I racconti del Premio Energheia Africa Teller

Common sense justice_Joseph Ng’Ang’a Gichumbi

fiori della murgia_Africa Teller 2005.



It was 12 a.m. East African time, Kip Edwards, a sprightly athletic

young man in his late twenties drove a white metallic BMW past the

gates of his plush. Muthaiga residence, a leafy estate for the Kenyan ruling

elite. Derived from the populous Agikuyu word meaning “a magical

charm”, Muthaiga estate has relentlessly continued to charm Kenyans

of all walks of life.

Apart from the ayahs, cooks and gardeners who are seen walking with

minimal cares in the world, the residents of this estate, as if in an unspoken

rule amongst them, rarely venture outside their sleek cars, choosing

instead to remain opaque inside their glass tinted vehicles.

There is no doubt to the minds of many Kenyans that Muthaiga represents

real, unassailable power.

This is the power Kip Edwards felt behind the wheels as he brought the

mighty machine to a halt. Men of power have their set ways of doing

things and so with time, Sir Kip as his house help would condescendingly

address him, came to represent every thing connected with power

and powerful people.

The most agreeable thing, Sir Kip thought to himself, was never to associate

with the poor. “Poverty stinks” he blurted, as he eased himself

out, keys-in-hand and headed towards the imposing mahogany door of

his kingly palace.



She lay motionless on a huge metallic bed. The only indication that rigor

mortis had set in was the deathly protruding eyes that held the secret

of her death.



“Professor” Dan Miriti, a local cobbler in Kawangware, a poor surburb

at the outskirts of Nairobi earned this title due to his skillmanship in the

trade. Known for his zeal, camaraderie and zest for life, Miriti good-naturedness

naturally made him famous. Born in the slopes of Mt. Kenya

among the Ameru people, Dan Miriti grew up in a very poor family. His

father, the great Ntibi’ri, an acclaimed herbalist, died a poor man despite

the rich heritage he bequeathed his people. Asked why he would

not transform this great wealth of knowledge into a profitable venture

for the sake of his poor family, Ntibi’ri would always say: “My people’s

health is my wealth”.

This philosophy troubled young Miriti. He had the eerie feeling that his

daddy did not love them. After all he never taught any of his eleven children

his art!

After his circumcision at the tender age of 18, Miriti decided to venture

out on his own. Upon circumcision, a young Ameru man can get married

and begin a family. But Miriti thought otherwise. Equipped only

with informal tribal knowledge, he left home for good, one Sunday

morning. This was the perfect time to escape as old Ntibi’ri loved his

late morning sleep to care for the world.



At first he thought the stench emanated from the garbage pit. But after careful

examination, Mr. Gavex Otieno, a retired mortician, became convinced

that the acrid smell was from decaying flesh. But whose? Where? Certainly

not an animal’s. Of this he was dead sure. Having handled dead bodies for

quarter of a century, Mr. Gavex had come to master diverse types of smells.

He estimated the owner of the smell to have been dead for at least 3 weeks.

Knowing the wacky Kenyan Police System, he had to take the initiative

before they begun knocking at his door for God-knows-what-answers!

“Good afternoon Mr. Detective”, said Gavex after adjusting his shirt sleeve

to read the time in his ubiquitous rolex watch, purchased during his student

days in West Germany.

“What Good is in your afternoon stranger?”, shot back a commanding


“Not much, my name is Mr. Gavex Otieno, I am calling from Jamhuri

estate house number Z774X. Your men need to be here very fast. There

is a strong stench of dead human flesh seeping through my neighbour’s


“We’ll be there right away!”.

With those few remarks, the line went dead.



The flying squad detectives are the most dreaded police unit in Kenya.

They have earned their name from the lightning speed with which they

respond to distress calls.

Barely 10 minutes had elapsed after his brief talk with the police boss

before he heard loud bangs on the door to the main house.

“Fungua hapa haraka sisi ni polisi”, demanded a husky-whiskey-laden


No sooner had he set loose the main lock than a contingent of heavily

armed and mean looking men stormed in, overturning everything as

swarms of locusts would in a good day.

After devouring all the edibles in the huge Chinese made fridge, the head

of the contingent, a heavily built pot-bellied man in his early 40’s snorted

out in a strange English accent:

“Al you mester Ngovi O. Wherever?”.

“No, my name is Mr. Gavex Otieno, not Ngovi – wherever!”.

“You ndeya insalt ambrois mboss?”.

“No friend, it is you that has insulted me by desecrating my family house

with your uncouth behaviour. Nonetheless, this is not the place of death,

your concern. The house is over there, number 2775X. Good luck”.

