By N. Ongoma
I remember 1992.
Toroitich Arap Moi was beaming with joy though I heard adult neighbours mention that he had lost a lot of weight due to the gruesome battle of repealing section 2A and introduction of multi-party democracy. I was in Kakamega. Hoards of men were in black trousers and red shirts, and were known as “Youth for KANU ’92”, even though most of them were not youths.
I heard that Arap Moi was to visit our town and people were readying to receive him. That afternoon I sneaked from home into town, because the advance team of Uncle Toro was rumoured to be around. I made several frantic moves in town, expecting a share of the then famous Jirongos. I seemed to have lost hope until fleets of vehicles-unusual for our town, hooting and “youths” hanging on them approached. I stayed with the crowds.
As the convoy came to a stop, one big-eyed well-fed youngish man shot out of the car and I saw everyone splashing the one finger and really tingizaring. I followed suit. People said it was Cyrus Jirongo. He may have spoken but I remember not. I remember him splashing several currency notes. People really scrambled, the same way chickens do when you throw grains where they are. I was too small to make it.
But I knew I could get something, or so I prayed. I also saw a few men tear each other apart, to share some notes. I saw a new 500 shilling note and went for it, but someone was faster than me and he almost crashed my little hand with his big foot. Then luck fell my way.
I saw a chunk of Jirongos lying down and I reached for them. I hid them in my pocket. I came to learn later that they were nusu nusu. I wasn’t the only one, as news spread so fast that many people had secured half the notes and so people had to ask, “wewe una gani?” in order to complete the currency note.
Around 5pm, we had lined up the roads leading to statelodge to receive Baba wa taifa, Mtukufu Rais Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi. I had heard from my schoolmates that whenever Arap Moi visited, there were free madiaba sodas and mkate nusu. I was eyeing that.
We heard sirens.
Then saw truckloads of GSU officers whom we fearfully referred to as Fanya Fujo uone (FFU). Then very many vehicles followed. Baba arrived in a vehicle that I heard people call “combi”. I saw him. He was seated in the front seat. He waved at us. We shangiliad back with the one finger salute.
Then we were running following the motorcade as it snaked its way to Statelodge. So many of us: kids, youths and adults headed to Statelodge anticipating free sodas and bread, never mind the cold rainy weather. I was itching for bread. We were wrong. As we approached the main entrance from where Arap Moi had entered, the GSU guys descended on us with rungus and dogs the size of calves.
People were running helter-skelter.
I remember finding my way through some barbed wire homesteads, fence after fence until I reached the main road, Kakamega-Webuye. I lost one shoe. I went home very dejected.
That evening, KBC had news to the effect “Mtukufu Rais Daniel Arap Moi alilakiwa na maelfu ya wananchi ambao walimiminika kwenye ikulu ndogo ya Kakamega…”
They didn’t talk of dogs and rungus.