I’ve just lost a job in Denmark because of this stubborn virus

Life makes an unexpected turn when in less than 12 hours you are out of a job and cannot leave your house.

Outside, people are scampering to supermarkets, panic-buying as if they are preparing to live in a post- apocalyptic world.

Paranoia gets the best of you. You are worried about touching door knobs, using washrooms or taking the bus, and are living in constant fear of being infected with Covid- 19, which has claimed nearly 5,000 lives globally. That is the situation I am in.

As a self-sponsored student living and studying in Denmark, I was accustomed to a hectic routine, waking up at 5am, working a four-hour shift and a rigorous academic programme, until three days ago, when I was abruptly confined to my room. That is when I began to grasp the scale of the problem.

On Wednesday evening, Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced that all schools and universities will remain closed for two weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Public sector employees working in critical departments of health and security were requested to remain in active duty.

However, employees in the private sector were encouraged to work from home. The Prime Minister also announced travel restrictions to countries classified as red zones and banned gatherings of more than 100 people, encouraging bars and hotels to close or restrict capacity.

Barely a minute after her statement, which was read in Danish, I watched my dorm mates’ emotions oscillate between fear and hope. The fear of being infected with the virus and the hope that the spread will be contained – but also the hope that if we contract the virus, we will recover.

I had been calm when the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country and remained relatively calm as the numbers continued to soar by the day. Work and study life continued as usual, and the feeling of normalcy was quite reassuring.

The Sunday before the lockdown, our Pastor, following an advisory from the Danish Health Authority, had started the sermon with a disclaimer: Do not shake hands, do not hug and make use of the hand sanitisers placed in the building.

This was later followed with posters put up by the Danish Health Authority all over campuses and cities asking residents to wash their hands frequently and to cough on their sleeves. Every day the situation escalated as more people tested positive for the virus, but people went around their life as usual until the lockdown and the attendant disruption.

By Friday morning, the Danish Health Authority reported that 674 people had been infected. But the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread has to some extent pushed the panic button.

Workers without a permanent salary are scratching their heads on how to raise money to cover their expenses, especially rent and other bills. Although the private sector has not been compelled to close down, most companies have asked their employees to stay home. The country’s welfare model is a safety net that ensures that people who lose their jobs are not pushed out of their homes or sleep hungry.

On Thursday, I received communication from my employer that they had reached the decision to close the restaurant for the next two weeks. This means that my colleagues and I will be out of work without pay for 14 days.

We are on contract and are only paid for hours worked.
Although the government has put in place safety measures to avert a food crisis, most Danes have been in a rush to hoard food and other home supplies, resulting in long queues similar to those in supermarkets in the run-up to Christmas.

A visit to the grocery store yesterday displayed a mixture of panic and anxiety, as everyone rushed to stock up on wheat flour, pasta, toilet paper and hand sanitisers.

Stores ran out of yeast and milk, as Danes worried that they might not be in a position to bake their own bread stocked up on these products, something that is reminiscent of World War II, when yeast was in low supply.

BY Daily Nation

Meet Nadia Abdalla the youngest CAS in Uhuru’s cabinet

“I have not held such an office before.

When I came here for the first time, it was unbelievable. I was appointed into this position when I was three months into my job as the Chief Tourism officer in the Mombasa County Government.

Life happens. Isn’t it confounding how a particular moment can change the entire trajectory of your life? Here, I am. On a different career path and living in Nairobi for the first time.

The city is fast. I have had to acquaint myself with an early morning alarm clock and get used to the traffic jam. Except for a breakout on my face, I can say that I have settled in well.

I was born and brought up in Marikiti, Oldtown, Mombasa. If you ask of my childhood story, I was that little girl who was not afraid to speak her mind, ask questions or do what I thought was right. I used my voice to communicate or amplify a particular issue. At the age of 13, I drew inspiration from the late Kofi Annan and saw the zeal and power of Oprah Winfrey in me. That is why I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in public relations and mass communications. For my Master’s degree, I studied International Relations and Cultural Diplomacy.

Before the CAS appointment, I was working on something else and to be honest, I did not see myself in the national government. I vividly remember how it all happened. I was having a plate of ‘viazi’ when my phone beeped then buzzed.

Everything was happening fast— my phone was blowing up.

“I need to know your full name. I know you by Nadia Naddy (that is how most people knew me), but what is your real name? The caller sounded frantic. I just gave him my full name as Nadia Ahmed Abdalla. He then informed me that the President had appointed me as the Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) ICT Ministry, Youth Affairs and Innovation. He was sending me a video. I watched it. It was unbelievable. I could hear butterflies in my stomach. I lost appetite for the viazi.

At that particular moment, I did not even know what that role entailed, it could have been a call to a board or something but the fact that the

President had mentioned my name was mind-blowing. I am honoured and privileged to be here. My role is to equip, empower, protect and involve the youth in decision and policymaking and implementation.

About three months ago, I was just a girl who was trying to be different in her own space then in the next moment, the entire country was interested in knowing more about me. I was the youngest of the appointees— 28 years. My twitter and Instagram feeds were flooded.

Now, when I go to Mombasa, I can no longer be myself. On those streets unlike here in Nairobi where I am having a normal life, people know my identity and the position I hold. Mheshimiwa! They call out.

I come from a family that believes in owning their own identities. I was brought up in a set up in which my mother and aunties did what they felt was right. My mother divorced when I was one and even after she remarried, she did not lose the ardour for a better life. I get my drive partly from her. I could see the potential she had only that it was limited to her children.

I wanted to go beyond. I wanted to do something to tackle the challenges that women and the youth face.

After my Master’s degree in Berlin, I came back to Mombasa and I held events for youth and women. I equipped them with communication skills, we discussed matters mental health and I was a link between women going through domestic abuse and psychologists.

‘She is doing this for attention,’ rumours spread.

When I uploaded my photos on social media, others were quick to read a motive.

‘She wants to attract men,’ some women said. I did not let this stop me.

It amplified the phrase, ‘be your own vibe.’ I was unstoppable and maximised my space on the social media platforms and on the ground. I believe the fact that I am not afraid to make my voice heard and my contribution in shaping the lives of the youth and women is what made the President’s to appoint me.

Even in business, I believed in going the extra mile. To enable me to organise events, I had many hustles, selling branded environment- friendly water bottles, scarves, and my book. It’s called the Feminist in Us published in 2017. The book addresses misconceptions about the feminist movement in the hope of driving support for women causes.

In 2019, I was the Mombasa representative of the show Ms. President that aired on KTN. It featured women change-makers from the various communities.

Why did I apply to be part of the show?
I wanted to prove a point. That women like me, read young, Muslim and from the Coast can lead and bring about positive change. Though I got eliminated, the experience made me hungry to do more and to maintain the journey that I had already started.

With my current position, my intent is to give young people and women a space to voice their views and ideas. A few weeks ago, I did a pilot for the program ‘Kenya is me dialogue’ in Mombasa. The program will be in the form of public barazas where the youth and women get to share their views and be listened to. I will then use their views to shape policy.

As we celebrate the International Women’s Day tomorrow, I urge women not to focus so much on preserving their femininity but rather fight to create something and to bring positive change.

When it comes to you being a woman and feminine, harness the power and be your own vibe.”

Daily Nation

BY LILYS NJERU

You’re seen before you’re heard, Havi explains why he wears a Sh600,000 watch

In a contest of spruceness, Nelson Havi runs away with a medal. In a black suit paired with a blue shirt, a Law Society of Kenya (LSK) badge punched into his coat and a maroon striped tie fastened with sleek perfection, Havi looks his usual pristine self.

The new LSK president wears a Montblanc watch that cost him Sh600,000.

One of his university lecturers Prof PLO Lumumba called him “the duke” to appreciate his sense of fashion.

“Light travels faster than sound; you’re seen before you’re heard.

Business Daily

As a lawyer, you must be meticulous,” he says with his habitual winsome grin.

“The mind is always eager to pay attention to a presentable person.”

And that attention is priceless in the legal practice. For two months, Havi traversed the country to meet lawyers in town halls to sell his agenda. He tells me this tough trail left him worn, bruised and with life lessons.

“I’m slowly returning to my routine,” he says.

To wind down, the 43-year-old exercises an hour in the morning and in the evening twice every week.

“I also read a lot of African literature, Shakespearean plays, fiction and religious mythology.”

