Name of Victim: Martin Ndung’u
Story Told By Esther Wambui
My twelve-year-old grandchild asks me, “Shosho, our mother died. Is our father dead too? Are we going to be orphans?” I never know what to tell her.
Shortly after my son Martin disappeared, his wife was involved in an accident and she too died. Now my grandchildren are parentless. Every morning I wake up at 4.00 am, I go to ‘Marikiti’ to buy vegetables and fruits so that I can provide for them so that they can go to school and have food on the table.
My wrinkles and tired bones at 58 years represent the paths I trekked for years looking for my son. From Nairobi to Kiambu, from Thika to Gatundu, to Machakos, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Naivasha, Gilgil to Narok.
From police stations where I was assaulted by the police, if you look at my neck, the marks are evident, to mortuaries where I had to bribe attendants to see myriads of bodies, but none of them was Martin. I have moved from radio stations to courts, met with shrewd lawyers and none of them helped me find Martin. I am tired. I am so tired. My heart aches, I am angry, I am frustrated.
Six years ago, on Friday the 17th of October of 2014, Martin left home with his young daughter to a hotel to get breakfast. Since it was early morning and Mandazis were not ready, he stepped out of the hotel to go buy them outside while his daughter was taking tea.
That would be the last day that his daughter would see her father because immediately he stepped out, an unidentified Probox with ununiformed police was waiting for him and he got arrested.
The lady who owned the hotel called his wife and gave her the news that Martin had been arrested and that their daughter was sitting alone in the hotel, without anyone to watch her.
We did not know where Martin had been taken, we stayed the entire day without knowing where to trace him. That evening, a private number rang on my cell phone and someone told me that Martin was at Buruburu police station where he had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly behaviour.
The next morning, I went to Buruburu police station to see my son carrying food and porridge. When I got to the police desk and asked for my son, the police seemed to be cognizant of the case. They told me Martin had gotten an epileptic attack and that he had been taken to Mama Lucy Hospital. This was strange. As far as I had known Martin, for the 30 years, I had watched him grow, my son had never had an epileptic attack.
Nevertheless, I went to Mama Lucy with the hope of seeing my son. That hope was dimmed because, at Mama Lucy, the nurses told me that no one under that name had been brought to the hospital. I was distraught and did not know what to do. I asked them to let me see the people in the ward, perhaps Martin had used a pseudonym, but he was not there.
So, I went back to Buruburu police station and demand information about my son. I want to know if the police had killed my son. Why were there so many contradictions in their story?
When the police realized that I had noticed their tricks, they called the OCS from whom I demanded information. This ended up with assault from the police. I remember the OCS jumped on his table and came at me. He slapped me and then the other junior officers also helped him in beating me and assaulting me. They strangled me.
A woman who had accompanied me to the station heard the commotion inside and she runs out to go call people for help.
It would be three months after that I would talk again. I had to escape from Dandora because I had a hunch that they were going to find me and kill me. But even voiceless and in danger and fear of my life, I continued the search for my Martin.
I went to Kenyatta hospital and mortuary to look for him. I had to pay bribes to the mortuary attendants but none of the many bodies belonged to my son. From Kenyatta, I went to Makadara police station, to Industrial Area, Ruiru police station but I did not find him.
Since I did not have money to continue travelling, my friends and colleagues came together and contributed some money for me to continue the search for my son. A neighbour would stay with my grandchildren while I was away and help me take care of them.
My next steps took me to a morgue near Wilson Airport, still, I did not find my son. I went to City Mortuary, ferret through many bodies. I am no longer afraid of the dead after that saga.
I returned to Kenyatta hospital and I was allowed to look through the sick people in the ward. I looked thoroughly at all their faces, but none was Martin. I kept hope that I would one day see my son. I had lost three of my children already, I could not yet again lose this Martin. Martin who was so kind, so responsible, so hardworking, Martin who wanted nothing but to take care of his family and his mother.
At this juncture, I realized I had to change tactics. This was when I went to Coro, Kamene and Inooro radio stations and told my story. I wanted people to help me find Martin. I asked anyone who would see him to call me. I even sent a message to him personally, that if he was somewhere around Kenya, his mother was looking for him.
After that, I reported the case to IPOA and IMLU where the latter gave me a lawyer to help with my case. This lawyer did not help me at all. It was useless to reach out to him because eventually, he told me that he feared going against the police, he was scared for his life. I was left helpless again, after thinking that I had seen a shimmer of hope.
I went back to do it on my own again. This is when I went to Kiambu, Thika, Gatundu, Machakos, Embu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a and every place you can think of. Any time I heard information about dead bodies that were unclaimed, my heart and feet would lead me there. I remember this one time, I went to Narok, a place I had never been to before. I went into the forest where I heard policemen throw bodies of people. I searched and searched but I did not find my son. I went to Gilgil, Naivasha… I was so tired.
Now I have just stopped looking. I have my grandchildren to look after. I have my other children to care for too. But it still hurts me to think of Martin. It has been six years. The pain of losing my son never departs me. I am trying to come to terms that I will never see him again. They must have killed my son.