The lead man was taken aback by the elderly man’s recollected poise

which momentarily unbalanced him.

“Bunt wan moro queshon”. The boss shot Gavex a penetrating glance

as he instinctively massaged his potly belly.

“Ord man, what ara you provessionally?”.

“A Mortician”, came back the soft reply.

That did it. The contingent left as hurriedly as they had come.

Mr. Gavex broke out in a guffaw. He had encountered this kind before.

Proud before men, humbled by death!



“The news we have just receiveid say that the Police have discovered a

decaying female body in Jamhuri estate. The police are appealing to members

of the public who have information surrounding her death to volunteer

this information to any police station. This information shall be

handled confidentially”.

This ended the 1 o’clock news announcements on the national TV channel.

It was Tuesday August 2000. Macho man had barely finished his lunch

when he heard the news. Raised up in the sprawling Mukuru kwa Njenga

slums, Macho Man grew up in great poverty. With no formal schooling,

he began working at the tender age of 15 as a casual labourer in the

countless Asian run industrial concerns adjacent to the makeshift structures

that he called home. With time he came to detest the insults hurled

at will by the Asian bosses towards the African employees. One day an

adolescent Asian boy, the son of his boss, called him “Ghasia takataka”

(trash, rubbish) for coming to work 20 minutes late. The hurt pride that

had eaten him for years suddenly and with volcanic proportions broke

loose. With a flurry of punches he floured the young man, breaking his

front teeth as a result. His fellow Africans cheered him on and Macho

Man disappeared from the scene of crime unnoticed. His diminutive

stature gave him the advantage of appearing and disappearing unrecognized.

From this episode, he learnt the first rule in the game of survival:

common sense prevails after war. But that was long time ago.

And so when they asked him to abduct the brown girl for them, he thought

it a silly joke. He went for spicy jobs not abductions. But if they could

give him 200.000 shillings for the job, why not? After all the bottom

line is chapaa, money. This he believed was the source of all respectability.



He sat meditatively outside the manicured lawn of his two-bedroomed

mabati house. Since he was young, he had made the decision never to

emulate his father. He wanted to give his children the best he lacked in

life-education. And so through hard work Prof. Miriti ensured all his 3

children went to school. His favourite child was his first born daughter,

Irene Kathure, a third year medical student at the University of Nairobi.

He had named her after his mother following the customary naming


And now she has been missing from home for three weeks and no one

had any idea where she could be…

His wife, Maria Kanini, a stolid stocky middle-aged woman interrupted

his train of thought.

“Baba Irene, I was at the market when Maria Atieno told me about this

news report on a dead female body discovered in one of the estates. I

must immediately depart to get details at Muthangari Police Station. Do

you have the guts to come along?”.

“Who said women are weak?”, thought Prof. Miriti. “If ever there was

a strong gender, the female it was!”. He did not require a University degree

in Psychology to know this. Standing right before him, was the basis

for this amazing human knowledge. “Let’s go mama watoto”, came

the subdued reply.



Mrs. Maria Kanini, a semi-retired school teacher, was an unflinching

disciplinarian behind her public mask of meekness. Besides, she was

calculating and revengeful, never allowing anybody to cross her path.

But her vengeance was effected with such precision and cover-up as to

make George Bush squirm with envy.

The word forgiveness was never part of her operational vocabulary inspite

of her position as the secretary general of her local church. Her

greatest idol was her daddy, the lethal colonel N’thamburi who fought

the British colonialists in the vast Mount Kenya forests as a Mau Mau

insurgent. Together they fully subscribed to the Old Testament Principle:

“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.

They did not need a matatu to carry them to the Police Station. The 40

shillings fare for both of them was way above their day’s budget. All

their life, they have been used to walking even longer distances than the

5 km they had to cover.

Their hardy bodies had become accustomed to years of toil hunger, turnmoil

and failure. Rather than drift them apart, this painful reality brought

them closer together with each passing day. Their yang and yin united

in an amazing fusion as to make angels marvel at such rarity amongst


The plain receptionist at Muthangari Police Station immediately ushered

them in after brief pleasantries.

Behind the huge mahogany desk was Chief Inspector Juma Baridi, a slim

bespectacled man in his early 30’s. His meteoric rise in the Police force

owed partly to his excellent academic and professional credentials and

to his maternal uncle, a cabinet Minister in Government. It was the Minister

as a person that he owed his maximum allegiance. He had long ago

learned that in Kenya no one scales up the ladder minus a godfather.