To young unmarried men, Havi says that while marriage takes away some freedoms, it doesn’t cost one’s social life entirely.

“My shoes have been shining like this since I got married,” he says, motioning me to peek at his glossy boots, the deft work of his wife. “I don’t understand how she polishes them. She does it, not as a sense of duty, but for love.”

BY JAMES KAHONGEH

How my late mother secured our financial future fully

When Sylvia Wariara’s mother passed on three years ago, it was the most devastating phase in her life. Her mother died in a road accident when Sylvia was in college and her younger sister, Catherine Wanjira, was in high school.

Soon after their mother was buried, they received a phone call from a stranger informing them of a trust fund she had left for them.

“We got a call from a Mr Michael Ndung’u in 2017 around April. He told us there was a trust fund our mother had left us and that if we needed anything we should call him and they would sort us out,” narrates Sylvia Sylvia recalls that six months before her mother passed away, she had revealed to them that they would never struggle even if she died as she had already secured their future. That call confirmed all the best laid plans that their mother had been telling them.

By definition, a trust fund is set up by a grantor for the benefit of another individual who is regarded as the beneficiary. It may comprise of investments, cash, real estate or other assets that can ensure future financial security of the child or grandchild in some instances. By rule of the thumb, such funds cater for the immediate needs of the beneficiary such as education, medical, food and others.

“The beneficiary does not own the trust property, but has the right to receive the benefit of the property as the trust allows. For example, a child can receive payments for college fees, upkeep or medical care. The trustee is responsible for managing the property owned by the trust. Think of trustees as the corporate officers. A trustee can be an individual or an organisation,” says David Ngava, Octagon Africa Pension Administrator.

Accessing the funds

At first, they had to go to the office with their aunty, who was their guardian since Sylvia had not yet attained the legal age of 18 years. Kenyan law considers people below 18 years old not capable of making life changing decisions. A guardian who had been appointed by the deceased shall act in the best interest of the minor until the minor comes of age. This request for payments shall be received and reviewed by the trustees.

“We were not allowed to access the money anyhow. We had to have a convincing reason why I needed it. Then we would draft a letter to the accountant, who would then present it to the CEO. They ask a lot of questions before the money is approved,” explains Sylvia.

Once Sylvia reached 18 years old, she was given authority to have money deposited in her account monthly.

According to David, when the funds are in a trust, they are invested by the trustees prudently and at the same time pay-outs are made from the trust depending on the prevailing needs and demands of the beneficiaries. Approval for access of funds is given by the trustee. Sylvia and her younger sister receive a monthly salary to cater for their monthly shopping and all other monthly expenses.

Uninterrupted life

They are glad that the trust fund has saved them from the trouble of people in the name of guardians coming up to claiming their mother’s money. They were able to honour their mothers wish of adding extra rooms to their rental property with the guidance of the trust. They are also thankful for the invaluable financial lessons they have been taught by the trust.

“We are able to travel during the holidays as well as learn how to save and plan for our future, thanks to our late mother. She made sure our lives continue normally,” she says Her mother had insurance too before she passed on, which they used to cater for her funeral expenses. Sylvia’s late mother would tell her about the chamas she was involved in and what happened in those meetings, so they were able to seamlessly pick from where she left.

When it comes to investing the funds, the trust has invested in various asset classes both long and short term from Treasury bonds, Treasury bills, quoted equities and fixed deposit. This diversification ensures fund investments are stable and sustainable into the future.

The duration of the trust fund is based on the injections, interest and withdrawal of funds. When Sylvia finds a job, she plans to request the trust to stop the monthly payments so that they can cater for their needs with it as the cash is invested in other projects.

“It’s good to tell your children about investment groups and pension funds you have enrolled in. As much as they are afraid that when they know they will waste it, such information opens their mind and should anything happen to you, they will be taken care of. You child too can start investing in such and make better financial decisions,” she concludes.

By HARRIET JAMES

How I set up my university in Burundi

The government’s decision to introduce free primary school education brought with it mixed fortunes for many. For Samuel Irungu Njau, who was the proprietor of a private school in Nyahururu, he was forced to close it down in 2003 as parents moved their children to public schools.

He had to look for a new source of income. As a person who is passionate about education, he was keen on looking for greener pastures within and out of the country. An opportunity presented itself in Rwanda following the government’s decision to introduce English as language of instruction to increase access to the global economy.

Irungu decided to try his luck there. With only Sh7,500 he had as savings, he left Kenya in 2009 with a lot of uncertainty about how the life in a foreign country would be.

He used Sh3,000 for transport and the rest to cater for his accommodation. For three months he moved from one place to another without successfully securing a job and spent all he had. Luckily, a friend accommodated him, which came as a great reprieve.

In 2010, Irungu landed his first job as an English teacher in Nu Vision Secondary School. He also quickly got a part-time job at Masoro University. His prowess in the language attracted even government officials and landed him another opportunity: the Rwanda National Police Service contracted him.

Students outside the institute in Bujumbura, Burundi. COURTESY

He had over 600 officers to train, and he was overwhelmed. To fix this, he invited 16 teachers from Kenya to aid him in conducting the lessons. More doors opened and World Vision contracted him to teach English to all teachers in primary and secondary schools from two districts in Rwanda.

Stressed and bedridden

When Mt Kenya University established its branch in Kigali in 2012, Njau was given a job as a lecturer, but three years later, he was retrenched.

In 2015, Njau moved to Burundi, where he and two of his friends, a Kenyan and Burundian came up with a plan to establish an institution of higher learning, which they called International University of Equator.

However, two weeks into the operations, he opted to pullout.

“I realised that my partners were not interested in building the school, but in making quick money. I had injected about Sh4 million into this project and I lost it all,” he said.

He says the two friends went behind his back and incited other stakeholders in the institution to fight him. Due to stress, he developed health complications.

“Stress made me develop severe back problems and I was bedridden for eight months,” he explains.

After recovery, Njau went back to the drawing board, planning how he to start his own university. All this time, he did not have money to either buy food or pay his rent. Fortunately, like the first time, a good friend offered to accommodate him for a couple of months.

The beginning was stormy; Burundi was experiencing political unrest as the then-president was contesting for the seat for the third time.

“There were protests all over and at one time, I was nearly shot, but I was lucky to escape unhurt. My family and friends were asking me to return back home, fearing for my safety,” he recounts.

He started by renting a room in 2015, which he used for his classes, and as time went by more students came in and he was able to get more money to rent more rooms.

I had to sell some of my property to get money to facilitate other logistics to aid in establishing the university.

With the help of Kenyan Ambassador to Burundi, the approval for the university was expedited and the education officers also helped him in laying down the structures to run the institution. This is how Summit International University came about.

To date, the school located in Bujumbura has close to 1,000 students taking various courses.

Outsource talent Njau takes pride in having one of his architecture students win an international award for Miss Entrepreneurship East Africa in December 2019, where she pocketed Shlmillion.

He has also been able to establish partnership with two Japanese universities to expand the scope of courses in the institution.

“Our main aim is to empower the students by giving them entrepreneurial skills, which they can use to transform their country,” he adds.

The journey to success has, however, not been smooth sailing. Njau says due to high poverty levels in the country, many parents are not able to take their children to school, especially for higher learning. Getting qualified teachers is also a challenge and he has been forced to outsource them from Kenya or Uganda, which is expensive.

Njau plans to expand to Gitega, the new capital city for Burundi and later to Congo and Zambia as well.

QUICK FACTS

Samuel Njau was the proprietor of a private school in Nyahururu, which he had to close down following the introduction of free primary school education.

With just Sh7,500, he moved to Rwanda to teach English after the language was introduced in the curriculum.

In 2017, he set up the institute, which has about 1,000 students at the moment.

Widowed young after husband accidentally fell off a storey building

Mary Waitherero Claudio was going about her business as a young energetic woman with big dreams for her family. She had just turned 30, had two adorable children and was four months pregnant with her third child.

Life was good and her union with husband Joseph Tharuma was a blissful romantic adventure. But in December 2013, in an unprecedented turn of events, the tide turned.

“I found myself immersed in a private and personal journey of unanticipated grief,” she narrates how she found herself in uncharted waters.

Her husband of four years laid on the gurney, critically ill after accidentally falling off a storey building in Westlands, Nairobi. Doctors were unable to stabilise him and he succumbed eight days later while in the intensive care unit at Nairobi Hospital.

