The family of a man killed over a Sh50 row in Makueni County has agreed to receive 14 cows in atonement from the clan of his killer.
The arrangement has raised eyebrows among those unfamiliar with Maambo, an age-old but understated justice system among the Kamba community.
The kin of Sila Mutua, a cobbler who was beaten to death by a client on a chilly Sunday evening in June, will however wait longer to receive the animals, going by an announcement made by elders of Aambua clan at the weekend.
“During a meeting on Saturday, elders told us to wait until 2023 for our matter to be sorted,” Silu Mutua, Sila’s father, told the Nation in an interview at his home in Muliilii village on Sunday.
“They argued that there are four other murder cases lined up for their clan to settle.”
The 94-year-old mzee was lost into recollecting fond memories of Sila with his blind eyes staring blankly in the direction of his late son’s dilapidated house.
A few metres away from the hut, was Sila's grave— a mountain of brown earth and rocks covered with leaf-less thorny shrubs.
Sila met his death over a business deal he entered into with Musyoka Kituku but failed to honour, an account collaborated by the police and multiple Nation sources.
He had agreed to repair Musyoka’s school bag and was paid Sh50 as down payment.
Musyoka was not amused when he returned hours later to find his torn bag unattended.
He had two options for the cobbler: Money back or a repaired bag without hesitation.
With Sila unable to pay, Musyoka descended on him with blows and kicks, leaving him for dead.
The cobbler was pronounced dead shortly afterwards, by which time Musyoka had fled the scene at Makindu town.
Musyoka, a father of two, had gotten into binge drinking after his wife eloped with a truck driver eight years ago, something his relatives say got him disillusioned.
Struggling to come to terms with his son’s death, which is linked to his family friend and a neighbour, Mutua said he had hit a brick wall.
Though Musyoka was later detained after he presented himself to Makindu Police Station, he was not charged.
He told the police that the cobbler fell and injured himself during a tussle over the unfinished school-bag business.
As the cobbler's body chilled at Makindu Hospital mortuary, the suspect’s father, Kituku Kitonde, a local leader of the Aambua clan himself, hurriedly assembled some of his relatives and friends— including some prominent members of Makindu business community— and discretely lobbied for his son’s freedom by invoking the option of Maambo.
"I agreed to settle the matter out of court because I did not want to purse a case that would have seen a friend's son punished said Mr Mutua, a staunch Catholic.
“I also considered that option because Christianity teaches us to forgive.”
Two days after, Sila was buried in a low-key ceremony jointly sponsored by the two families.
The burial went as had been defined and planned in the alternative dispute resolution deal the families struck.
A few days later, police set Musyoka free.
They could not prosecute him because they had lacked enough evidence to build a case, according to Makindu police chief Peter Ochorokodi.
"However, his file remains open and should witnesses volunteer information to what happened, we shall activate the case," he said, feigning ignorance on the kicking in of the local justice system that followed extensive consultations involving the police, Makindu Law Courts and area administrators.
The Aambua have since delivered one of the cows to the aggrieved family, confirming that the clan has assumed responsibility on the matter.
They had pledged to provide at least six others by the end of August, but this promise fell through.
Elders from the two clans have dined together, and adult members of Musyoka's clan have started raising Sh70 each to offset the Sh30,000 debt— the equivalent of seven cows in acceptable clan standards.
The plan was to undertake everything as discretely as possible to avoid raising eyebrows.
All would have worked well had the Aambua elders honoured the deal to pay the Sh30,000 the aggrieved family had sought.
In the deal seen by the Nation, the aggrieved family had wanted half of the reparation done in cash and the Aambua had agreed to do so in three months.
Telling from the sudden change of heart, the Atangwa feel that Aambua are hiding behind systemic flaws in Maambo to delay and eventually deny them justice.