By WAHOME MUTAHI
Anything can happen in this Jua Kali republic called
Kenya. It is a Jua Kali republic and that is why a
Kenyan who probably grew up on omena fish heads
can walk to a safe that belongs to someone else on a
The same Kenyan then persuades a whole Sh54
million in Clinton currency out of that safe and
pockets it as if it is petty cash from a kiosk.
The same Kenyan from this Jua Kali republic then
walks out as if he is taking a Sunday afternoon stroll,
most probably humming something like Pesa
Position. He then vanishes into thin air; the man
simply becomes vapour!
That only happens in a Jua Kali republic like ours
because everything is Jua Kali. Actually everyone
becomes Jua Kali in this month of January which
many Kenyans wish was banned from the calendar.
It is the month when car owners with Jua Kali wallets
drive for only one week. They starve because the
makers of cars decided that the alimentary canals of
mobiles must be fed on petrol and not water. Petrol,
of course, does not come from River Chania and not
everyone can persuade money to walk out of a safe
even if his children are feeding on hyacinth.
The only people who cease being Jua Kali and whose
wallets do not need much panel-beating in this
passion month of January are those belonging to the
tribe called headmasters and headmistresses.
In normal circumstances, their cars run for four
months in the whole year. Those headmastermobiles
are close relatives of my own Whispermobile so they
really need persuasion to move for six months of the
For those four months that the headmaster-mobiles
run, they have to be persuaded to do so through
petrol taken on credit, most times. Even in the course
of those four months, they die and face resurrection
through intensive care provided by Jua Kali
A miracle, however, happens in the month of January
and those headmastermobiles as well as
headmistressmobiles get a new lease of life. They
face total resurrection.
The resurrection comes because of an animal called
KCPE. I hear the animal is supposed to sort out Jua
Kali heads from factory-made ones. The factory-made
heads are supposed to head for the place we called
“Hai” in our days. Jua Kali heads are supposed to
forget that they can find the door to high school.
Jua Kali heads
It happens that not all heads come from a district
called Koibatek where heads that show KCPE dust are
manufactured. If you have forgottten, the factory
where good heads are made was recently moved to
Koibatek and so the kids there gave KCPE a number
of reasons why it should not joke with them.
It also happens that factories for Jua Kali heads were
opened in other districts where it feared to show its
head. The result is that at this moment headmasters
of high schools there have graduated from tu-
mwalimu to people of great substance.
They are men and women of great substance
because many adults happen to be the parents of
children whose heads have been declared Jua Kali by
KCPE. When you have such a child, you have no
choice but to persuade the headmaster or
headmistress to assume that your Junior or
Investment went to Koibatek.
You can only do so by persuading the
headmastermobile to start moving again through
donating something for its owner to fund a project of
his or her choice.
This is to say that a high school chief does not need
to go to a safe and persuade money out of it. Instead,
a safe walks to him or her at this time and demands
to be opened because there are many heads that
have been declared to be of the Jua Kali type by
Let me leave headteachers alone because I happen to
be the father of two products with Jua Kali heads.
This indeed makes me a Jua Kali father.
Such a father needs to be a friend of headmasters
because that is the only way he can persuade them
that his kids missed the Koibatek head factory by
I should actually be more worried about other things
that happen in this Jua Kali republic. Right now the
thing to worry about is the fact that the month of
January is coming to an end.
I should be celebrating the ending of the month
because, like many Kenyans, I live a totally Jua Kali
life every January because my wallet was turned Jua
Kali by the events of December.
But instead of celebrating, I am feeling like a rabid
dog without a vaccination certificate. This is because
I don’t have a vaccination certificate otherwise known
as a new generation Identity Card.
What happens to such a dog is that it is shot on
sight. I am told that if I don’t get a vaccination
certificate, I will eat rotten meat like a dog in Kamiti
for months come the end of this month.
I have nothing against that vaccination certificate
except that it is not a Jua Kali affair, so I am supposed
to present my bald head in the sun for hours before I
can be declared to belong to a new generation. The
end result is that I will end up with a scrambled if not
boiled brain before I can get that vaccination
Something else I cannot understand is what that
vaccination certificate is supposed to do to my life. I
have always been Whispers Son of the Soil and a new
ID will not make me Whispers Son of the Lake.
Anyway, we are in a Jua Kali republic and that’s
where a man must be made to feel like a canine
because he does not have an item called a kipande.
Next time they will tell you to learn how to bark
before you can be allowed to vote. We are still in a
Jua Kali republic and that is why right now I don’t
know whom to trust.
I don’t know whether to trust the thief who wants a
share of my neck or the policeman who has enough
bullets to shoot stray ones, but which all the same hit
where it matters.
In a Jua KaIi republic, you duck in the next alley when
you see a thief being chased by a policeman who
looks like he has enough stray bullets to use.
The wrong reason
I have to duck because I don’t want to land in a coffin
for the wrong reason. One wrong reason is to get shot
by a policeman who was taught in Kiganjo that the
leg is located in the same place as the heart. The
same policeman in this Jua Kali republic will shoot
that leg to stop you from escaping.
Since he thinks the leg is found where the heart is,
you have no choice but to meet your maker. In the
circumstances, you will find a picture of a very dead
Son of the Soil in the newspapers. Alongside his past
tense picture will be the picture of a pistol.
It will be said that the same Son of the Soil who
cannot hold a cigarette straight because of hands
that have been turned Jua Kali by alcoholic
beverages, shot at the police and that was why he
was shot dead. It will be said that the cops who shot
him dead are lucky to be alive for they were almost
wasted by bullets.
Since these days funeral announcements must say
what turned you into past tense, it will be said that I
was killed by a “tragic bullet bravely borne”.
Children in academies
I will not be put into a mortuary. That just sounds too
Jua Kali. I will be put in a funeral parlour because
that’s where bodies that are not Jua Kali are put.
The same owners of those bodies are said to be
fathers of children in academies and not primary
schools. Primary schools are Jua Kali but academies,
even if they are thatched with grass, are supposed to
It is all about being in a Jua Kali republic. Anything
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