As a young woman and mother, Claudio was suddenly faced with learning how to handle constant sadness, fear, lack of concentration, loneliness and grieving.

Tharuma’s abrupt and unanticipated demise had jolted her senses, thrusted her into autopilot as she figured out how to bring up her children without their father.

But instead of going on an overdrive-grieving mode, the 36-year-old’s maternal instinct kicked in to save her unborn baby despite the whirlwind of emotions.

Extended mourning

“My mind went into a protective mode and I shelved grieving. I knew I had to save the baby I was carrying. Here I’m four and half months pregnant, I have a one and a three-year-old who needed me,” she narrates.

It is after the birth of her daughter that she unexpectedly descended into grieving having suppressed the process for months. “My new born baby also looked exactly like her father and I drowned even further into grieving. I went from anger to questioning God,” she shares, adding that you can never be prepared enough for death and when it happens, only time heals.

At the time of mourning her husband, Claudio had an upcoming exam that she needed to pass in order to become an advocate, a test she had failed the previous year. “I sat that exam a month after I gave birth to my last born. I was grieving and did not have any care in the world. I did not care if I failed the exam…and surprisingly I passed,” she gleans.

Passing the Kenya School of Law exam was important to fulfill a promise she had made to her late husband that she would become an advocate of the High Court of Kenya.

Claudio started talking about her husband’s death to her children after two years of mourning and when they were old enough to comprehend things better. “After I had come to terms with their father’s death and they were a bit older, I was finally able to have a conversation with them. They had started asking ‘where is daddy? Is he in heaven? Can we go

visit him?’ My children had to learn about death while they were so young,” she shares.

Hard talk

And it wasn’t an easy task, she first demystified the entire topic of death through stories that they could relate to, such as Jesus being crucified on the cross. This is a story they learnt in scripture and Sunday school. Also where Jesus went after he died. “I used to tell them that just like Jesus, their daddy also went to heaven. And as they grow older, I find myself retelling the story according to their level of maturity. One thing I can say is that children are very resilient and need to be told the truth in the right manner that suits their maturity level,” she explains.

Despite a myriad of challenges that would confront her in months following her husband’s death, Claudio was above all odds like the proverbial phoenix to become an advocate.

After becoming an advocate in 2016, she entered into practice and ventured into Environmental law, specialising in Mining and Extractive (oil and gas) as well as water and sanitation, consequently becoming a member of the Kenya Chambers of Mines.

In sheer display of determination, the mother of three went on to prove the naysayers wrong by setting up her firm, Tharuma Trevisan Advocates, partly named after her late husband, at a time when most young lawyers were seeking employment in established firms.

Legal practice, she notes has not been easy as the profession is highly patriachial. “Although more women than men are getting admitted to the bar, in practice it still remains a male dominated profession,” she says pointing out that just like any other business, it takes a lot hard work, determination and strategic planning to run a law firm. The business development aspect needs a direct focus because without a client base there would be no work. She feels that specialisation is key to creating a niche for Lawyers today. I am very passionate on Environmental Law issues and would like to focus on several areas such as the extractive industry, oil and gas, waste management and water and sanitation.

Things have been weaving up and Claudio who describes her grind as “from gumboots to heels” now wears many hats.

She is a director at Power and Solar Limited, a firm specialising in irrigation, infrastructure, sewerage, dams and pans and has been fortunate to win bids from the Agriculture ministry. She holds the same position at Lelo Investments Ltd, which engages in real estate projects as well as mining and mineral extraction.

In her endless list, the young lawyer is also the chair of the Human Capital and Governance committee at Pioneer International University and sits on the board of various companies in East Africa.

By Seth Onyango

Watch former PS Bitange Ndemo open-up on how he had one week to find a wife

“I came from America and I had one week to travel back. My priority was to find a woman within that time and marry because the American culture seemed weird to me.

“I met a woman at the Kenyatta National Hospital Cafeteria, gave her a date that night and that is how I got my wife.

I was however warned that she consumes whole 750ml vodka by herself but I chose to stick by her.”

These are the words of Former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication Bitange Ndemo as he humorously shared the story of how he met his wife and how this led to a mind shift towards women, love and marriage. 

Ndemo in a viral video on social media says while growing up as a teenager, they had devised various ways of seducing women but none of them seemed to work for him.

Ndemo was speaking to an audience in one of the Safaricom’s programmes dubbed ‘Engage’.

“We devised ways of seducing girls and I had just moved to Nairobi when I was a  teen. I decided to target a certain lady in the church. I went to a shop and bought Brut, the only spray I knew of then,” Ndemo divulged.

“I sprayed the whole can on myself and somehow squeezed myself among the congregants and sat next to her. I knew this was a perfect opportunity but unfortunately, the lady never recognised me.”

Ndemo said that day he felt rejected, dejected and disappointed. He went back home asking himself lots of questions as to what he might have done wrong for such humiliation.

This did not, however, deter his spirits. The following day he went to Nairobi Cinema at Uchumi house and spotted another target.

“I had borrowed a friend a motorbike, 175cc Honda, I strategically positioned myself for the target. She approached and asked her if she wanted a ride but she declined,” he narrates.

Ndemo says he recalls that many moviegoers would board their buses at the Kencom stage.

“I went around the building, fired up the motorbike and lifted the front wheel up. That stunt, however, did not go well. The wheel refused to come down and what followed next I found myself in First Bank of Chicago building just in the corner of Hilton Hotel,” he says.

Ndemo says the scenes of the girl he wanted so badly standing there and laughing at him are still so fresh.

He was later taken to hospital and later discharged before he got an opportunity to study in America.

After he left the hospital, Ndemo says he tried other theatrics but all hit a dead end.

In America, Ndemo says the world is totally opposite and here it is the women who make the move rather than the man.

“A classmate approached me that I should take her to the movies. While there I just wanted to be like my father so I wanted to pay but she said we should split the cost,” Ndemo narrates.

He says he struggled to understand because to him at that time he knew it is a man’s responsibility to be in control.

All said and done, Ndemo finished his undergraduate and started working for a firm as a financial systems analyst which was his first formal employment.

When he was given one week to rest, he decided to rush back home and get himself a wife.

He landed and went to see his brother who is a professor at the School of Medicine at KNH.

“I woke up the following day and went to see him but he was in a class, so I decided to have a snack at the cafeteria. I sat there just waiting and some two ladies walked in and asked if they could share my table and I agreed,” Ndemo said.

He continues, “As we started a conversation, I asked them what had brought them and they said they were students. They asked me the same question to which I responded. I am here looking for my brother. I want him to give me his car to go look for a woman I will marry,” he says.

In shock, the ladies asked him whether he was serious about what he just said and in affirmation he responded, “Yes I want to find a woman because I need to travel back to America.”

After a few minutes, one of them was answering his questions while the other was sceptical about his American bragging.

Luckily, Ndemo says someone distracted her and he was left for some time with the one who was responding to his questions.

“I said to myself,  I have gone through the theatrics of trying to find a woman and the only thing I did not do was speak up.  I told the girl I don’t need to get the car now, if you accept to marry me we can start the plans,” he says amid applause from the crowd.

Ndemo says what made him happy was the way the lady blushed and giggled.

When her colleague came back, Ndemo says they had to change the topic but luckily got a date that evening.

They met at the Forester Magnetica, where the new girl did not leave her friend behind.

“We had a chat and I was racing against time. So I convinced her that we had to go see her parents because days were moving very first,” he says that is how the journey to get a wife officially begun.

“The day before I travelled back to America, I met one of my relatives and told him about the girl and plan to marry her. He asked me about her and I described her to him. To my surprise, he said he knew her very well and that she would consume a whole bottle of 750ml of vodka by herself,” Ndemo said amid laughter from crowds.

“I looked at him but made my affirmation that I would stick with her despite all the shenanigans that followed,” he says.

He later organised so that she could travel to America but the Americans refused her a Visa and they had to use alternatives which were to secure a Canadian Visa.

She could then visit and they proceeded with their marriage plans and eventually got married.

At this point, Ndemo still insists he wanted to be a man, a true son of his father.

Ndemo recalls that one day he was sleeping in the couch, called his wife and asked her to give him the remote which was just on the table, she looked at him, held her waist and asked if that was really why he called her.

“She refused to give me the remote and demanded that I take it by myself. Well, I swallowed my pride because no one had seen me anyway,” Ndemo narrates.

