Its one year since celebrated Kiswahili author, broadcaster and lecturer Prof. Ken Walibora died.
His family has published a beautiful poem that relives the late don’s personality, professional achievements, and a call “for justice to be seen to be served.”
Prof. Walibora died on April 10 at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). He had been taken there by a Good Samaritan after reportedly being hit by a bus along Landhies Road, Nairobi.
Prof. Walibora’s jaw was cracked, hand broken, and two of his teeth missing. Blood was also draining into his brain. He died as he was receiving treatment. An autopsy report by Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor revealed that he had been stabbed, triggering questions as to whether the death was a murder.
Prof. Walibora had begun the day relatively peacefully. After driving from his house at Lavington Heights, he parked his car- a dark blue Mercedes Benz, registration number KBJ 802Y- along Kijabe street around 8am.
He walked towards Gikomba market, reportedly on a mission to purchase some building materials for a project back in his rural home in Trans Nzoia County.
The facts of what transpired next are as muddled as the human and vehicle traffic that defines Gikomba market. While some reports indicate that it was a mere road accidents, eye witnesses at the scene said they saw Prof Walibora running along the dual-thoroughfare that separates Machakos Country Bus and Muthurwa estate. Some of his personal belongings collected around the area were delivered to Kamukunji Police Station by street boys.
The case was initially handled as an accident matter by the traffic police. But following Dr Oduor’s report, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations picked up the matter. A Senate Committee also investigated KNH over alleged negligence. It was said that Prof. Walibora was at the hospital for 14 hours before he could secure a bed at the Intensive Care Unit. The investigations and follow-ups apparently went cold.
Prof. Walibora had a PhD in Comparative Cultural Studies from Ohio State University, U.S.A. He lectured at the University of Wisconsin at one time in his career. Locally, he was best known for his books and poems, among them Ndoto ya Amerika, Kidagaa Kimemwozea and his magnum opus Siku Njema. He died at 56.
Prof. Walibora was buried at his rural home in Makutano, Cherangany, Trans Nzoia County. He is survived by his wife Ann Chebet and children Sheila Zawadi and Katila Samba.
This face evokes memories of his voice, his charm, his laughter.
His calm and creativity, his game and generosity
Now gone a year but not forgotten
The man of God this Mjomba, this Swahili wordsmith defies description
He didn’t live as though he wouldn’t die
And he didn’t die as though he never lived.
A public figure, singularly individual to many
Often acclaimed yet easily accepting reprove
He counselled, comforted, inspired and mentored
Criss-crossing continents, against a glare of a thousand eyes to congregate with knowledge seekers
We are a people whose tears did not wash away the pain
These are our questions, our qualms, and our quest
For justice to be seen to be served
For death’s cruel grip to be undone
And God’s will on earth to be done
Till again, a smile lights up