Man who lost his right arm to a bullet 15 years ago wants to fight for the rights of the marginalised
I lost my right arm to a bullet 15 years ago. It was amputated just below the elbow joint.
My early childhood was spent in the Mwireri slums in Nyahururu and as a street boy.
My mother’s arrests (she was a chang’aa brewer) and her subsequent incarcerations drove me and my younger brother to the streets when I was 10 years old. Our father left to look for work one day and simply never came back.
I never expected much from life as a child and fed off rotten fruits and vegetables when we lived in the streets of Nyeri.
Today, Thursday, in the 37th year of my life, is the day that life has been preparing me for. I have been admitted as an advocate at the Supreme Court of Kenya.
My name is Makara Ngure David and this is my story.
For some unknown reason, I never dropped out of school even when I lived in the streets as my friends did. I had wisdom beyond my age that I can’t explain to date. I missed many classes but always made time to sit for my end-of-term exams. I eventually sat for my KCSE exams in 1999 and scored a C-plain.
I spent four years in the streets before I found solace in the Nyahururu Catholic Church through a feeding programme. I also went back to live with my mother and it was the church that helped pay my school fees in secondary school.
One day, the priest told us about St Maria Goretti. She refused to sleep with a young man who was courting her. He attacked her and she later succumbed to the injuries. But at her point of death, she forgave her assailant.
That act of forgiveness touched my heart. I was bitter and had been hurt while in the streets. I decided to forgive the people who beat us and insulted us daily in the streets. I decided that for me to forgive fully, I had to move away from the streets and from the abuse.
I had also become a glue addict. I took my glue bottle to the nun at the church altar and swore I would never touch it again.
I relapsed several times, but after 1998 the nun declared me fully rehabilitated.
BECAME A VOLUNTEER
I became a volunteer at a local NGO and a committed Christian. It is there that I met Beatrice Muthoni Makara, now my wife and the mother of my three sons.
I opened a video shop with a friend and I thought everything was going okay.
And then I was shot thrice. One bullet ripped my right arm just below the elbow while another hit me just above the right hip joint. The third missed me narrowly.
A visit to a video shop to purchase a cassette had turned out to be a nightmare.
I had seen people getting harassed by policemen in the streets but had luckily never been a victim of police brutality until that fateful day when a policeman came into the movie shop dragging one of my friends by his shirt collar.
“Do you know this man?” he barked.
I said I knew him.
He asked me if I had any money on me. I had Sh70 in my pocket, change from the video cassette purchase.
I refused to give him the money. He insisted. I said no again.
It turned out that the policeman had been drinking at a nearby bar and had run out of cash. They got desperate.
That is how my friend and I ended up in the police van.
The policeman eventually convinced me to part with my precious Sh70 so as to avoid jail time. I alighted the van at the police station and had hardly left the compound when the bullets hit my body. Later, I learnt that the policeman had disagreed with his colleagues on how to share the “loot”.
TRIED TO RUN
I tried to run but I fell down. I tried to support myself off the ground with my right hand only to find that I couldn’t feel it.
I sensed that my life was in danger and I started running towards the general hospital, right opposite the police canteen. I fainted on arrival. I learnt later that the police officers came, looked at me and concluded that I was already dead, before they left to get a police vehicle to take me to the mortuary.
Fortunately, I regained consciousness before they could arrive. I walked, and when I couldn’t, I crawled, to the hospital, where I was received well by medical personnel. My hand was patched and I was put on the drip. As the process of admission went on, the police officers came in.
They said that they had shot me because I killed someone and was escaping arrest, and they couldn’t leave the hospital without me. The hospital staff refused to let me go. I was admitted and taken to theatre that same evening. My hand was amputated.
It was very painful, I was at the flower of my youth. It was difficult for me to accept the loss. Being a youth leader in church, I had lived a happy life that any youth would want. I couldn’t understand how else I could live without my right hand. How was I expected to dance to the liturgical music? I had many questions.
HANDCUFFED TO HOSPITAL BED
Two days later, the police officers came back and chained me to the hospital bed with handcuffs. They explained to the medical personnel and other people who could hear that on that Sunday, between 10 and 11am, with two other people, I had snatched a lady’s purse in Nyahururu town.
This was meant to justify and cover up the shooting. The police actions infuriated the people from the church who had spent the entire day with me. They started demonstrations the following day.
The protests attracted the attention of the International Justice Mission (IJM). An advocate from IJM came to interview me in the hospital. He told me they would try to help me.
Following the mass demonstrations, nine people from my local church and the local NGO where I was working were arrested and arraigned. They were charged with a breach of peace. A few days later, Amos Wako the then Attorney-General dropped the charges.
A month later, the police took me from the hospital into the cells. The following morning, I was charged with robbery with violence, an unbailable offence. I went into remand. My hand wasn’t healed yet, it was still oozing pus.
Life was very difficult for me. I would wonder, "Why me?’ I met other people who were undergoing similar injustices. They were languishing in custody for things they hadn’t done.
IJM gave me a lawyer, Victor Kamau. He was blind. But he always arrived at the court very early. It was a tussle between Makara, a former street boy from a very poor family, amputated and disabled, and a lawyer who too was disabled, and the policemen.
This inspired me to feel that I can do much for other people too. Whenever I saw Victor Kamau defending me in court, I told myself that I had to become a lawyer like him.
Three months later, my case was withdrawn and I was freed.
I went to the local NGO where I worked and talked to Father Gabriel Titinato, an Italian priest, about my new ambitions to train as a lawyer and defend the rights of the marginalised. I asked him to sponsor me to study law.
During this period, I saw a notice from the Kenya School of Professional Studies advertising a diploma course in law. I showed it to him. He said he would get back to me after discussing my request with the management.
Two months after I was freed, the four police officers and the then OCS were arrested and charged at a Nairobi court. They were charged with "unlawful wounding", yet I had lost my arm. The OCS died in custody while the other four went through the entire trial. The court did not find them guilty, so they were set free.
After the verdict, I became more determined to follow up on the plight of people in situations similar to mine. Two years later, IJM sponsored me to university. I joined the Pentecostal University of Uganda for a bachelor’s degree in law and graduated with a second upper-class honours in 2013.
For this while, I worked at the NGO as a community legal adviser till the end of last year, when I resigned to join politics. I wanted to represent Igwamiti Ward in the Laikipia County Assembly, but I lost in the primaries.
In 2015, I did a post-graduate diploma in law at the Kenya School of Law and passed well. So today is the apex of my call, as I am being admitted to the bar. It has been a long journey. I have accepted and adopted my hand, though my handwriting is not as graceful as it used to be.
I believe that laws that jail people wrongly are founded on bad policies. That is why I will still make another attempt at political leadership. Once in law and in a legislature, I will be able to fully fight for, and defend the rights of, the marginalised.
My nightmare gave way for the dream I never thought would be fulfilled.
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