DEAR SON: The day mum left you

Friday September 1 2017

Boy, that day you cried so hard we feared you

Boy, that day you cried so hard we feared you would pass out. You refused to eat anything. Refused to drink a drop. Wrestled. Refused to sleep. Refused to sit. Made people worried. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 


Dear Jijee,

You were seven months and five days old when Kenya held the 2017 General Election.  That is the day your mum left home at four am and returned some minutes to three am the next day.

That is the day a certain man in Nairobi became a celebrity by munching githeri, which he carried in a clear polythene bag while queuing to vote. Your father used to chew roasted maize and groundnuts while queuing for a bus in Nairobi but no one made him an overnight celebrity. But it’s okay, son. It’s alright.


Boy, that day you cried so hard we feared you would pass out! You refused to eat anything. Refused to drink a drop. Wrestled. Refused to sleep. Refused to sit. Made people worried.

By the time mum returned home, you were all sighs and your face was a salt water lake of tears and mucus. As you suckled, there is one look you gave mum that suggested that if she went away that long again, your first task would be to bite off the tips of her milk stores — your lack of teeth notwithstanding.

It was the first time your mum participated in an election. That day, kids like you were being used all over Kenya by those who did not want to queue. But because in 2017 Kenyans were still at their ingenious best, one poor kid would be used again and again until some polling officers started inking their fingers just as with their “parents”.

On the night of the Friday after the elections, a man called Wafula Chebukati, who was the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, announced the results for the presidential election. Had you not been very busy hitting things against the sofa and thrusting them to your mouth, you could have heard Chebukati say names like “Shakhalaga” and “Abraham Lingolin” on TV.

But the ignorantly blissful you, before you slept, kept shouting and crying for one thing or another. You could not let us hear everything the chairman was saying. We even didn’t hear properly an announcement that the electoral commission’s CEO called Chiloba — who had been nicknamed “Chilobae” by some Kenyan ladies who thought he was tall, dark and handsome like your dad — was taken.


Well, that evening, Chebukati announced that 55-year-old Uhuru Kenyatta had been re-elected and some parts of Kenya could not stomach it. Son, a poor girl in Kisumu called Samantha Pendo who was a month younger than you, who could maybe be your classmate someday, took a hit to the head during chaos that followed and she died three days later. It tore my heart, son. Her story was all over the media and images of her distraught parents made many shed tears.

Anyway, I hope you never kept a grudge for the anger you had that day. Your mother was out to conduct a very important process. She was out there confirming that people’s biometrics were in the system, inking people’s fingers, and later in the evening counting the votes. Your mum is bad, imagine. She was one of the people who rejected a number of votes because people had placed ticks too long they that stretched from the preferred candidate’s box to a neighbour’s. I hope your maths teachers will not be placing long ticks on your maths book when you score 10/10 in every assignment.

Anyway, your wailing was justified because before the election day, mum had never left you alone for that long. But she was out to be part of Kenya’s history.


This series brings you writings by PETER MOGAMBI, a Nairobi residentwho became a father in January 2017. By the time his son is old enough to read and comprehend, which is at least 11 years from today, a lot of water will have passed under the bridge. So, he has decided to preserve happenings in black and white so that when the boy can finally comprehend, he will get to follow his father’s feelings.