We are Africans and as such, we need not an invitation to turn up at a relative’s place. We just show up like that pop up notification in the dead of the night – indicating an unsolicited midnight text from a clingy ex. Relatives exist to be arbitrarily called on and so any prior explanations for the purpose of visiting are rather unnecessary.
Without disappointing my ancestors, I did just that and made my way to the doorstep of a close kin. Direly ringing her doorbell, panting with impatience wondering why she was taking so long to let me in. As if the gods had not communicated earlier that I was going to make a stopover. I found it very rude of her that she had me waiting for an acute five minutes before opening the door to her apartment. And even worse she was not expecting me yet every time I leave after spending the day there she says, “Wewe feel at home na ukuje tu anytime. You are always welcome.” Why utter words you cannot keep?
Anyway, I still made myself feel at home and we ended up sharing a cordial afternoon together. Seated on the balcony of an apartment off Dennis Pritt road; beyond the lively conversation we were having, I was also doing a lot of reminiscing. Forking out memories from the past that I had of the area, contrasting that to what had become of it now. I ruminated about this place popularly known as Kilimani. Ruminations that would later ensue on my drive home after bidding my unexpecting host goodbye.
My yesteryears and formative days were well spent in this location. I spent the initial bustling fourteen years of my life growing up and doing boyhood in Kilimani. It is there that I learnt to cycle, kick a ball, play video games and memorably lost my first fist fight. It is not until I grew up that I realized most of what I had for a childhood was tantamount to privilege. In a city where kids are trafficked, molested, dispossessed or begging; you must be in Disneyland if you get to enjoy FIFA as part of your childhood routine.
But in the past, none of those vices would have penetrated through the lushness of Kilimani. It was unheard of seeing a dispossessed or begging kid lingering in anguish. Not when residents border the President’s abode, not in this dormitory of power that housed the honchos of society. Not at all, this is blue chip society and beggars beg where fellow lepers reside; in the trenches of the ghetto.
It is while driving home that the delusional notion I had of the area was nuked, observing that the Kilimani of today had definitely lost its sheen. Something was amiss and nothing affirmed this hunch more than noticing the sprawling numbers of urchins scrounging in between roads. It’s a sight to behold seeing homeless children high on glue fending for themselves 300-500 metres away from State House – Kenya’s Buckingham Palace.
If you have been keen on headlines making the news for the past two or so years. You must be in the loop about the many killings of ‘businessmen’ after deals went sour. Latest being the hapless shooting that claimed the life of young Kevin Omwenga. Not only him but an attempt on the life of a DJ at a posh club in Kilimani by a popular MP. Such are the incidences that have become synonymous with Kilimani. It is no longer a neighborhood embroidered with a canopy of trees embracing the skies – gifting newly tarmacked roads a shadowy look. It has now become a habitat for hoodlums.
Perhaps, there is more than meets the eye. Maybe I am alluding to more than the heinous acts that have been committed in the area. Maybe what I am saying is that the fish stinks from the head. And when it rots, it does so from the head down. We have been on an eerie path as a country where we have been dogged by decadence. The perversion is widespread and now we are reeling into a dead end. The chickens are coming home to roost and we are steadily becoming victims of our own ways. We are suffering recessive government and even though we are a youthful nation, we are already counting a generational loss.
Maybe, the happenings in Kilimani should not be viewed as idiosyncratic but rather a representation of what is going on in every corner of this country. It is just the tip of the iceberg revealing a country mired in wicked behavior. The crimes, vices and injustices that have taken place in Kilimani recently, are now commonplace in Kenya in its entirety. I would not be fibbing, if I asserted that Kenya’s territorial boundaries should be girded with yellow tape because this place is nothing but a crime scene. The stench of the rancid fish in this country, is trickling down from the head of state down to the tail end of each last citizen.
What I find intriguing, is that there is a crop of bourgeoisie young people who do not share in these concerns. Who do not care for politics because their fathers live in Kilimani and work in air conditioned offices. They are deluded by the faux privilege they cloy in now. These are the youth who make snide remarks such as; ‘the poor are poor because they are lazy’ or ‘you are just hating, who stopped your dad from stealing?’ And perhaps my favorite one, ‘It is our time to eat!’ These young guys do not care for scruple or the well-being of this country. They frequent private schools, hospitals and literally every other available private amenity. They hail from the gentry. They swell with hubris. It is them that I call, vijana wa Kilimani.
I pity them because they are running out of time to grow conscious going by how bad things are. They are oblivious of the fickleness of power that renders one an aristocrat today and tomorrow a commoner. They should ask me how my stay in those ends came to a grinding halt. And sooner rather than later I had to learn how to live amongst the masses.
Currently I reside in the outskirts of Kajiado (as if Kajiado is not the outskirts enough). Compared to Kilimani, Kajiado is quite a distance from the heart of power. As opposed to those heady days when I lived off Dennis Pritt road near the President, today I live off Namanga road which is in fact closer to Tanzania. The truth is the further you live from the centre of power, the more you lose a sense of being Kenyan. The hand of the state proportionately grows shorter the further you move from Kilimani. Regrettably, this is the life of an ordinary citizen because how many of them can afford a villa in Hurlingham?
Where I stay, power outages on Sundays are the norm. Taps run dry and when they are running freely, the water is otherwise salty. The landscape is arid thus the air is dusty, seeing a tarmacked road is akin to witnessing God’s presence. And among us who has seen God? Here fires are extinguished by buckets of water.
Gangsters busted stealing are tried, sentenced and executed in public squares. Preferably, having their bodies torched in between derelict car tyres. The OB (Ocurrence Book) just as the law is in the hands of the people. There is no Central Police Station beside the luxurious Norfolk hotel. Nor the famous Kilimani Police Station – hosting a belligerent city Senator hurling epithets at cops after enjoying a night of inebriation past the curfew.
In these ends, civility is sometimes a mirage. Forget due process, here people will deal with you and you can do them nothing. It’s the commoners world; each for himself God for us all. Even the free NHIF will not do much for you in your sickness. You go to a hospital and you are lucky to be attended to. Afterwards, you will still have to cough up money for medicine at a government pharmacy. It’s the nature of services here. They are free but free of service.
Kijana wa Kilimani, by now if you have caught the drift. I am telling you that life succeeding state largesse is cutthroat. It plunges you right into a dog eat dog world, where everything is earned not given. Take it from me, a brother who has been on your side of the aisle.
This weekend, you could keep looking the other way, shika that bottie and drink up your bigotry. Or you could wake up and smell the coffee. Gather the guts and grab a copy of BBI. And acquaint yourself with what’s in store for you. In case, those two plutocrats pass the document without being gainsaid. Act swiftly before your inaction breeds your destruction. Really, the choice is yours.
If you think the privilege you regale in is permanent. Let me put it to you as Piers Morgan says, “One day you are the cock of the walk the next you are the feather duster.”