ok, being serious, remember I promised you a job and some money to put in that pocket of yours, well now the time has come for me to make good, and in return all I want is some votes from your constituency when your time comes. By now you know that Uhuru is going to be announced the winner of the elections.”

“No…no… they haven’t announced anything yet have they?”

“Come, come my friend now you sound like one of those people who still deny that Kibaki stole the last one. You don’t have to have facts tattooed in your skin to believe them, just look and you will see. Anyway this is very good news for you and not just because you are Kikuyu. HAHA. The political battle is done but now we begin the legal battle.”

“You know I don’t have my degree yet?”

“Now who asked you about degrees? First you don’t understand politics and then you don’t understand patronage, how were we ever friends. Listen there will be an election petition filed and we need young sharp legal minds like yours to come and pore over the evidence. I won’t lie to you and tell you it will be exciting work, we don’t need your four years of failed university education for this, we just need your skill at sitting in a dark room and looking at papers that should match and telling us where they don’t.”

“Ok, I’m listening.”

“We’ll give you a nice title, paralegal, how does that sound? The kind of thing you can tell the girls you usually hit on and have them think you work for the rights of the disabled. HAHA. I just need you to be here by 8 am ready to work and willing to be paid.”

“The second part sounds especially good. Where’s here?”

“Campaign central. You mean you don’t know it? Wait for an sms from me then. You can celebrate your guy’s win but not too much I need you here bright and early to help prove it was a steal, I know how much you guys like that and not just when it has to do with bargaining. HAHA”

 

He put his phone down. The girl next to him excused herself and gave him a smile laden with promise, if only you didn’t pick up that phone it said. Then she left. He moved closer to the window and the wind rushing in quickly brought him back to life.

 

When he got home it was 8:56. The house was filled in an expectant hush. He didn’t have to ask, he already knew this was because no announcement had been forthcoming from the IEBC. The familiar scenery of BOMAS showed on the screen. The television stations had already made the necessary calculations to show who had won and by how much. He stopped in the sitting room and no one turned to welcome him, all eyes were glued on the television taking in the biography of number four.

“How do they know where he was conceived?” Roy asked.

“Haiya, you were behind there all this time, have you had breakfast yet?” his mother asked.

“Can’t you smell on him the kind of breakfast he has had. These nights of yours will take a toll my son and it will be a sad day for you. Right now, get out of this room, we don’t want to be reminded what a failure you are becoming.”

“But it worked so well for the man who would be our fourth, why shouldn’t I go on in my decadent ways?”

 

His father turned and gave him a look. A look that made the one he gave the deaf man nothing but a fading echo. He turned around without another word chiding himself for his clever tongue. There were quite simply some households in which you did not mention the ruby eyes of the alleged fourth president.

 

A shower. A small meal. Toothpaste, toothbrush. He felt better. So he voiced his question again,

“How did they know where he was conceived?”

“because,” his sister chimed, “on the fateful night, as Jomo Kenyatta was planting his Kenyan flag, he found the ground too slippery and before he knew what was happening everything came apart and he shouted to Mama Ngina, “inapata Uhuru” (it’s coming free) the only night it ever did, well at least that fast, that’s how and now you also know the real reason behind his name”

 

He sat down for a while wondering why there seemed to be less of an oppressiveness in the air. Then his father came back in and he felt it again, a dark cloud passing through everything. He waited a little watching the news, trying to figure out how to tell them the good news that he would be working to prove that the person they had supported so strongly for presidency was actually a thief. Then he decided against it and went back to sleep. It was better to wait till the results were announced and then tell them. Surely they would understand if he couched it in purely mercenary terms.

 

“Ukira! oka wone! nii ashida!” (wake up! Come See! He has won!)

 

His mother always lapsed to Kikuyu when she was excited. It was well past two and the IEBC chairman was taking a stand and making an announcement, or had been, whatever else was said had been drowned in cheers of excitement.  Even his father was jovial and soon the house rang with Kikuyu folk songs. Songs about great warriors and circumcision and the power of men. Songs that once upon a time would not have been sung by women but today rang in the shrill voices of his mother and their house help. This too was not the time to tell them what he would be spending the next week doing.

 

When calm was returned all conversation turned to concession. It was the right thing to do his father said. Both men had fought a battle and in the end there could be only one winner.

“If he really is the leader that people say he is then he will take this like a man and not do things that remind us of 5 years ago.”

The television cameras soon switched to a huge Jubilee gathering at the Catholic University. William Ruto stood up to speak and gave a speech that seemed remarkably off the cuff. “When I first met him I saved his name on my phone as FP, future president, during the last campaigns I wanted to change it but decided against it.” To the naked eye the relationship between the two men seemed like a brotherhood made in heaven, like siblings without the rivalry. Two men who as equals had done something that they never could have alone.

 

Then Uhuru got up to speak. His joy had been clear throughout the ceremony. He seemed unable to contain his laugh, he looked like he wanted to get up and dance, to get up and speak, to get up and feel alive because sitting down was constraining him. He finally got handed his certificate of victory and his silky voice rang through their living room. Roy had often wondered how Uhuru had got the timbre in his voice fixed, this was not the same man who had lost for president in 2002, definitely not the same man who had lost for MP in 1997. The voice was pitch perfect, inside every word there was a rhythm all its own, each one seemed to speak for itself, measured and marinated in thought, giving the feeling of a journey, “we must think of the broader victory of the country,” capturing in his words the emotions of so many.

 

A tiny TV screen began butting into the celebrations once Uhuru was finished speaking. On the screen it looked like it was time for the other side to talk. Instead of Raila though it was Kalonzo who appeared on the screen. He looked battle worn and weary. His eyes were yellow but anyone’s eyes would be yellow after such a gruelling campaign. This should have been the first sign to anyone who didn’t think there would be a petition; concessions are announced by he who will not be president and not he who will not be his deputy. He talked about the court process in a sombre television ceremony. One that was unmarked by joy or noise, between each of his words there was the heavy, pregnant silence of the mourning. He had hardly finished before Roy’s father interrupted him.

 

“I knew it! They are children! Children! Children! They cannot ever accept when won. I knew this would happen, after all the troubles they put this country through they don’t care enough about the fragility of what’s holding us together. Their egos and their ambition must be served and it doesn’t matter what effect it has on anyone. Roy, you see, what did I tell you would happen? A clear victory muddied by soreness, what did I say?”

 

This was still not the time to bring up the job he had gotten and Roy was beginning to think that there was no such time. He mumbled some things about law and the constitution and the importance of putting institutions to the test so that such things were cast in stone.

 

“They cast stones and things are written in blood, but today we celebrate. We will worry about these things later. Here’s some money, go find us some nyama choma, a few beers for me, wine for your mother and you and your sister can have a soda, I think you’ve had enough alcohol for a while.”

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