One of the songs that stayed longest in my phone playlist isDead and Goneby American musicians TI (Clifford Joseph Harris Jr) and Justin Timberlake.
TI, who is recounting events of a shootout where his friend died, raps that he has changed his ways.
“Now think before I risk my life/ Take them chances to get my stripe/ ’Cause I hit you, you sue me, I shoot you, get locked up, who me?” he raps in one verse.
Further down he says: “No more stress, now I’m straight/ Now I get it, now I take time to think before I make mistakes, just for my family’s sake.”
The lines of that song came to mind as I ruminated on the death sentence a judge handed to beauty queen Ruth Kamande on Thursday for killing her boyfriend in 2015.
Ruth was 14 when the song was released in 2008, and I can’t tell if she had listened to it. But TI’s line about thinking before making mistakes was probably not ringing in her mind that Sunday when she stabbed poor Farid Mohamed 25 times and left him drowning in his own blood.
Temporary insanity? Some people have been arguing that that was the case, given that it involved people in a relationship and that there were suspicions of unfaithfulness.
Since 2012 when Mr Justice Festus Azangalala provided temporary insanity as the reason for giving Benjamin Cheruiyot a lenient eight-hour jail term despite having beaten up his daughter to death after he found her in bed with a boy, Kenyans have been looking at the legal provision as a possible refuge.
A glance at archived judgments at the National Council for Law Reporting shows that various lawyers have been citing temporary insanity as they try to secure the release of their murderous clients, which is clear proof that this excuse that started being canvassed in European courts in the 1800s is gaining prominence in Kenya.
It is refreshing to note that most judges have been taking this defence with a pinch of salt, often insisting that even when a person killed another without intending to — called manslaughter in legal circles — they must be behind bars for a considerable amount of time for their crime.
In July 2017, High Court judge Edward Muriithi was almost poetic when explaining why one James Kimosop had to spend two years in jail after killing his brother who had provoked him: “The accused should, in social retribution, pay for his sins.”
And after Thursday’s verdict, the short-tempered should learn that whether temporarily insane or not, a person should pay the price for taking someone’s life.
Words from the judge who sent Ruth to the gallows should be the clarion call — that the cool thing to do when your partner frustrates you is not to kill but to walk away.
Millennials can borrow the wisdom to keep calm from the songUnfaithfulthat American songstress Rihanna released in 2006.
“I don’t wanna do this anymore,” she sings, in a track about a woman wilfully walking out of a relationship because she is emotionally hurting her man. “I don’t wanna take away his life/ I don’t wanna be a murderer.”
I’m not here to write about songs, but trying to coin a message that should ring in anyone’s head whenever they think temporary insanity is getting the better of them and is inviting them to bloodletting.
TI says: “Now think before I risk my life”. Justice Lessit says: “It is cool to walk away instead.” Rihanna says: “I don’t want to be a murderer.”
Then there is the Good Book. In the 11th verse of the 27th chapter of Proverbs, wise Solomon says: “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”
Be the one that brings calm in the end.
There is also that famous Mang’u High School motto,jishinde ushinde. It implies that for someone to win, they have to emerge victorious over themselves.
In that moment of rage, when inflicting pain appears to be the only available option, you can think of the peace of mind ahead if you get over the anger of the moment.
Elvis Ondieki is a Nation reporter; [email protected] Carole Njung'e’s column resumes next month.