One day they went to visit a sick friend and to his surprise, he witnessed his old friend get to the room, take a jacket and put it on his wife.

That he says changed his life to a new perspective of true love.

“I waited after two months and tried it on my wife and she was shocked, she thought I had gone mad but thanks to all that experience that has made me who I am today,” Ndemo says.

To him, he wanted to throw one more big surprise to her, which in their Kisii culture no man can dare do.

That was to kiss his wife in public. 30 years later, Ndemo says he is a happy husband. 

By Patrick Vidija

I get too startled by screeching cars & bursting tyres: Dusit attack survivors speak

Survivors of the Dusit complex attack are still trying to recover from the longterm effects of the horrific incident a year after it happened.

Speaking yesterday, the survivors said they struggle with the fear of darkness, isolated places, loud bangs and strangers, and suffer constant nightmares and stress related to the traumatic incident that claimed 21 lives.

When the initial blast went off outside Secret Garden Restaurant at the Dusit Complex, about 30 LG electronics staff were in an adjacent office working.

The day had started well.

Everyone was busy, until they heard the blast and thought that either a gas cylinder had exploded in the hotel’s kitchen or a transformer had exploded.

Hiram Macharia, 33, a marketing executive, even grabbed a fire extinguisher ready to help put out the fire but as he rushed downstairs he saw two heavily armed men walking towards the office.

“Right then, I realised that we were under a terror attack.

I informed my colleagues who were following me and we ran upstairs to hide,” he recalls.

Terrified and feeling helpless, the staff hid under office chairs, some in the kitchen, others in the store and one in the ceiling, right next to the air conditioner.

Keziah Bubi, 29, the office administrator, hid under a seat.

She told says that when she confirmed that they were under a terror attack she feared that death was imminent. But her biggest worry at the time was dying a painful death.

“I knew the first thing they would do once they got into the room was shoot at us. From my sitting position, my feet would have been hit by the first bullet.

Keziah Bubi, 29, the office administrator

I was worried that I would bleed painfully to death. I wanted to die instantly,” she recalled.

Ms Bubi made up her mind that if the attackers entered the room, she would ensure they shoot at her vital organs so she could die faster.

Charles Kivunja, 25, a staffer in the service department section, said that he came across the attackers while rushing downstairs to check the source of the initial explosion.

Like his colleagues, Mr Kivunja thought a fire had broken out at Secret Garden Restaurant but as he sped downstairs, his late colleague James Odu — who died in the attack — saw two heavily armed gunmen and warned him to go back.

“He said we were under siege.

I did not believe it until I saw the gunmen on my way back. I do not know if they saw me but my concern at the time was to let everyone go first so that I can look for a secluded place to hide in,” he said.

He thought that hiding alongside the people running back with him would easily set him up. So he ran into a toilet and hid in the ceiling.

Mr Kivunja recalled that at some point, the two attackers entered the toilet in search of people but failed to detect him.

As the staff hid in different corners of the third and fourth floors of the LG offices, more gunshots and blasts went off outside the building, prompting them to alert their friends and relatives of the danger they were in.

“I sent a tweet and texted my United States International University class WhatsApp group notifying them that we were under attack, then switched my phone to silent mode. A phone that a colleague had dropped next to my hideout kept on ringing but we were too scared to pick it up, we were lucky it did not set us up,” recalled Ms Bubi.

After about four hours, Ms Bubi, Mr Macharia and other employees were rescued.

“Abbas Gullet (Kenya Red Cross Society boss) walked in accompanied by two people, one was holding a camera and the other a pistol and behind them was a Kenyan cop holding an AK-47. They signalled us to move out in a straight line and that’s how we were rescued,” said Bubi said.

Mr Kivunja was among the last people to be rescued from the building. Too terrified to get out of his hideout, he defied requests by a team of police officers to come out the ceiling, where he hid for about six hours.


CHARLES KIVUNJA LG Electronics sales executive

At the time, he said, he felt there were too may gunshots outside and was too terrified to trust anyone with his life.

“When the noise settled, another team of officers came and asked if there was anyone in the toilet, to which I screamed yes. I agreed to climb down but I was too weak to walk, I had to be carried out to the ambulance,” he recalled.

On his way out, he saw the body of his late friend Macharia lying on the floor and suddenly felt his body weaken further. Mr Kivunja’s family caught up with him at 2am in the hospital where he had been admitted for a check-up.

Today he avoids leaving the office in the afternoon. He also dreads darkness and loud sounds. “I am trying to get rid of the trauma by staying in dark rooms for some minutes. I am also trying to socialise more after my friends complained that I limit my interactions with them,” he said.

After the incident, the company temporarily relocated to an adjacent building.

Mr Macharia said that he has moved on but memories of that day are still fresh in his mind. “I noticed that I am too alert nowadays. I get too startled by screeching cars and bursting tyres.

I’m also too keen on the exits of any building that I enter regardless of how secure the place is — who thought Dusit would be attacked?” he said.

Ms Bubi said she is more aware of her environment and that she hardly allows

Right then, I realised that we were under a terror attack. I informed my colleagues who were following me and we ran upstairs to hide,” Hiram Macharia, 33, LG Electronics marketing executive anyone to come into the office without her analysing them. “I always want to sit next to an exit. It feels safer that way. I also get very startled by tyre bursts and I don’t like loud sounds, because they ignite bad memories.”

By Mary Wambui

From dream job in the US to living nightmare

What’s in a name? Everything. That’s what Boddie Kimeria, who’s had to live with a tainted name and reputation, has come to painfully learn.

He just wanted to do a job he loved, and he thought he had landed the dream career, but this is where the nightmare began and is now in its third year.

The 38-year-old security expert and US Marine veteran spent 13 years in the United States having served in the US military for eight years – four years in active duty and four years as a US Marine reserve officer.

Afterwards, he would serve in different capacities in multiple organisations in the United States before coming back to his homeland, Kenya, in 2014. 

At first, he decided to work in his father’s business. Then he opted to follow his dream of working in the security sector.

“I wanted to go back to my passion, which is security. I realised the security in our country is very subpar and inefficient. Remember, this was in the aftermath of tragic security disasters like Westgate, Mpeketoni and Garissa University terrorist attacks.”

US Marine officer Boddie Kimeria (right) with a colleague. PHOTO | COURTESY

So he started the job hunting mission, which came to an end when he was referred by a friend to an upcoming airline company that was starting operations in the country.

With his impressive credentials, he was finally able to secure a job interview. “I was interviewed for the position in November 2016 and slated to start the job in January 2017 as head of the security department in that aviation company.”

The firm had not started operations and was still recruiting staff, who included pilots and cabin crew.

As head of security, he was tasked with the responsibility of conducting background checks on prospective employees as well as creating a manual for security and safety strategies.

Due to the nature of his job, he was included in the recruitment panel. 

He was supposed to do background checks that included looking for criminal records for the prospective employees besides checking on certificates of good conduct for the prospective workers.

“There were roughly 30 people selected for interviews. They included 20 crew staff and around 10 pilots.”

On the other hand, he says, the prospective employees were required to go through work training. 

They needed to pay a certain amount of money to train under the airline. 

The company would, in turn, make arrangements for them to join the training programme, which the organisation was conducting in conjunction with a training institution. Supposedly.

“So some of the selected interviewees deposited a certain amount of money that I was unaware of in the bank account owned by directors of this particular company.”

US Marine officers Boddie Kimeria (right) and a colleague. PHOTO | COURTESY

But as days went by, things began to look bleak as this planned training never materialised; while on the other hand, the employees, like Boddie, who were already on the job, didn’t get their salaries.

“Being head of security, I was the point of contact for the prospective employees, where they would ask me questions and I would take them to the directors. 

“However, it reached a point where even I couldn’t get the answers, and furthermore, I too hadn’t been paid my January salary.”

As time went by, the prospective employees became impatient and so he offered to help by arranging a meeting with their representatives as it now seemed like the job offer was a scam.

“The meeting was scheduled for February 22, 2017 at a place in Nairobi West. The purpose of the meeting was to come up with a plan of action to take against the directors of the company.”

Little did he know it was a setup. “I think the aggrieved parties had agreed to set up anyone in the management team and have them arrested so as to get them to the directors who were the actual culprits… Since I was the point of contact between the employees and the directors, I was the easy target.” 

He had been with the organisation for barely one month.

