The Mathare Social Justice Centre (MSJC) office is located off Juja road in Nairobi’s Eastlands. It is situated in a single-storeyed building planted right at the edge of Mathare Valley. The building stands out in contrast to the sea of tightly packed shanty dwellings with rusty brown tin roofs dissected into two parts by the congested Mau Mau road running through the bottom of the valley. Dark grey smoke rises from the valley depths and one catches a glimpse of the murky waters of the Mathare river flowing parallel to the busy throughway. Visitors are primed to see ruins and deprivation, but residents speak of its beauty. A Rastafarian man named Jah Driver told me to think of Mathare as a chocolate city, and in a phrase, that captured the essence of Mathare’s complex sensory qualities.
“Justice, Justice, Justice for Sharon Beryl Otieno and baby Sharon”.
Sharon Otieno’s mother Melida Auma declared raised hand whilst wearing a stoic expression in her final emotional sendoff for her daughter on the 20th of October at Magare village in Homa bay county. The constant drizzle throughout the funeral service reinforced the solemnity of the occasion. It was one month and two weeks since the kidnapping and brutal murder of the seven month pregnant Sharon Otieno, the hitherto unknown student from Rongo University.
The heinous murder shocked the country and the story hogged the headlines for weeks. On the 4th of September the mutilated body of Sharon Otieno was discovered lying in the open next to a thicket on the fringes of Kodera Forest in Homa Bay. A farmer named Moses Ongili of Ogero village stumbled upon Sharon’s corpse while herding cattle and raised the alarm before filing a report at the Oyugis Police station.
“He told me not be so naive”. Those are Lupita Nyong’o’s words captured in an op-ed for the New York Times in October. Lupita was retelling a sexual harassment episode at the hands of Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Lupita broke her silence after 7 years, joining a long list of Hollywood actresses who exposed the movie producer’s predatory sexual behaviour. That was just the beginning. The Harvey Weinstein case exposed crocodiles lurking underneath calm waters.
The editor sends a message in the middle of the week. About a picture on whatapp. Have you seen this? The woman in the picture is wearing a gaudy wedding dress with her face covered by a bridal veil. She holds the hand of a little girl dressed for a chilly morning. The little girl has a shortwave radio strapped over her shoulder. In other hand she holds a placard, that reads, “Need for a husband?” Included are, Her name, the full disclosure of child from a previous relationship, her child’s age and her phone number. They are standing in the heart of Nairobi, off Tom Mboya street in one of the busiest parts of the CBD.
What do I think?
A Daughter’s lament to the father she never knew on Father’s Day.
Words: Mary Jane.
After a busy day at work, I called my mum to check up on her. She running an errand on my behalf. We spoke for a bit about stuff before she abruptly asked if I had received ‘THE NEWS’.
I thought of her goats, hundreds of them. She had probably made a killing selling them off at profit. Yet, my heart instantly felt heavy because she repeated the same question and I sensed some hesitation in her voice.
No goats had been exchanged for cash.
“He died”, she pronounced.
All I said was okay, and hang up.
You see, ‘he’ was my dad.