I read something that has left me severely disturbed for the last few days. A few weeks ago, there was an outrage when a first year student at one of our prestigious public universities (scoffs) was stabbed to death during a robbery incident. I doubt any of us can even begin to fathom what her family must be going through in their effort to understand how their little one left this earth so suddenly and so violently. This is one in a score of similar incidents that are leaving victims either dead or heavily maimed.
A journalist set out to do a story on this gang that is causing such distress. He found the actual guy who murdered that first year student and they agreed to an interview. However, a few days to the set date, the fellow was nabbed by passersby as he attempted to rob another victim. He wasn’t lucky this time. The thing with our country is that we are very good at taking matters into our own hands. The spot where he was burned to death still bears the angry scorches, perhaps as a reminder to his kind that this is what awaits them should they persist with their wicked ways.
This journalist looked to the deceased’s friends to tell him their story. And if their story is not chilling, then it is incredibly tragic. These are teenagers, children who dropped out of primary school, either owing to poverty or God knows what reason. They have been hardened by a life of lack, a life of suffering. They fell into a flock of young souls suffering the same fate. And they drifted into drug abuse. It started with cheap liquor, then it was marijuana, now it’s heroine.
When I was in school, heroine sounded to me as a truly exotic substance. That stuff that is too sophisticated to dare reach the lowly streets of Africa. It almost sounded cool and worthy of awe, especially when Edward Cullen whispered to Bella in The Twilight Saga, “you’re my own special brand of heroine and I can’t get enough of you.” It was that thing you only speak of knowing that you will never get to see a trace of it first-hand. Yet here it is, ravaging our streets and driving our children to madness.
So these kids, out of despair, desperation and a hunger for drugs, have turned to crime- violent crime. They walk in packs wielding knives. They are not afraid of death. To them, each day will either reward them with their fix or a trip to their maker.
These are children. Children who ought to be in school studying, or in a field playing soccer. The biggest worry in their lives should be their latest crushes and how their bodies are changing in ways they don’t as yet understand. Yet here they are, getting high and gambling with death each day. One of them admitted almost wistfully that if he had the chance, he would like to go back to school and become an engineer. “But no. Such dreams are not valid. This here is my portion. Till the day I die.”
Reading this reminded me of my first experience with Nairobi Half Life. You see these brutes. You know the torture they have caused victims in our Big City. You know that if you had it your way you would probably gun down the whole lot of them. Yet you can’t help but pity them. When you look into their lives, into the pathetic existence they are in, you see why they are driven to these lengths. Why the young man will threaten to slit your throat over a cheap-ass phone. Why the girl camps out at the brothel selling her body for loose change. It almost makes sense. No one deserves that life. And I certainly don’t deserve the life that I do have. Who am I to dare think I am worthy of such blessings and that they earned their curses. Who understands the workings of this universe really.
The question that has been on my mind this entire time, is whether there really is no way out for such kids. Is there really no hope on earth for them? Are we as parents, teachers, mentors, older brothers and sisters, so helpless that we can do absolutely nothing to save our children from such fates? Are we as leaders so busy getting stuffed and filling our pockets, that we have no interest in the well-being of those we are charged with?
See, when we catch them and hand out our versions of justice, we really cannot be judged for the bitterness within us. They are paying for their misdeeds. Yet what we have solved is only a symptom. What we have cut off is only the branch. But it is not the branch that carries the infection really. It is the root. The real virus, the real disease, that continues to ravage our society, infecting our marginalised kids one by one. And if we are waiting for the cops to help rehabilitate them, that ship sunk when our police force became easy to sway with only 800 shillings (yes, one of these kids admitted to bargaining for his freedom in exchange for a mere 800 bob. Your life is worth 800 Bob to a man in blue somewhere. How valuable)
This world we are living in, this country we pledge our loyalty to, is dying. And if we sit and do nothing, one day we shall surely have no place to call our own. There is so much to say about this and much much more. For now though, I contend with sharing my frustration and leaving the question, is there really nothing we can do about this…
As always, do not grow slack in zeal. Be fervent in Spirit. Serve the Lord.