The next day after his arrest, an application was submitted at the court for him to be held pending investigations and come up with a strategy to go to the police to have the necessary parties arrested.

He was held for four days during which he helped the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) catch the directors of the company, which meant that he became a free man.

He even had a clearance in form of a court order from the Milimani [Magistrates] Law Courts, giving instructions for the DCI to release him after lack of any evidence to charge him. 

But he was not completely off the hook. The media captured the events while the directors were being arraigned in court, but also went ahead and mentioned Boddie’s connection with them. 

Boddie Kimeria, a US Marine veteran, during an interview with the Daily Nation in Nairobi on December 14, 2019, says his name is tainted after he was accused of orchestrating a scam. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The issue was that the DCI had requested for him to be held for a few days. 

Unfortunately, some of the media reports also wrongfully identified him as the CEO while he was just an employee. 

He was not a director and did not have access to the said back accounts.

He was acquitted to be a witness, but never got to testify since the DCI had enough evidence to charge the directors of the company.

“There were other employees holding management positions within the company, but I was the only one mentioned in the media despite the fact that I neither had access to any money nor any of the bank accounts that the payments were made to.”

For this reason, Boddie’s name has remained tainted. He continues to suffer because of his links to the firm.

His attempts to seek employment have hit a dead end, as it has proven impossible to convince potential employers about his innocence.

“My name is in media articles and I guess whenever I’m searched online, that is what pops up.”

He has had several job interviews dismissed with prospective employers terming his links with the firm as the reason. 

“I’ve had organisations which were kind enough to call and tell me to clear my name first. I even remember I secured an interview for the position of a security analyst with a certain embassy in Nairobi, but three months later they wrote me a letter and said despite having qualified, they couldn’t give me that job as they had their own reservations.”

Some companies didn’t even bother to respond. 

It’s difficult earning a living even through business. Immediately someone does background checks and sees his name linked to this company, they back off. 

“There was even a time I had issues trying to open a bank account.” Boddie has been married for a year. 

He depends on short-terms gigs to support his family, but these have not been consistent so he does not have a constant source of income. 

He hopes that his name and reputation will be restored one day to allow him to live a normal life.

By Paulien Oganji

I’m a grandfather of three, my children are grown-up living their lives elsewhere- Lusaka

The ceremony in which Ken Lusaka was sworn in as Speaker of the Senate is just a hazy memory to him. It was just too surreal.

“I don’t even remember where I was sitting,” he says. “I try to look at photographs today to try and recall that day. I was very happy because I had just been elevated to a high point. I had never imagined I would be a Speaker. That was out of my line. My line had been civil service, then I thought I would be a governor for two terms and then do my own business afterwards.”

And yet, there he was, getting sworn in after having lost his bid for a second term as Bungoma Governor. He had not quite believed it was happening, from wondering what to do next after the loss, to the moment the President called him to tell him he wanted him to be the speaker, to filling the forms, getting voted in, and finally getting in.

And it was not just happiness. “I was also a bit anxious because there was a perception that to be a speaker you had to have done law, since most speakers have always had a law background,” he says. “The house I was going to lead also had well known and seasoned lawyers. I like doing things to the best of my ability. I don’t like failure. So I wondered if I would control the house or if I would goof. You know sometimes these things are lived on TV and some situations may arise that are very difficult and you have to make a decision on your feet. I thank God that I learned very fast.”

His phone, face up on the table, is on silent, not even on vibrate mode, because it never stops ringing throughout the interview. It is always lit up with some person calling.

As is the fate of many a man who have lost power, when he lost governorship, it wasn’t always this way. He learned that people can be fickle.

“It stopped ringing immediately. In fact, for two days I thought it was spoilt. For the first time, I didn’t have to charge it, because the charge was always full. But then when I became the speaker, people bounced back saying, ‘Oh you know we were praying for you! We knew you would get something else,’ he says laughing.

Before we finally sit down for our interview at his home in Karen, Nairobi, we have had to wait for him to finish talking with one group of people in one living room, before he joined us in the other one where we were waiting. Yet another group of people is waiting to speak to him after us.

Home life

The little décor here feels very… safe. It is almost aggressively neutral, very much like a government-issued house, painted and draped in muted tones of cream and beige, unlike his boisterous personality.

The children are long gone, something he reflects on wistfully. He has three – a daughter aged 34, a son aged 30 and another daughter aged 28, all grown up and living their own lives elsewhere.

“I have two grandsons and a granddaughter who I got last week through my son. I have not gone to celebrate yet. You know as a grandfather you don’t rush! (laughs). You wait to be called, so I am waiting anxiously. There has to be a ceremony,” he says.

The big, empty house is something that has taken some getting used to.

“Kids leave so fast! I have not seen my children for about a month. We are now back where we started with my wife as the two of us, since the children have now left. You know you must learn to appreciate each other as you both depreciate,” he says with a laugh. “We are not the same people we were when we met.”

The Lusakas.

His wife, Margaret Makelo, has a PhD in Plant Breeding and is a director in the Ministry of Agriculture. The two met at the University of Nairobi in 1988 during political campaigns in Webuye.

“That is when we started interacting because we happened to be in the same camp. I was ahead of her at the university. We started chatting, developed a relationship, and one thing led to another until we got married.”

In 1989, they were married. He laughs when I point it out how fast it was. “Sometimes you need to move with speed and precision!” he says.

He describes himself as a “serious fan” of Lingala music, and when not at work, you can find him dancing away at the music with friends. A bottle of Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, will likely be on the table. “I like it 18 years and above. The older the drink, the better. The smoother it is,” he says.

Lusaka the actor

In another life, he might have been a sought-after actor or comedian. “If I wasn’t a politician, I would have been an artist, in terms of acting. I am good at drama, by the way,” he says.

I later on discover that he really is, and has a knack for doing impressions of people, as he regales us with an impeccable impression of former President Moi.

“I just need to stay with you for about two or three days and I can act the way you do.”

While at the University of Nairobi, he was part of the Travelling Theatre, playing the lead roles such as Wamala in The Burdens, Antoni in The Merchant of Veniceand Mulili in Betrayal in the City.

“I studied Literature in first year, 1996, and then I realised it was very involving. Since I didn’t want to be a teacher, I dropped it and took Political Science and History.”

Hollywood may no longer be in his sights, but he still utilises the skills he picked up as an actor in his work as Senate Speaker.

“Art is critical because sometimes you need it to break a stalemate. When the debate is so intense to the point of people disagreeing and there is a lot of tension, you can throw in a comment, a light moment and the whole house lights up and the tension goes down.

Or maybe you make a joke about someone who has spoken something very serious, and he ends up laughing and it ends up reversing an otherwise tense situation,” he says.

Rise to the top

He can hardly finish a paragraph without invoking God’s name, and it is easy to see why. His life of 56 years has been a series of lucky breaks, seemingly always being at the right place at the right time.

“One thing I know about my life is that God has been very gracious to me. There are many things that have happened that don’t look ordinary,” he says, before describing a jaw-dropping series of favourable circumstances that propelled his rise.

“Like when I was to run as student leader, I dropped out the last night before the elections in 1987. All those that ran the following day, like Wafula Buke and Miguna Miguna, who was my year mate, were arrested and expelled,” he says.

After university, he was jobless for a month or two before being called for interviews, where out of 80 people, he was among the 10 posted as District Officers. He was in Muhoroni, and then in Homa Bay before being picked to go for a master’s degree in the Netherlands on Policy and Administration.

“When I came back I became a District Commissioner. When President Kibaki formed his government in 2008, I became the first secretary of provincial administration in the Office of the President. They dropped Khaemba, who was the Permanent Secretary (PS) Livestock. The policy was that if you drop somebody from a region, you replace them with somebody from the same region. I happened to be the most senior person who was there, so that is how I became a PS. After that, I became the first governor of Bungoma. Somehow when people thought I had been buried, the President appointed me as Senate Speaker.

“When you hear me quoting God, it is not in vain.”

The underbelly of success

It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows in his career. One incident has particularly cast a gloomy shadow over all that and refuses to go away. If there was anything he could undo, it is the perception the public has about the wheelbarrow incident.

“This thing about the wheelbarrow that everyone talks about. It keeps coming up. It was me who had initiated an audit as governor to find out how the ministries were performing. When I saw it I was also shocked. Why would a wheelbarrow cost Sh109,000? I wanted an explanation, and they came and explained to me that it was not an ordinary wheelbarrow. It was a regular food trolley. It is just the name that was given because of the material that was used.

“But you see politics being what it is, it was really taken out of proportion,” he continues. “Media of course set me up because whoever interviewed me edited some parts out and just left the parts that they wanted to use. So then everybody was like, “Oh how can you buy a wheelbarrow for Sh109,000. That time we had bought wheelbarrows for Sh3,000, so how would I have allowed? That is one thing I wish would be reversed and that people would know the truth.”

In his words, that has been hanging like a dark cloud over his head. He regards it as part of the misfortune about politics, and regards the salacious stories regarding him with the same distaste.

“Most of what you see on social media are lies. At some point I was convinced my mother was wondering what happened to her son because of the kinds of things said about me offline and online.

“There is this one time someone posted that a certain woman had stolen my clothes and Sh800,000 from me at some hotel in Bungoma. I have never gone to any hotel in Bungoma! How would you carry Sh800,000 to a hotel room? You know? You even wonder whether they are talking about you or someone else. That is the kind of thing that you expect from being in public life. People become insensitive and unfair, because those things are not true.”

Dealing with it

Being a people person is a lifelong course in human nature, and he has learned his fair share of the lessons on being in the limelight.

“It is hard to annoy me, and when I get annoyed it is short-lived. I don’t harbour bitterness. There are people I would not be talking to right now if I did,” he says.

He is noncommittal about whether he will be running as governor again or not, but he intends to stay in politics until at least 2027. Meanwhile, he is happy with where he has gotten.

“If you look at my career path, you deal with people, solve their problems and touch their lives. In the Senate, I am happy that I have managed to keep senators together. Despite the different political persuasions, the Senate is one in terms of standing together as a house.

“There are landmarks that will remain in Bungoma town from when I was governor. These are things that when I sit back, I feel proud about them. If history is written on Bungoma one day they will say there once lived a man…,” he says, proudly.

Road to sobriety: I regret my first sip of alcohol

Luqman Ntarangwi was 16 when he first tasted alcohol and he assumed he could just quit when he wanted to.

It was, after all, all fun and games and it was just curiosity that made him take the first sip when his friend offered him vodka.

Luqman, 26, thought he was in control, but what he didn’t know is that the tiny sip was going to cost him his health, money, time, and even relationships.

He is just one of the many young people who have dealt with alcohol addiction, some successfully and others still struggling.

National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) surveys describe alcohol as one of the most abused substances in Kenya. As of 2017, 12.2 per cent of Kenyans between 15 and 65 years were actively taking alcohol.

Exposure to alcohol starts as early as 11 years among Kenyan children. In 2019, Nacada conducted a survey that sampled children from grades five to eight.

Least likely student
Respondents mentioned alcohol as one of the most available drugs.

The survey also revealed that 7.9 per cent of pupils had tasted alcohol at some point in time. While tasting alcohol may not be synonymous with addiction, it is often the genesis.

At the secondary school level, the statistics are even more shocking.

Nacada conducted a survey in 2016 involving secondary school students in which alcohol still topped the list of most abused and available substances.

The survey revealed that over 40 per cent of students knew a friend or schoolmate who used alcohol. Those who had tasted alcohol acquired it from friends, non-teaching staff, relatives, parents and teachers or they bought it from bars and kiosks.

Simply put, alcohol is not so hard to find or buy among young students.

These alarming findings could explain why Luqman, the least likely student, ended up taking alcohol.

Luqman was born in Meru County.

His childhood was idyllic. He attended Chogoria Complex, a primary school in Tharaka-Nithi County.

The school was founded on staunch Christian values, which were to set him on the right path. His mother was also quite strict, so he barely strayed from the path of obedience.

“She raised me in such a way that I would never be late for anything.

I was always the first pupil to arrive at school for about five years in a row,” he recalls.

As a Muslim, he attended Madrassa classes, where he learned values and the importance of maintaining good company. Besides, alcohol is regarded as haram in the Koran. All these factors combined formed the perfect recipe for a bright future. He even had a pen pal from Scotland, the ideal way to network at a tender age.

“My fondest memory was back in Class Six when we toured the Rift Valley for a week, with our visiting pen pals from Queensbury School, Edinburgh, Scotland,” he recalls.

He later joined Ikuu Boys High School. His high school days were filled with fun, learning, and experimenting.

He was quite athletic despite his small size. He played basketball alongside his classmates, and at some point, their class won crates of bread for winning a game.

He was destined for success. But why did he accept to taste alcohol? According to Mercy Wanjiru, an International Certified Addiction Professional at Support For Addiction Prevention And Treatment In Africa (Sapta) and the founder of Badili Maisha, parents may do everything in their power to shield their children from exposure to substance abuse, but external factors play a huge role. While Luqman seemed to be on the right path, he was dealing with peer pressure. The media was also shaping him.

“We used to watch movie series like Blue Mountain State, which encouraged reckless behaviour. Besides, drinking alcohol seemed so cool at the time,” he says.

Blue Mountain State is a comedy series based on American college football life. The series depicts college students engaging in drinking games, sex and football. There are barely scenes of class lectures despite being set in a college.

In one of the scenes, students play “beer pong” which entails throwing a tiny ball into a beer cup. If the ball falls into the beer cup, the cup owner has to drink the beer and the thrower makes new rules.

At some point, one of the throwers asks everyone present at the game to strip themselves of everything except the inner wear. The series clearly deviates from normal college life while focusing on students’ side shows.

As Wanjiru explains, other factors that expose children and teenagers to alcohol include cultural practices, such as drinking during ceremonies, living in an environment where adults drink frequently or where access to alcohol is easy. She adds that the road to addiction starts with only one sip.

“Depending on an individual’s first experience with alcohol, some will drink again, while others will find it distasteful and avoid it altogether,” she says.

Interestingly, Luqman describes his first sip as very bitter. “It burned, all the way to the liver. But I still wanted to fit in, so I drank again,” he explains.

Breaking bad

According to Wanjiru, it’s quite easy to notice signs of a loved one sinking into alcohol abuse.

In Luqman’s case, rumours started doing the rounds that the once good boy was breaking bad. At first, his mother was in denial, given that Luqman was quite bright, so she assumed he would know better.

However, his bad company of friends was giving him away.

“Hell broke loose when I passed out at the entrance of our home, very late in the night immediately after high school, after a drinking spree.

That’s how my mother found out that I was drinking,” he narrates. Like any other parent, she took steps to help her only son.

The mother would ask friends, religious leaders and relatives, especially his grandfather, to counsel him.

From high school, Luqman proceeded to Moi University. He had managed to score a good grade that earned him a spot at a Graphics Design and Communications class.

His entry into university did not just mark his first step to a career in the arts. It also paved the way for addiction.

Wanjiru explains that addiction takes place in five stages. The first stage is known as experimentation.

“Ordinarily, when someone taste alcohol, the brain releases pleasure hormones, which act as a reward,” Wanjiru says.

“If the feeling is too good, someone might be tempted to try again and again and soon they enter the second phase of addiction which is known as the social stage.”

“People at the second stage tend to drink occasionally in the company of friends. It could be a Friday affair, or drinking during parties,” she explains.

Drinking buddies

By the time Luqman joined university, he was in the second stage, characterised by drinking with friends from time to time. At this stage, he was still in control of the drink.

However, ‘Operation Tengeneza Monday, Haribu Friday’ was birthed once he settled into campus life. He had drinking buddies, who stuck by him throughout the years, and that was their slogan. They would drink all weekend, starting from Friday and sober up on Monday for classes.

“I would receive upkeep money weekly. Needless to say, I wasted it all on alcohol,” he explains. In addition, he had freedom and easy access to bars.

The aspect of drinking buddies, according to Wanjiru, is a classic sign of someone sinking deeper into addiction. She says: “Addicts tend to surround themselves with people who understand and support their habits.”

Due to frequent drinking, they may feel judged and even get defensive whenever someone calls them out for excessive drinking, hence their choice of friends.

“I broke ties with friends who criticised my lifestyle, but deep down, I knew they were right,” Luqman says.

He was at stage three, often referred to as the Instrumental Stage.

People at this stage experience increased tolerance levels and can handle more liquor than they used to. Their brains need a higher dosage to release the reward, hence the need to drink more.

The signs, however, become clear as an individual moves further down the stages. Changing priorities and neglecting duties is another crucial sign of addiction, which signifies entry into the fourth stage, also known as the habitual stage.

For Luqman, this stage came later in his fourth year of university. He started ignoring his classes and dedicated a lot of time to drinking.

“While most people converged at the lecture halls for classes in the mornings, I would start my day by heading to the campus shopping centre, where the clubs and alcohol shops were located. I would literally walk past masses of people headed for classes, but I was not bothered,” he narrates.

“My drinking problem worsened by the day, and eventually, I turned to cheap liquor. It was pure misery.

After four years, I had cemented my reputation as an alcoholic who needed urgent help.”

The misery and uncontrollable drinking are characteristic of stage four. During this stage, individuals don’t necessarily make the decision to drink or not to. It just happens.

Trying to stop drinking at this stage leads to withdrawal symptoms. Personal grooming
Stage four is also characterised by lack of personal grooming and often, change in physical appearance.

During his first year of campus, Luqman would invest in good clothing and shoes, but when alcohol became a priority, he stopped.

He also hints that his physique changed slightly as his eyes reddened and his lips acquired a darker hue.

“At this stage, turning over a new leaf without help is impossible,” says Wanjiru.

Though Luqman never got to the fifth stage of addiction, known as compulsive drinking, he went far enough. Going back home after completing his studies at the university marked the first step to recovery.

Addiction would soon end, but not so fast.
After university, his life changed from miserable to living hell.

First, he had gone back to his village with an incomplete final year project. That meant graduating was a distant dream despite having spent over four years at the university.

Besides, he had left his drinking buddies behind and it was time to grow up, on his own. He was not fit enough to work in any organisation due to his addiction.

With no pocket money to finance his addiction, he developed withdrawal symptoms and was admitted to a hospital for three months.

As Wanjiru explains, addiction is a chronic illness, just like diabetes or cancer.

“It is not something you snap out of because it changes the way your brain operates,” she says.

Therapy and counselling
This explains why Luqman fell ill.

Alcohol had damaged the normal functioning of his brain. He had learned a behaviour which then became the norm over time. Unlearning it was not only uncomfortable but it was going to take time.

“Falling ill was an eye opener.

For the first time, I admitted that I needed help,” says Luqman.

This is where his journey to a sober life began. The statement “I need help” can be quite powerful in an addict’s life.

It signifies a strong will to end the misery. Luqman underwent therapy and counselling. He also changed his company of friends and quit all the WhatsApp groups which had influenced his behaviour through the years.

After eight years of abusing alcohol, he was finally seeing the damage it had done in his life — from a young, innocent boy with a bright future, to a miserable young man.

Disappointed his mother

A lot of money had been poured into regaining his dignity through therapy and treatment. He had lost opportunities during the eight years, not to mention the many phones he lost in bars.

Most importantly, he had disappointed his mother.

“I always regret the pain I caused my mother, who is very fond of me. I owe her a lot and I’ll make her proud by being the God-fearing, well- behaved man she raised,” he says.

After months of intensive therapy, he finally sobered up, finished his school project, and earned a spot in the graduation booklet.

He later on ‘tarmacked’ — Kenyan lingo for job-searching — for a year and a half.

Finally he landed a job. He had eventually come of age, but even so, staying sober is a task he has to fulfil every day.

As Wanjiru explains, relapsing is part of recovery.

“Simple things such as the thought of old drinking buddies or old memories, seeing a beer bottle, or even an alcohol advert can trigger the

desire to drink again,” she says.

“I managed to stay sober for a year and three months after treatment, but I relapsed three months ago,” the recovering alcoholic confesses.

“I, however, got in touch with my therapist, and I’m now three months sober after the relapse,” Luqman says.

Relapse is, however, not the only challenge recovering addicts face.

The first few months after quitting alcohol are characterised by withdrawal symptoms such as thinking too much, isolation and grief over the loss of friends.

It is, however, possible to develop coping mechanisms such as changing one’s routine.

Luqman had to change his hobbies from drinking to taking walks, designing, listening to music and meditation.

Relocating also helped.
Today, he can confidently say he is living his dream.

He is a graphics designer, experiencing a lot of progress and growth daily.

Circle of friends

Having escaped the bottle-necked life of alcoholism, he has a few tips for those who are still struggling with addiction; “First, change your circle of friends. Nowadays, I keep a circle of friends, who push me to pray and achieve my dreams.

I avoid people who would ordinarily offer to buy me drinks. Also, there’s nothing wrong with spending some time alone.”

“Second, seek help. Therapists can work magic if you lend them your ears. It’s also important to stay busy and change hobbies or recreational activities. Finally, stay close to God and be optimistic. You can do it.”

By Mercy Wanjiru

I lost my leg but got a second chance in life

What looked like a normal evening was the beginning of a long and difficult journey for 23-year-old Faith Mbithe.

It was on the evening of May 14, 2013. She had just arrived home in Kware, Embakasi South, where she lived with her family. Her two younger sisters had already returned from school.

Ms Mbithe lit the jiko, took it inside the house, locked the door and began to prepare dinner as she waited for her parents to return from work.

Unknown to her, the carbon monoxide from the charcoal stove was filling up the room, sucking up the oxygen. Soon, she and her sisters slipped into unconsciousness.

When Ms Mbithe regained her senses, she awoke to find their house enveloped in a thick dark cloud of smoke.

As she fought against the dizziness and choking smoke, her only thought was surviving.

“I could hear my sisters crying weakly, but I was too weak to reach them, or open the door for them to escape,” she says.

Ms Mbithe, then 19 years old, fell unconscious again as flames enveloped the house.

When she regained consciousness, she was stretched out on the ground outside their house, a crowd of people milling around, while others fanned her face.

Waking up alerted her to a new sensation, one of pain like she had never felt before in her left leg.

“The pain was simply unbearable,” she recalls.

Badly burnt

Her sisters, Patience and Gladys, had also lost consciousness, having inhaled the deadly carbon monoxide gas in the smoke.

Their mother, Dorcas Mutindi, rushed them to a nearby clinic.

Ms Mbithe’s sisters were treated and discharged the same evening, but for her, she remained in hospital. Her leg had been badly burnt and she was transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital.

“At KNH, I was taken to the Accident and Emergency Unit, where doctors stabilised me before I was admitted,” she narrates.

Leg amputated

She would later stay at the hospital for five months, during which her left leg was amputated.

“Doctors fought hard to save my limb but due to the severity of the burns, they had no choice but to amputate it” she says.

A shattered Ms Mbithe struggled to come to terms with her new condition. She was not counselled or given psychotherapy during her ordeal, something she says prolonged her ordeal. But her family was always by her side.

Ms Mbithe, determined to reclaim her life, turned to her friends in church to help meet the expenses of buying a prosthetic limb, which cost Sh200,000. The church held a fundraiser to collect the money.

She then applied to join Kenya Medical Training College and successfully enrolled for her studies.

Ms Mbithe wants to pursue a degree in paediatric medicine.

She encourages people living with disabilities to enjoy life like she does by engaging in their hobbies during their free time.

“Swimming helps me relax and builds my strength,” says Ms Mbithe.

I encourage people living with disabilities to enjoy life like I do by engaging in hobbies during their free time.”

By Aggrey Omboki

From a P1 teacher to pursuing a PhD

She rose from a P1 primary schoolteacher to being a Deputy Director of Education and now a PhD holder, all because of music.

Dr Ruth Agesa rose from conducting primary school choirs in Nakuru to become the executive secretary of the largest event in East and Central Africa, the Kenya National Music Festival.

In between, she has conducted choirs in different categories up to the national level and has been an adjudicator, composer, director with many choirs as well as a regional music organising secretary.

Dr Agesa is Head of Protocol at the Education ministry headquarters, Jogoo House.

In between, she has received three presidential awards for her services towards music. She was awarded Head of State Commendation (HSC) for her prowess in music, Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) of Kenya for her resourceful contribution to the mobilisation of children during public holidays and Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS) for her exemplary leadership and organisation of the music festival.

Pursue her passion

Dr Agesa is a good example of what a person can achieve if he or she chooses to pursue their passion.

She has risen steadily through the ranks and does not seem to be stopping anytime soon.

To celebrate her latest achievement — getting a PhD — her contemporaries in music, drama and theatre industries will be holding a graduation celebration ceremony at Chango in Vihiga County on December 6.

Vihiga County Drama Welfare Association will attend the celebration. It has been a long journey for her, but she has enjoyed it all.

