If you feel a news story does not measure up to expected journalistic standards, bring it to the Journalism Dry Cleaner. Through our collective wisdom, we will strip it of all offensive dirt.




Tuesday, 11 February 2020


Kenya has been mourning the passing of the country's second president. Granted, the rule of the late Daniel arap Moi, was associated with a lot of political repression, brutality and suppressed civil liberties. Still, there are those who harbour memories of pleasant encounters. I cannot  forget the day I made the then president Moi laugh.

It was customary for educational institutions to be drafted into entertainment programs for the former Head of State.

Towards the end of my first university days, I happened to be part of a very  dynamic drama team, which specialised in delivering often unscripted,yet powerful, hilarious and poignant performances.

Such was the popularity of our group of 'legendary' thespians, that we easily landed an invite to perform for the president at his Kabarak home chapel, during one of the Christmas festivities.

Normally, it was the choir that would be chosen to belt out Christmas carols that were always a favourite with president Moi, but like I've said, it was hard to ignore the then thriving stage creatives.

Having us on board was obviously a big risk for our minders, but since the theme was going to be a Christian one,  there was some comfort that we wouldn't easily stray into dangerous territory.

And so for many evenings, we rehearsed the Christmas play, supervised by very senior university administrators,  including vice chancellors.

The 'notorious' drama team worked hard to perfect a skit based on an imaginary baby Jesus, being born in the streets of Nairobi, with all the attendant chaos of the late 1990s.

And on the day of the big performance, I was ready to deliver my role as a  tout for a public service mini-bus, popularly known as matatu in Kenya.

On spotting the couple cast as Joseph and a pregnant Mary, I loudly beckoned to them:
"Hamza...Buruburu...Kayole...Komarock....na Bethlehem!!!
I then grabbed their luggage as I ushered them into the improvised matatu prop. It was no more than a group of students strategically standing/bending in such a way as to represent a vehicular contraption.

Once Joseph and Mary were in, I took their luggage to the rear end of the makeshift matatu, lifted the hands of two actors outwards, to simulate the opening of the boot or trunk, then placed the bags inside, then simultaneously brought the two outstretched hands downwards, to close the boot.

It was then that our eyes met.

I panicked.

The dreaded president Moi was laughing at something that I had done!

I froze and couldn't recall what I was to do or say next.

Luckily, my scene naturally blended into the encounter between Joseph, Mary and the innkeeper.

But wait...Daniel  Toroitich arap Moi laughed...based entirely on something that I did?

Such was the power that he wielded, that even managing to elicit a direct reaction from him...counts as a big achievement for me.

Please allow me to hold onto this memory, as Kenya lays to rest its longest-serving president.

No comments: