The Murder of Okello Kariuki, Kenya – 1990, by Phill Ibsen.
The year 1990, was an ordinary day in the age of political assassinations. It was the darkest of times and a scum of death in the face of humanity. Although innocent lives would be lost, no one would be brought to justice. Fingers would be pointed but these deaths would remain a mystery.
In hidden thoughts, these deaths were to be whispered in eerie, because the Dragon had ears everywhere. The Dragon had his claws and eyes embedded like a web onto the fabric of every colonial street. He heard everything. Some of the dissidents were nakedly rotting in cold caves and in old buildings, where electric current passed through their ball-sack, with fractured limbs. No one knew where they were, only the Dragon, who awaited answers in his castle.
Those who survived to see another day, decades later, would refer to that place as the devil’s furnace. A place where little demons employed their craft. Some of the dissidents had sought asylum overseas. Some remained behind, to plot contingencies. I’m afraid I was such, and death was racing fast and nigh. The Dragon had to be slayed.
On August 30, 1990, the gay sky blessed me with voluminous clouds and a virgin sun who exposed her breasts in radiant heat by the window. I stood on the balcony of my house built on a 2-hectare piece of land smoking cigarettes. In the center of the room, laid a hand gun, and a bottle of whiskey half-empty, on a Kahawa table. I was not drunk yet, but better to take a bullet when drunk.
I had said my goodbyes to close family and allies, warning them of my impending danger, but the one person I could not bring myself to say goodbye to, was my lovely Gorrety.
I had earlier written a letter and had it hand delivered to Gorrety by my head of security, Dan, who told me that it was Gorrety’s husband, Kimani, who received the letter.
Kimani, the kind of person you may pity before getting to know him, and the kind you will not hesitate to murder in broad daylight when you got to know him. He is a conniving fool and a slick bastard who found the mercies of sharing a matrimonial bed with Gorrety. He has been a casualty in wars wedged by Gorrety’s lovers, but somehow he has escaped unscathed, with his name intact. I do not even know what the bastard does for a living other than waiting for his adulterous wife to salvage what is left of her.
In the letter, I told Gorrety of my undying affection towards her, I told her that my life was in danger, and if I were to die then my wish would be to see her before any of that happened. I told her where to find me. In the remote Got Alila hills, where the guards would allow her in. if she decided to come, she was to do so alone and make sure she was not followed.
From the balcony, a black jeep was parked on the outside gate, with two armed security guards whom I had hired from a Ugandan private security firm. Two of them manned the front and the back, another one was outside my sturdy room.
Standing on the balcony was out of sheer mockery of death, a pretense of brevity, daring whoever was sent to finish the job from any angle. It was my idea of staring death in its repugnant eyes when it came knocking. After all, had we not heard rumors about the CIA taking out opponents by a dotted shot on the brow?
A month ago, on July 1, Daudi Kabaka played on the gramophone, in the Nile Breeze Restaurant where I had sat with three government officials, plotting mass riots on July 7, 1990. Otieno sat adjacent inhaling from his old pipe; he had round reading glasses, with his baldhead like a deforested land with scanty hair growth lining its edges.
“We can’t get away with it, that’s suicide mission.” He retorted.
“Suicide or not, it’s the only card we have now” Kemboi spoke sternly as he sipped from his mug of muratina.
Kemboi was the Army General at that time and had developed a bile stomach for the Dragon. He was thinking of a military coup, but even that we had already tried awhile back and failed. He was tall and lean, and still bore his youthful killer gaze between the creases that formed in his eyes. His military uniform, which he wore all the time, was straightened, his nappy hair kept short and neat with black leather shoes that never caught dust.
We sat in silence as the afro jazz played on in the background accompanied by laughter from grown men in the company of seductive ladies who solicited them for a dance. We contemplated on the current issue knowing that heaven and hell awaited.
“I have guys already in place. It’s already a done deal.” Kemboi added
“What do we have to lose anyway?” I said reluctantly.
“Our lives.” Otieno shrouded
“What’s life when you are a slave?” went on Kemboi
Everyone sipped their drinks in unison, when out of nowhere, Otieno pulled a petite lady to his laps, then planted kiss on her cheek.
“Baby girl, how is work?”
“Work is okay.”
“How about I take you home tonight?”
“And my job?”
“I’ll take care of it.”
She had a mini skirt on, with a white shirt; half buttoned shoeing her cleavage, and a black stocking that revealed her long slender legs. Her afro hair, straightened, stood like a rock pedestal, and lips painted red. There was something about her in that moment that seemed off. She was perfect to be a waitress.
Otieno got to his feet then left with the woman.
I watched as Otieno leaned his drunken weight on her as she struggled to hold still. She walked, as if she owned the place – With merit and with such an ardor. She knew the right places to place her right hip and left hip. Her mood mooed in rhythm untill they disappeared. That would be the last time Otieno would be seen alive.
“It is set to go down in seven days.” Whispered Kemboi as he rose snapping me out of my frenzy.
Seven days was not a long way, everything would be over, and everyone would start anew. Perhaps we would be celebrated as heroes and revolutionaries.
At 2 am, as I staggered on my feet, Otieno’s lady walked in, and this time on a black trench coat that she hung behind the door. She made her way to the bar counter. I staggered towards her direction and sat staring at her.
“How may help you.” She asked
“What did you do to my friend?”
“Your friend slept on me”
“Otieno, he is a heavy sleeper. You need someone who isn’t drunk on sleep.”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“What works like anything?”
She got herself a beer and sipped from it. She took her palms and placed it on my cheeks. I took mine and held hers.
“Go to your wife. I don’t want to break your heart.” She pitied me like a mother telling her kids to go to bed.
That did not matter. Her touch felt warm and cold. I pulled my hand and leaned to touch her face. Stared at her round face, her tiny eyes, small chiseled nose and lustrous lips that please kill me if I did not think about kissing them.
“You are lovely. What’s your name?” I asked as she withdrew her touch from my face and laughed. She then got up then left, again.
It was exactly 2:48 am when I walked out of the Nile breeze restaurant. I headed to the parking lot, where I would meet Okello Kariuki, my driver. Walking through the parking lot felt like walking through an ominous dream. Cars were parked, but only a handful of Peugeots of bourgeoisie and some government officials as well. Okello Kariuki, never parked here, he chooses to go for a drive, along Koinange Street where he would mix with the pleasantries of his kind.
Caught up in my thinking, I felt a shriek of death and a tussle for freedom. Behind a black jeep, with the number plates bearing the initials GK, two police officers approached provocatively. I staggered back.
“Mheshimiwa wapi kitambulisho yako?” one ordered as he clamped his club on his fist. The other one knelt to pick a piece of folded note from the ground.
“Afande, kumbe ni nyinyi?” I cajoled.
“Wacha siasa, wapi kitambulisho yako?”
“Afande, kwani mmenisahau tena?”
“Tuko na orders from above… nyinyi ndio mnasumbua serikali.”
As I contemplated asking them whether God spoke to them about me, a car drove in to the parking lot, and the dazzling Okello Kariuki stepped out.
“Kuna shida hapa, mheshimwa?” Okello Kariuki asked confidently.
“Hapana. Nilikuwa nasalimia afande.” I said meekly
“Ayaa basi, tuende.”
We got inside the car, and drove off to my hotel, leaving the police officers to go about with their work, whatever it was.
I was woken from a bad dream by incessant badgering noise on my hotel room. Okello Kariuki, who had grown impatient kicked the door open.
“Get up! Pick what’s important. Leave the rest.”
"They got Otieno. You are next"
“I was with Otieno last night”
“Yes. And he is dead now. We have no time.”
Hardly processing, I picked my briefcase.
We left the hotel using the emergency back exit. The car was already positioned, when Okello Kariuki insisted that I drive. He was stern and bossy, and the fact that I was the one paying him didn’t bother him.
As the engine revved, I heard two successive gun shots. The windscreen shattered into tiny minions pieces. I hid my head below the bunker to let the chaos settle down.
When I got up, staring at the passenger’s seat, Okello Kariuki was unmoved. Two bullet holes ruptured on his chest, two bullets which were meant to be mine.