Dr Agesa is the head of performing arts in the country and is a member of the Kenya National Drama and Film Festival.

“My career in drama and music dates back to my days as a teacher at Muslim and Koinange primary schools and Nakuru High School where I coordinated drama and trained choirs,” she says.

“I was appointed Rift Valley Regional Music secretary before being promoted to Inspector of Schools at the Ministry of Education” she adds.

“My PhD is in Peace and Conflict Studies a testimony to how far talent and passion in theatre, film and music can take us’’ she concludes.

BY ANTHONY NJAGI

I’m not the man who fell from London skies

Cedric Isaac Shivonje, the man whose photographs were published by British broadcaster Sky News as the stowaway who fell from a Kenya Airways plane in London, is alive in a Kenyan prison.

The Nation newspaper reporter met and interviewed him in prison, where he is being held after failing to raise Sh200,000 bail for an unrelated case.

Dressed in a slim-fit blue shirt, in handcuffs — and spotting a red T-shirt inside — the 25-yearold said the photos used by Sky News as those of a Paul Manyasi, the alleged stowaway, were his.

“I am alive, as you can see,” he said, flanked by his father Isaac Beti, 45, and Nairobi lawyer James Mbugua.

Shivonje was delighted to see his father, who had travelled from Butali, Kakamega County.

His father — who identifies himself as Isaac Betti and not Isaac Manyasi as identified by the Sky News report — had come to Nairobi to visit his son for the first time in two years — and we accompanied him to the prison.

He had come with Shivonje’s uncle, Mr Timothy Burundi, who has been visiting him regularly at Industrial Area Prison Remand, where he was previously held.

Cedric Isaac Shivonje, his father at the middle Isaac Betti and uncle Mr Timothy Burundi at Industrial Area Prison Remand. PHOTO| JOAN PERERUAN

Mr Shivonje’s emergence now compounds the identification dilemma of the nationality of the man who nestled in the landing compartment of the aircraft on June 30 and fell 3,500 feet as the plane approached Heathrow Airport in London.

Flight records

The plane’s flight records show that it had been to South Africa before taking off from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for London on the early morning of June 30.

So far, no family has claimed the body of the stowaway who fell in a London compound.

It is still in the United Kingdom.

Mr Shivonje told the Nation that he was arrested on August 7 and remanded on August 13 after being taken to a Kibera court where he is facing defilement charges.

On June 30, the day a man fell from the compartment, Mr Shivonje says he was in Kawangware, where he used to work as a teacher of English and science at a private school.

In an article published on November 11, Sky News identified Paul Manyasi, reported as an employee of Colnet — a cleaning company based at the airport — as “the man who fell from the sky”.

The next day, the Kenya Airports Authority issued a statement saying the name Paul Manyasi “does not appear in the JKIA staff register … and in the airport’s pass biometric register”. Colnet also denied it had employed a Paul Manyasi.

Sky News reported that it had received the photos it published from Paul’s girlfriend, also reported to be an employee of Colnet, whose identity was not revealed.

Shivonje said: “Those are my photos and they were taken from my Facebook page.”

When the woman is shown the police e-fit image of the deceased in the Sky News video, she says: “They look alike, but he wasn’t dark. But the face resembles.”

Sky News reported that Paul Manyasi was a 29-year-old.

Shivonje is 25. Mr Shivonje’s identity card indicates he is 25.

The man told the Nation that he had been living in Kawangware, while Paul Manyasi was reported to have been a resident of Mukuru kwa Njenga.

During our meeting, we asked Mr Shivonje’s father about some of the statements he made to the Sky News team.

For example, in the video, he is shown the bag that was found in the KQ compartment and says: “He used to have this one”.

Did he lie to the Sky News reporter? we asked.
“I could not tell them that my son was in jail,” he responded. “When the visitors came, they said they wanted to speak to me.

They said my son was working at the airport. They asked me if I knew where he was working and I said ‘No’. They told me that my son died after hiding in a UK-bound flight.”

“When they showed me the photos, I told them that my son’s name is Cedric Shivonje Isaac … All this time, I knew my son was in remand but I could not reveal to them. I wanted to protect him,” he said.

“I did not want the villagers to know that my son was in jail.”

He added that the Sky News reporter gave him Sh20,000 before he left the home.

When the Sky News story broke locally, Mr Shivonje says he was reading a novel when he was alerted that he had been in the news.

Daily Nation

“I saw my pictures on Citizen TV but the name was not mine.

They said I was a cleaner at Jomo Kenyatta Airport. The next day, a madam (prison warden) told me the full story and inmates started calling me kifo (death) and maiti (corpse). I cried a lot.”

Mr Shivonje attended Matiuli K Primary and Tande High School in Kakamega before making his way to Nairobi.

“They have damaged my son’s reputation and he needs to be cleansed after being labelled dead,” his father said.

Detectives who are handling the case in Nairobi told the Nation that the prints recovered from the stowaway do not match anyone in the civil registry.

The new development deepens the intrigues surrounding the man who stowed away a Kenya Airways flight and fell into a London compound.

Meanwhile, Nairobi law firm MJM Law LLP has threatened to sue Sky News, which it accuses of defaming its client.

In a November 19 letter, the company is demanding full retraction of the article, an apology and written commitment not to publish any more articles on Mr Shivonje.

Court case ‘FALSEHOODS’

A law firm says it will file a defamation case against ‘Sky TV’ for using the images of a Nairobi man as those of a stowaway who died in London in June.

“We have been instructed to … sue the broadcaster,” Mr James Mbugua, a partner with MLM Law LLP, said.

In its demand letter, the firm dismissed the ‘Sky TV’ story as “malicious and reckless” and with “blatant falsehoods”.

By John Kamau

I never imagined I’d appear on Parents’ Magazine cover as a single mum-Maureen Waititu

You Tube vlogger and content creator Maureen Waititu has shared with her fans how she always dreamt on being on the cover of Parents’ Magazine but never as a single mum.
In her You Tube Channel, Miss Waititu who is fresh from a separation with her husband said she had always wished to be on the cover of the Parents’ Magazine but as a complete family.
“I kind of dreamt about this when I was a little girl and I knew that I would be on it with my complete family… and the thought of the circumstances that brought us to breaking down of the family makes me so mad and so sad…my kids will see this magazine when they are older..it is just messed up,” an emotional Maureen shared.
“I don’t even know why I agreed to it, but I somehow have the conviction that I must move on with my life the way it is, being a single parent doesn’t have to stop me from living my life, being broken up with a person does not prevent me from being a full, complete parent,I hate it so much, but I got to move on,” she said.It was around June when the news of the break-up of the sensational couple surfaced online.
Maureen was married to the father of her two kids, Frankie Kiarie also known as Frankie Just Gym.

According to a Heads Up  the two, parted ways months ago and are now leaving in separate houses.

In one weekend, they both attended an event where they arrived separately, sat on different tables and never talked.

The couple let us into their lives through their YouTube channel, Alpha Beta, where they made headlines for serving couple goals.  

Maureen revealed she has been battling depression for sometime, in a bold You Tube video where she laid bare her struggle with mental health.

She said her depression came as post partum after getting her first child.

“I would wake up, hold my baby and sit there in darkness without opening the curtains, and soon it became worse because I started entertaining suicide thoughts, every time we would fight with my husband I would feel unworthy, my self esteem was down, I would try to compare myself with other women and it was hitting hard.”

“My real depression came when I had my second baby, the entire time I was pregnant, I would cry every single day, and it was painful crying,” she narrates in the 32-minute video.

She started taking Amarula relying on it and painkillers to cure her constant headache and to get sleep. She would get her drink from  dial a drink online shop which would deliver the alcohol to her doorstep. She soon started feeling embarrassed of  getting the alcohol brought to her doorstep and decided to go buy it herself.

“Every afternoon, I would go to Sarit Centre to a liquour store and grab a bottle, I would come home, park the car and drink the entire bottle in the car before getting into the house. But this would be followed by a huge guilty feeling, I would do this Monday to Monday, ” she explains.

WhatsApp Image 2019-04-15 at 09.20.19
Social Media influencer, gym fitness junkie and former Maureen Waititu’s husband Frank holding their two sons

She stared getting panic attacks and palpitations, later stopped eating food so that the alcohol would work. This was in November, December 2018.

She later sought help from a life coach who is different from therapist who helped her get her life back.