The Drums No Longer Beat

The Drums No Longer Beat

  on 2nd Sep 2020

The Drums No Longer Beat

Name of Victim: Sylvester Onyango
Age: 25 years
Story Told By Josephine Akoth

This year Onyi should be turning 30.

His child, if still alive, would be turning five years now.

Onyi loved children. There is a picture of him holding a neighbour’s child he took just before he disappeared. He liked playing with children and talked to everyone. Just ask around and you will hear from our neighbours, he was truly a man of the people. He had a way with people that just made them feel good to be near him.

If Onyi were here right now, he would probably be watching a ‘DJ Afro’ movie. He loved watching action movies. If you found him outside, he would surely be playing the drums. He loved playing the drums. I guess that came from his love of music and drama.

There is a certificate on our walls that Onyi was awarded in 2005 when he participated in the Kenyan Music festivals. His love for music and movies started from his younger years and never left him even in his mature years. He especially loved listening to reggae music.

Onyi was a cheerful young man. He was my firstborn. There is a special connection that exists between a mother and her firstborn and it tears my womb apart when I remember the labour pains and the struggles I went through only for him to walk out of the door and never come back home.

It was difficult raising six children while living in Dandora. It was hard to pay school fees, rent and simply get by. But Onyi was a bright young man and he was called to ‘Be the Change Highschool.’ When Onyi was in school, we had trouble paying his fees. When he realized this, he sacrificed his education for his younger brother who was also in school.

He told him to keep studying while he went out to the world to search for a better life, a means of survival.
He spent one year in driving. He did not go to any driving school. He would just go to ‘Rounda’ and find someone with a car to hire and pay him some money to teach him how to drive. After that period, he began to take squads with Duts Matatu Sacco where he eventually became a driver for one of their vehicles.

He would later find himself a companion by the name Sharon. He brought her home one day and told me, “mom, I have found the other part of me. Here she is.” She was a lovely young woman and they seemed to understand each other so it was easy for us to accept her into our family. They lived in Umoja III for around four months.

One morning, Sharon called me sounding agitated. It was on the 15th of August 2015. She told me that Onyi had left for work two days earlier but had not come back home. It was not habitual for Onyi to leave and never come back home. He loved being indoors when he was not at work.

His brother went to the matatu Sacco where Onyi worked. Onyi’s friend and colleague told him that on the said day, when he did not go back home, there had been a police crackdown and that Onyi had been arrested. The sad news is that no one knew exactly where he had been taken.

There is a tendency in Dandora where police from different area stations arrest young men. Another one is that young men often get arrested through cases of mistaken identity. We hoped that our son had not fallen victim of this as his father started looking for him in different police stations.

Sylvester Onyango’s mother

The first place he went was Kinyago police post where there were no reports of Onyi ever having been there. My husband took the next steps and went to Buruburu police station where the results were still the same. He gathered courage and went to Industrial area and Kamiti where he was asked for bribes just to get into the prisons. But even after chucking amounts that we could not afford to lose, my husband still never found our son.

A few weeks later, there were rumours that Onyi had been seen at Industrial area remand and without wasting any time, my husband went back to look for him. As usual, he was asked for a bribe but when he looked at the inmates who were there, none resembled our son.

Still, we kept the faith and hope of seeing our son again. His father searched at Central police station. He even went to Kenyatta and City mortuaries to no avail.

It was around this time when the famous Kayole gang was gunned down. We proceeded to the mortuary and looked through the bodies of the young men but none of them was our son.

We were left hopeless and helpless. We did not know where our son was. We did not have money to keep bribing police officers and mortuary attendants just to check through files that bore uncertainty for any information about our son.
His wife also searched tirelessly for him. She was distraught. At the time she was pregnant, and we do not know if she ever gave birth or had a miscarriage because later, she too cut off communication with us.

Now I just wonder with uncertainty. Dangerous and scary thoughts cross my mind. Sometimes I wander around these paths looking for my son. I feel like I am going crazy without knowing if he will ever come back.

The children ask me where their brother went. I have no answers for them. I have no answers for myself. I am living a dreadful life. All I want to know is if my son is still alive or if he died. If he died, I want a body to bury.
I look at my other children and try to focus on them because they are the only ones I have left, but my heart is still in agony, thundering loudly at the loss and disappearance of my first son, Sylvester Onyango.


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