On August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown, of Ferguson, Missouri, US, was gunned down by a 28-year-old policeman. Two weeks of unrest and protest followed as the world’s media camped in the previously unknown black American suburb.
Two weeks later, 14-year-old Kwekwe Mwandaza was gunned down by a Kenyan policeman in Kinango, Kwale County. She was hurriedly buried and, but for Muhuri, her killing would have gone unnoticed.
Both sets of police bosses produced indefensible reasons to justify the executions, but that is where the similarities end. We witnessed the outrage in Ferguson and the silent indifference in Kwale — not a single complaint from the Woman Representative, MCA, MP, Governor or any other person that would claim to be a leader.
We have lost our sense of outrage.
HARD TO BE HOPEFUL
Just four years ago, we passed a Constitution that has been defiled, ridiculed and desecrated. Now, we have MCAs, MPs, Cord and Governors wanting to amend it.
Soon, no doubt, they will be joined by churches, unions and Jubilee, all demanding their own partisan changes.
While the poor die of neglect in public hospitals, the Nation revealed that Sh8 billion “disappeared” from the Office of the President during the March 2013 succession.
It is hard to be hopeful at times and even more difficult to find people of integrity in public life. Yet there are decent, committed, courageous folk untainted by the temptations of office, dedicated to a better life for the poor.
Today, one of them, Odindo Opiata, will be laid to rest in Siaya County.
Opiata experienced detention and torture but never spoke about it as a badge of honour. He carried the wounds of incarceration quietly and lightly, retaining his sense of humour and justice.
There was no inkling of hero or victim about him; no sense of entitlement for reward for the sacrifices he made; no abiding anger at his incarcerators.
He quietly went about his work, representing the poor in remote court houses, and enjoying their company in slums and church halls as he mobilised the dispossessed to take responsibility for their lives and reclaim the dignity that injustice had tried to deny them.
SPIRIT LIVES ON
To paraphrase the Prophet Micah, “he acted justly, loved mercifully and walked humbly with his God” (6:8). Humble and unpretentious he would be embarrassed at the fuss that will mark his burial today.
But such people never die for their spirit lives on in the souls of those inspired by their courage and convictions.
Today is a day for reflecting on those quiet, unsung heroes who keep the flames of hope and justice alive.
Opiata’s last major contribution was drafting The Community Land Bill and The Evictions and Resettlement Bill. That is his legacy and our indebtedness would best be shown by passing the two Bills and allowing him to rest with his job done.
The poet Seamus Heaney wrote in 1998: “History says don’t hope on this side of the grave, but then, once in a lifetime the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme.”
Opiata, Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory.