By Dorcas S
A Tale of Three Suspects, Three Deaths and Two Different Reactions
“You don’t talk ill of the dead.”
Some will probably say that this article contravenes the foregoing adage. It is not my intent. The purpose of this piece is to highlight the country’s divergent reactions to two specific and public deaths that occurred over the last 3 weeks; reactions that got me thinking about life, death and class.
The first death which still has the country’s media buzzing was the extra-judicial killing of Mohamed Kadir and another suspected thug – both accused of terrorizing and robbing residents of Eastleigh. And as was bound to eventually happen, the emotions have subsided some and started to tilt in favor of the victims even though the public is still closely split between support for the police and for the victims.
The second death occurred yesterday , Thursday, April 13. Former Minister for Finance and key Anglo Leasing scandal figure Mr. David Mwiraria lost his prolonged battle with cancer.
The former minister’s passing elicited an outpouring of condolences and sympathy from most Kenyans even as a distinct minority (based on social media comments) pointed out that the deceased was not only implicated in the scandal that Kenyan taxpayers were still paying for as recent as 2015, Mr. Mwiraria was adversely mentioned in the Wagalla Massacre of 1984. The pogrom happened in the north-east region of Kenya around Wajir and according to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) report, was a “clear case of collective punishment” that resulted in the death of over 3000 Kenyans.
In “Blood on the Runway”, S. Abdi Sheikh, writes that Mr. Mwiraria, along with “many of Kibaki’s friends like Joseph Kaguthi” was in attendance at a meeting in Wajir town “that hammered out the detail for the operation preceding the (Wagalla) massacre.”
The country’s dichotomous reaction to the two stories, three losses of life, one in full view of the public and rolling cameras offer a disturbing window into how Kenyans view crime and punishment. The country’s cognitive dissonance in its reactions to these deaths appear to have several layers to it including class and ethnicity.
On the one hand, petty thieves and criminals such as Mohamed Kadir and his cohort, oftentimes incorrectly characterized as such, have been known to meet swift and violent justice including death and debilitating injuries. The same society that is judge, jury and executioner in the cases involving petty criminals simultaneously lavishes praise while extending state funerals and/or state resources towards the burial of politicians and public personalities such as David Mwiraria
In the case of the late minister, a panel of four judges had weighed in to establish whether he was too sick to continue the criminal case that cost Kenya $556.6mn (KSh.55.7bn). Three of the four judges agreed that Mr. Mwiraria was indeed too sick to be “subjected to criminal proceedings.”
To reiterate a point, while it is disrespectful, indeed macabre to talk ill of the dead, I am yet to see that level of compassion extended when the deceased is a suspected petty criminal in the mold of Mr. Kadir.
Frankly I am not completely sure what the diametric public response to the two deaths means or why the differences are so. I just know that it is markedly different as are the monetary havoc inflicted by either – Mohamed & his colleague and Mwiraria and others like him.
Even in death, some are more (fill in the preferred characterization) than others.
The foregoing notwithstanding, let me offer my deepest and sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the three deceased individuals and hope that I learn whatever lesson I can learn from the way they lived their respective lives even as I remember the words of the Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium:
That “no evil is honorable: but death is honorable; therefore death is not evil.”