“What can I do for you Mzee and Mama?”, he offered in his sweet alto


“My dear wife heard about this news announcement from one of the TV

channels, about the discovery of a female body. Our daughter Irene

Kathure, a medical student, has been missing from home for the last 3

weeks. She wanted to be sure she is not the one”.

One quick glance at them convinced Chief Inspector Juma that the folk

before him, notwithstanding their ironed mitumba (second hand) clothing,

had seen fewer better days in their life. And so to ask them whether

they had a vehicle would be an unimaginable insult to their dignity.

“Mzee and mama, if you do not mind, I will drive you in my vehicle to

the city mortuary after you fill in the occurrence book”.

“Most obliged, Sir”, came back a joint reply.


Part 9

Already the autopsy report was out. Since Miriti and his wife were not

conversant with the law, they therefore did not know that there was breach

of law in conducting a post-mortem in the absence of next of kin. As he

alternated his gaze from the affable Chief Pathologist to the frozen body

lying before him, he was seized with an animal desire to tear and consume

in seconds but who? what? where?

“Is she your daughter?”.

He was miles away in utopia. It took the nudging from his wife to bring

him back to reality.

“He is asking you, proceeded Mrs. Miriti, whether this is our Irene


“Yes Sir, she is our daughter no doubt. I want to be sure of one thing.

Did you say that she was raped, and then shot through the left temple?”.

“Yes Sir”, concluded the Chief Pathologist. “And now if you may, I would

like to return the body back to the fridge”.

Soon thereafter they left the city mortuary each in their own world of



Part 10

“She is dead. It is a fact. Brooding will not help you. Be a man. Save

your pride”. These remarks from his wife stung him like bees. Yes, he

had to save his pride. The only way was to get to the killer, but how?

One thing he was sure of. He will avenge his daughter’s macabre killing,

even if it will take a life-long mission. He had no business with an effete

legal system. The killer or killers had dug their own grave. They

had triggered the venom of the son of Ntibiti’ri. The ancestors will not

welcome him in the spirit world if he failed to defend the helpless, his

own daughter.

Being a faithful traditionalist his first stop had to be on Kiraithe’s

doorsteps. Kiraithe was the acclaimed Meru herbalist-cum-diviner, who

was reputed to have answers even to the most complex of human puzzles.

He would need a whole week for this mission, but he was prepared




It was now official. The parents of the deceased girl were a humble folk

from Kawangware slums. The news had become the talk of town. As

he listened to the breaking news in the comfort of his settee, Macho Man

felt a strong sharp pain cut across his chest. They lied to him!

His criminal activities were never directed at the poor. The poor were

his blood, his people. He had never expected them to murder the pretty

girl. He thought they only wanted to have fun as they had assured

him. How could they eliminate her so brutally? Why? Why does one

kill a poor girl? What is the gain? As he saw the distraught parents on

his TV screen, his anger turned to rage. His mission had always been

against the stinking rich who got their wealth through circumventing the

legal system and feeding on the blood of the holloi-polloi, the wretched

of the earth. How could they?

He had not touched the 200.000 shillings. As was his practice he could

only use money paid to him after fully understanding the motives of his

payers. This money was bad money. He had to do something real fast.

Common sense prevails only after war. The war had begun.



Tracking down the brown tall man was easy for Macho Man. He knew

the ways of the rich. They mingled in specific and exclusive joints in

and around Nairobi. And unlike the poor folk, they operated on fixed

schedules. For the rich, time was money while for the poor they had all

the time in the world.

After unsuccessfully scurrying the city and its outskirts for two weeks,

he finally made a decision. He would trust his instincts. More than once,

his instincts had salvaged his schemes. This time he was sure, they will

not fail him.

And so he decided to drive towards Chizika Night club in Kileleshwa

Estate a populous joint for spoilt kids of the rich. He was early. Save

for two Toyota saloon vehicles, the parking lot was deserted. As was his

practice on such missions, Macho Man thoroughly surveyed the place

before settling down in a dingy corner that served the purpose of concealing

him but which had the advantage of opening up to all entry points

to the club.

It was 6 p.m. East African Time. In an hour’s time this cold place will

be teeming up with life. His mission was precise. Like an African Chee-

tah waiting for her prey, he had to be sober, inconspicuous, alert and above

all quick, very quick. His height was an advantage now. The tall waiter

showing his back toward him stood leaning on the cypress pole oblivious

of any human presence behind him. At about 10.00 p.m., he arrived

in the company of a slender fair complexioned lady. He was definitely

in high spirits. Now Macho Man was all eyes on the target, and the carnivore

mood now reaching a crescendo could not distract him in the least.

