Alan Wadi, now convicted,Â and I shared the same hostel from the beginning of second year at Moi University, Main Campus. We were from two different faculties. He was reading sociology and political science while I was doing communications.
We didnâ€™t interact much until towards the end of the academic year when Moi University Students Organization (MUSO) was dissolved in preparations for new student elections. I had shown interest to vie for the Secretary Generalâ€™s post and was beginning to do what all politicians – get a closely knit group of initial supporters.
He was supporting a female (kalenjin) student vying for health docket. We coincidentally bumped into each other in another hostel as he accompanied the student for a door-to-door campaigns.
When I told him I was vying, he joined my team until the elections were done and dusted. We won.
Now as a student leader, I got to know him better. He had joined Moi from Starehe Boys Centre, which gave me the impression he was a sharp mind. His secondary education had been sponsored by well-wishers. He wasnâ€™t from a wealthy family. I knew this because he often borrowed money (say sh200 or sh500) Â from me, or maize flour. We used to cook in hostels and it was common to exchange foodstuffs. When I lost sh10,000 and boldly accused him of stealing it (he was among the few friends who had access to my room always), he suggested we consult a witch doctor, which I flatly refused. The incident strained our relationship, but I remained indebted to him.
From his physical demeanour, he appeared older than the rest of us. Legend had it that he had stayed longer in primary school, perhaps, to gain admission at Starehe. Other tales, like the one that claimed he was born an adult, added to the confusion of placing a correct date of birth on his being. He had a trademark jacket, brown in colour, akin to the one he was finally arraigned in court wearing. His wearable apparel weren’t fancy,which did little to hide his stoic features. He was neither cantankerous nor charming, and, when saying something trivial or illogical, stammered and wobbled, like Isaack Hassan of IEBC.
More importantly, he was a friend.
He rarely talked about his family background, but we came to believe he was half-Kenyan and half-Ugandan. In fact, at the time of his arrest, it was alleged he was crossing over to Uganda, and maintains the detectives picked him from a police station processing his papers. It was after his arrest that I came to realize he was an orphan, and when not putting up with former Starehe Boys friends, lived with his grandmother in Siaya. In between he would go to Uganda, or just stay at the University, a homeless vagrant with no fixed abode.
Wadi the student was neither radical nor moderate. He, however, had an instinctual way of sniffing opportunities where money could be made, legally or not. As an MP in the 11th parliament, he would have been among those ejected from the recently disbanded PAC committee over bribery!
His views on tribalism -which led to his arrest – were unknown. At the university, such topics were canvassed during lectures, and because we didnâ€™t share a single course, I would not have known. He was very close to the dean of students, Dean David Mwenje Mureithi.
Dean Mureithi had been in Moi for long and studied the psychology of the ethnic mosaic of students joining the university. He had the knack for knowing would be â€˜troublemakersâ€™ and humbled them with inordinate access to his office, which had its attendant benefits, like the opportunity to run a â€˜fully fundedâ€™ programme. All who wanted to utilize (euphemism for â€˜eatâ€™) university funds had to be friends with Dean Mureithi. Alan Wadi used sports to â€˜utilizeâ€™ the funds. He was the captain of a female studentsâ€™ volleyball team (despite being male).
He was also into football. The student union which I served as an elected official once organized a sports tournament. Wadi, the comrade who knew when bread was buttered, Â joined as a co-sponsor! There were other things he did that were neither pleasant nor surprising, in all these things, he was always an inspiration.
If he developed strong views about tribalism, which led to him increasingly becoming â€˜extremeâ€™ on social media, I can bet it happened after the election of President Uhuru.
Between March 4 (election day) and March 30 (ruling of supreme court), Wadi had succumbed to the ‘tyrannical’ reality of Uhuru Kenyatta presidency long before most of us, CORD supporters.
His initial Facebook posts, posted exclusively on Moi University students Facebook forums, had a conciliatory tinge. In one such posts, he urged us (most opposition supporters Â were still nursing wounds of the unfair and unjustly â€˜unanimousâ€™ Â supreme court verdict) to accept and move on as Uhuru Kenyatta will be the President.
â€œThe people had decided. It is now time to accept and move on,â€ I remember him saying.
Uhuruâ€™s two and a half years in power saw ethnic embers on social media become volcanic. Unlike Kibaki-Railaâ€™s grand coalition government which gathered all, Uhuru regime had in its national make up a clear â€˜insider-outsiderâ€™ demarcations. Disagreements over government handling of tragic incidents took ethnic undertones. Opposition political events were peddled as treasonous initiatives to overthrow the regime of President Uhuru. With increased terror attack, regime supporters increasingly blamed opposition leaders or communities in the opposition – especially Luos – as perpetrating the terror attacks. The president himself did not help matters, as he too sensationally claimed some of the attacks targeted a particular ethnic community (of course the kikuyu).
With politicisation of national tragedies, and, ethnicization of perpetrators and victims, laced in â€˜foreskinâ€™ language; social media schisms took the traditional Luo-Kikuyu antagonism. Wadi was unlucky to be Luo. It is in this political and conflictual context that Wadi posted (as alleged) the virulent bile that saw him jailed without the option of a lawyer. He wasnâ€™t an ethnic hater nor inciter, even if his social media posts made it appear so.
In my view, he was more of a â€˜mental caseâ€™, which he pleaded, than a criminal. Unfortunately, where psychiatric help would do, the ethnic police called NCIC chose the legal route, convicting a troubled soul on frivolously feckless charges. One only hopes he will be pardoned to resume his studies and make something good out of his reflective being.
At heart, he is a good human being. Not forgotten.
Dikembe Disembe is a former Moi University student leader and political blogger.