In ‘69 I arrived

I had just graduated high school and was headed back home. The journey from Kikuyu Town was slow, given there was a traffic jam before entering Nairobi City, so I sat there and gazed at the beautiful pink sunset; turning a blind eye to the state of the dirty Nairobi River and other places in the city that are littered. Multitudes of people walked by street children and beggars, totally ignoring them.

Despite being overlooked, the streets were teeming with them including Don Mboya street where we alighted. Don Mboya is my all-time statesman; the quintessential of “ a true son of the land” as some enlightened people called him. I got into a Super Metro shuttle headed to Thika. I sat by the window and brooding, observed absentmindedly the landscape along Thika Road.

Then I gradually drifted off to sleep…

When I came to, I was a terrorist and the year was 1969. Instinctively, I knew I had a mission to stop the assassination of Don Mboya. I had a premonition, (or maybe an accurate historical recollection) that he was going to be gunned down in a matter of time. I was seated at the Nolfolk hotel reading the days’ newspaper while waiting for a certain man. The man I was to rescue, Don Mboya, was abroad, shaking hands with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th POTUS like they were childhood friends. That kind of affair sent a message back home, and the top brass didn’t like it. In fact, they felt threatened, they felt he was becoming too powerful. His popularity was growing by the day and soon, people would demand him for president, if something was not done quickly.

I was here to prevent that from happening, and the man I was about to meet was going to help me. I was reading about the fallout between KANA and KADA when he walked in. I saw him over the top of my newspaper and waved at him while I set it down. Everybody in the hotel was pale-skinned, except me and the man that had just walked in, and he was also given icy stares by the patrons. Even after independence, there were places people of color weren’t welcome.

I asked him to walk with me to my car parked outside so that we could talk.

While at the car, a 1942 Volkswagen beetle, I tried to initiate a bit of small talk but the gentleman was in a kind of rush, or anxious or both, and he kept looking at his watch, then me, and over his shoulders every now and then. Failing to break the ice, I went straight to the point.

“ I have called you here because there is something very important I want you to do for me. This job has to be our secret, do you understand? “

He nods in the affirmative. I inform him of my mission. As I am speaking he looks at me like I am crazy and he seems confused.

Una kasoro bwana,” He says in plain Swahili, then goes ahead to inquire why I would travel across decades to rescue such a man as Tom Mboya.

“ Mr. Don has helped the president acquire imperial powers, with which the country and its resources have been at his [the President] disposal. He was among the initiators of the One Party-centralized state instead of the devolved majimboism system, the power of the people“ He paused to judge my reaction, hoping I understood, and seeing that I did, continued.

“ The president has set up the Settlement Retransfer Funds to resettle the displaced persons of this country. But it is a ploy to hoodwink the British government to allow them the monies to buy back the land that the settlers took from us. And instead of giving the land back to the people, he and his cronies and sycophants, yours truly Don Mboya being one of them, formed schemes to procure the land at throwaway prices at the expense of the poor Kenyan that was dispaced. “

We sat in silence for a beat or two, before he finally added, “ you were sent back here to save a traitor? “

Somehow, the pain of his truthful statements stung, but his words fell on dead ears. I couldn’t get the picture of Don Mboya the statesman out of my head, one of the formulators of the first constitution, a member of the Legislative Council, and I could remember vividly the scene he walks with Martin Luther King in protest for black human rights, Pamela and Don before a Pope, The JFK Airlift program that he initiated that sent thousands of bright Kenyan students to the US on scholarships.

Apparently, we saw two different versions of the same guy, and my mission would go on as planned. I set the rest of the conditions, that I’d be referred to as an alias in our communication, if our mission backfired I’d not be mentioned, how much he would get paid and how he would get the money, and only after the mission was complete.

I handed him a packet containing 5 milligrams of Potassium Chloride. “ You know what to do. “ As a medical student, he completely understood. Finally, we shook hands and promised to never see again.

As he locked the car from outside I said to him, “ be careful. Discreet. “ Then I threw in some futuristic lingo, from Drake Aubrey’s song, “ This is the type of content that could get your top picked. “

“ Una kasoro bwana,” he said as he laughed hysterically, and left in a hurry. As I looked in the rearview mirror, I didn't see my reflection, the car was empty. I put my hand outside against the sunlight, I had no shadow. It was as if I didn’t exist.

I had nothing to do for a while, so I decided to go to Karen to while my time as I waited for the mission to proceed as planned. I had to pass by my girlfriend’s house to meet her for the very first time. It was this girl I had seen in some Safari movie. Anna Hathaway! Her hair was short and cut at the bud. Her lips were red and surple.

The next destination was the capital city of plush back in the day. Karen! The trip back and forth was convenient as I kept coming back to Norfolk Hotel every morning for a cup of coffee as I read the days’ newspaper. On August 28 I read in the papers that the President had died in Mombasa. Heart attack! His cardiac muscles had been arrested, his soul imprisoned in the darkness of time.

Mission over!

When I came to, the bus was full to capacity and stenchy and full of noise. The ride was over and people were alighting. The concrete was heavier on alighting as if I was lighter than I actually was; signifying a loss of quantum particles as I went through time; ending up there at that time felt like after a hundred years. I felt like I had absorbed a huge part of history.

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Kennedy Karanja

A Master-Signifier, Writer, and Content-Creator; leaning towards innovation and technological progress.