At about 11.05 p.m., he bid fare well to his table mates, got hold of the

lady’s arm and gracefully left the pub. Macho Man had already left for

his car the minute he stood up. Macho had always trained his mind to

think ahead of his target. In manners uncharacteristic of most African

men, the target opened the door for his female consort closed it after

him then sat on the steering wheel of his white BMW switching the ignition

  1. Macho Man maintained a safe distance in his dark decrepit

Mazda. Suspicion was the last thing he wanted to arouse.

At Moi Avenue, near the Barclays Bank, the long-legged lady eased herself

out of the vehicle. The change of direction towards Koinange street

indicated to Macho Man that the occupant was heading home. “The rich

were slaves of habit and that was why they were such an easy target”,

thought Macho Man to himself.



From a distance, Macho Man saw the car slow down with its headlights

on towards a black imposing gate.

“So this was the home”, thought Macho in bewilderment.

He knew the house like the back of his hand. The earlier owner was Kimji

Asan, the Asian drug-baron, who was assassinated two years before. This

was the place Kimji used to meet his criminal buddies for evening briefings

and endless midnight cocktail parties. Macho had the architectural

plans of most rich city homes in his breast pocket. He parked his vehicle

under a thicket and carefully rummaged through the various maps.

After 5 minutes he located the architectural plan for Kimji Asan’s palatial

home. It was time to act.

Armed only with his Somali sword, Macho cut through an opening in

eastern end of the fence. After easing himself through, he found the spot

he wanted; a secret underground entry point concealed by a flower pot.

Upon removing it, he eased himself down the mangy tunnel leading to

the house. Surprisingly the handle easily gave way to usher him inside

the palatial home.

He sat himself down, on one of the sofas, with all his senses on high

alert. Then he heard the front mahogany door open and the lights come

to life. The look of surprise on Kip Edwards face almost made Macho

Man laugh. He had seen that look before.

“What the hell…?”, asked Kip Edwards.

“Take it easy kjiana. I want you to follow my instructions and you’ll be

  1. Give me an empty CD, now”.

“OK, I will”.

Kip Edwards retrieved the CD from a pack of books on one of the


“Thank you. Now I want you to tell me everything that happened after

I got the damned girl for you. I will not ask you any other question. You’ll

be speaking and the CD player will be recording everything. I need a

copy for myself. I love historical collections, you know…”.

Kip Edwards knew this kind. No one played about with them. They were

dogs of war. And so he began his narration of the events.

“The girl was good but dumb. After we took her with my friends Maina

Kimani and Amstrong Kunte, we raped her in turns. But when I was about

to make a second go, she insulted me. She called me a coward. From

my tribal perspective, that is the highest abuse a woman can level at a

man. I did the necessary, I pulled the trigger of my western colt revolver

and finished the lady off”.

After this evidence, Macho Man switched off the CD player.

“Where is the firearm?”, he casually inquired of him.

“Here it is”.

Before handling it, Macho put on a pair of gloves that he retrieved from

his pocket trousers.

Then he began to address him.

“Mr. Kip Edwards, have you ever heard the saying: commonn sense obtains

only after war? You have been quite foolish. You killed an innocent

poor girl. That is not how I operate. I don’t harm the weak. They

are my blood, my people. You have killed my blood relations. You will

suffer a similar fate. Here is your 200.000 shillings, I do not need a penny

more or a penny less of this money. Common sense must prevail. Do

you understand me?”.

“Please, Macho Man, what are you driving at?”.

“I can’t answer you, Kip, I want you to write the following dictation in

that note book over there”.

Pen on paper, Kip began to write the dictation:

“I, Kip Edwards, have desired to pay the full price for being insensitive

to the poor and especially Irene Kathure whom I extinguished with a

bullet after repeatedly raping her together with my friends. I agree to

this common sense justice”.

The minute he put down the pen, a bullet pierced through his left temple

leaving his mouth agape in surprise as he tumbled down the carpeted

floor to begin a journey to eternity.



It was the neighbour who called the police hot-lines after hearing what

sounded like gun-shots. And within minutes the police had arrived.

There was ample evidence to make sensational news. By day break, all

the news channels were a buzz with news that Kathure’s killer had succumbed

from an assassin’s bullet. It was obvious now that the police

did not have a clue about the killer’s details or whereabouts.

At Prof. Miriti’s home, the burial preparations were in top gear when

the news trickled in. Mrs. Miriti was content somewhat. But she had to

ring her husband to share the news. As she strolled toward the local phone

booth, she afforded a smile after a month of agonizing torment.