By Kamau Kinyua
I went to the west gate mall to see what it means to be a journalist. I must have been thrilled. There was confusion everywhere. A few dead bodies, splattered everywhere. Then news sprang in the area that the president would tour the area accompanied by former PM Raila Odinga.
I waited, enjoying a coterie of journalists milling around me. I had earlier requested one to help carry his tripod, I risked my time to be a journalist; to feel the chill when gunshots bang and incruciating wailings sounds pierce through the thick yellow police line separating danger and safety.
I didn’t know what to do, just running around helping a ‘real’ journalist do his work, then I saw someone shouting at others to join and help. I quickly handed over the tripod to the journalist I was masquerading as helping and joined a group of youths of Asian-Indian origin. At the top of things was none other than Sonko, yes Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko, marshalling troops of youths of all walks of life. He held a little child in her hand, slipped her to safety before emerging back.
By now, bodies streamed all over; the police seemed overwhelmed, there appeared to exist a confusion in the chain of command. The army had joined but they seemed not to be doing anything. I was later to learn that they had refused to be ‘bossed around’ by the police inspector. Whether this was true I can not tell, but rumours flew all over, and in the absence of official information, anything was believable.
Soon, pickups were streaming all over. A source said Sonko had called on his friends, others said they were from red cross. As I said, there were rumours all over; we got more bodies loaded, male and female, all colours. I remember helping load a middle aged man with a blue head-gear, he didn’t seem the kind who had anything to do at West Gate, or with west gate; I concluded he may have been heading to watch the soccer match or he was a boda boda.
I may not have been keen about other things after watching the helpless man, I was worn out, gasping for breath and struggling to delete so many scary images of mere mortals now lying pale and lifeless. Events like what I saw yesterday will remain perched in my mind. I saw brave people. I saw cowards too, people who scamper for safety with the first sound of a ricocheting gun.
But one person I will never forget, the sight of that misunderstood, often misrepresented leader of Nairobi. He was so free style, doing his little part, risking his own lives, carrying babies; shouting, marshalling, encouraging.
If I get a chance, another to play with life and swim with the tides,I will be there. I feel happy I helped ferry the dead to their last destinations. I feel sad they will never say thank you. They will never know the people who picked from the streets and loaded them in vans and trucks. I loath the feeling, a sickening hopelessness.
I was just a young journalism student in a sad Nairobi day. I did my part. If this story does not add up or make sense, just know it was penned by a novice unaware of the etiquettes of his trade.
A photo of Senator Sonko (courtesy of his facebook page)
Sonko sandwiched between security forces.