On Thursday May 20, 2021, a video started making rounds on social media. It was bizarre burial of a young man in Kairi village, Githunguri, Kiambu County. The crowd charged towards the grave and hurled the coffin inside, shouting expletives laced with fury. But who was the young man and why were the villagers so inflamed?
All the old man wanted was a cigarette.
He walked towards Paul Kariuki with a spring in his gait, confident the young man would give him one. It wasn’t the first time, anyway. He had known Kariuki for many years, and since his return from Dubai, he seemed to have let the moths out of his wallet.
And ostentatious Kariuki, 29, was. In his Timberland boots, a baseball hat, and an ego the size of Kenya’s national debt, he was known around the villages of Kairi and Mitahato in Ngewa Ward, Kiambu County, for his one-upmanship. He was a village bully who had flown Emirates, and the old man asking for a cigarette would realise this the hard way.
Kariuki told him he’d give it to him in a while. The story goes that he bought a cigarette, squeezed a small firecracker inside it and gave it to the old man. He then sat on a grassy knoll in the laid-back Mitahato Shopping Centre, wry smile on his face, and watched as the firecracker exploded in the man’s face.
Martin Gachambi, Kariuki’s half-brother, was known for his industriousness. He had dropped out of school – Miguta Secondary– while in Form Two to tend to his siblings (among them Kariuki) following the death of their mother. At 35 with a young family, he was a successful dairy farmer, milking about 200 litres a day. He had a Mitsubishi L200 pick-up truck, and by any standards, was doing well. He sold the milk to the Githunguri Dairy Farmers Co-operative at about KSh35 a litre. Do the Maths.
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – to the grave
In 1886, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson published the novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Dr Jekyll represented good. Mr Hyde represented evil. The two characters resurrected at this quiet Kiambu village in the names of Martin and Kariuki. Both ended up dead. One was mourned, the other condemned. So, what happened?
On Wednesday May 5, the two siblings drove to Gatundu in the L200 to deliver a heifer to another farmer. Spurred by the success of his brother, Kariuki had become a livestock broker of some sorts upon his return from Dubai. Martin had given him two cows as start-up capital. The brothers were jovial throughout the journey. They arrived at Mitahato Shopping Centre late evening, mission accomplished. Kariuki decided to imbibe several glasses of Muratina at a local before heading home.
The two brothers lived with their families within the same compound, part of their inheritance from their mother. Kariuki, who villagers say had a short fuse, picked up a fight with his wife. After exchanging blows, she summoned the man’s uncle -who also lives within the compound- to mediate. Wasp-angry Kariuki turned his anger on the uncle, prompting the man’s three sons to intervene in an all-family melee. The melee attracted the attention of neighbours who intervened and brokered a truce.
Darkness had set in when Kariuki realised one of his phone SIM cards was missing. In the picture of his thoughts, he traced to the glove compartment of the L200. A witness who spoke to TV47Digital on condition of anonymity said Kariuki proceeded to Martin’s house for the car keys in order to retrieve the SIM card.
“Martin was taking a shower. He asked his wife to gave Kariuki the keys, whereupon he (Kariuki) started hurling insults at Martin, saying that ‘sending a woman instead of coming in person’ was Madharau,” the witness recounted. “He took a knife and jabbed the right top corner of the car windscreen, breaking it.”
Incensed by the damage to his car, Martin run out of the bathroom determined to discipline the berserk young man, now hiding inside a toilet. “The moment he pushed the door open, Kariuki lunged at him with the knife, stabbing him in the ribs,” narrated the witness.
He started bleeding profusely, moaning as he panted for breath. The other family members responded and rushed him to a hospital in Githunguri town, about seven kilometres away, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Meanwhile, Kariuki spirited away into the dark night, to start his ignominious journey to the afterlife.
What Kariuki did next is hazy. But reports say he was spotted at Githunguri town on the morning after his brother’s death, looking disheveled. A person known to him gave him KSh100, with which he is believed to have boarded a matatu to Limuru town.
Thereafter, he walked to Kwa Mbira market, about two kilometres away and jumped in front of a moving lorry. Family members identified his remains from a tattoo on his right biceps, and a deformity on his pinky finger.
De mortuis nihil nisi bonum, Latin has a saying. Of the dead, say nothing but good. “But he had no good in him,” says Job Gitau a bodaboda rider who knew Kariuki well. “People were not only angry at him for killing his brother but for the way he used to treat everyone with contempt.”
Guilty As Charged
Kariuki was buried at a public cemetery in Miathathia, where the drama captured in the viral video unfolded. There were no burial protocols – no ceremony, no prayers, no priest, no flowers and no last respects. The coffin hit the grave with the thud of a cigarette exploding on an old man’s face – to a factor of a million.
According to the Penal Code Cap 63 (136), “every person who…offers any indignity to any human corpse, or causes disturbance to any persons assembled for the purpose of funeral ceremonies, is guilty of a misdemeanour.”
“Guilty as charged,” laughed off one of the residents. “To Kariuki, it’s goodbye and good riddance!”https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1416714812021853