Ksh. 1,695 (Amazon)

Do you remember the Hague? ICC? Okay, The Kenyan 2007/8 post-election violence (PEV)? Does your mind house memories you’d wish forgotten?

Perhaps you have managed to push the memories into the unconscious mind.

But what happens to a journalist tasked with the responsibility of telling the story?

Omwa Ombara is not just that journalist; she is entangled in an almost inescapable web. A supposed call from the International Criminal Court – Hague not only changes her life but sends her to exile. Tables quickly turn for her from telling the story to being the story as she tells;

Life can change in a second, in the twinkle of an eye. It can change with death in the family, the loss of a job, the stroke of a pen, a bro­ken relationship, or a mere insect bite. It can change with a slip on the bathroom floor or on a carelessly thrown banana peel, a car crash, or a visit to the doctor— a cancer or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnosis. Life can change with a kiss; it could be the kiss of life or death. It can change with one word spoken as the truth. It can change with post-election violence and the eviction of an individual from their homes. It can change for a potential or actual court wit­ness when threats come and forceful disappearances occur.

In this narrative, Omwa recounts the ugly happenings leading to her run; juxtaposing them with the peace and now beautiful memories that defined her childhood. The result? An innocent journalist holding onto her pen with an unquestionable integrity and honesty, rarely so.

Do these virtues stand a chance in a nation characterized by political murk in which the powerless are ‘sacrifices’ to political gods? Can the truth set her free? What happens when you hold information?

“In Kenyan politics, the people must die. Every election year, the politicians make sacrifices to their gods, and fresh human blood soak the soil. It is written, not in the Constitution or the book of life but by political design. They celebrate. They hold homecoming parties. Year in, year out, the cycle is repeated until it becomes an ordinary thing.”

From escaping state agents in unmarked cars, hiding stints in relatives’ houses, Kenya suddenly becomes too small for Omwa. There seems to be no place to hide, not even the mentioned ‘safe houses’ by the Human rights commission.

I was there, holding my breath hoping that when she slid on the back seat of a car, she’d manage pretending to be dead.

Her life is almost reduced to the bare minimum – breathing. When she is locked up in a safe house for close to a year, her grandmother’s Christian hymns keep her sane.

“I found the door open and ran into my Mama’s bedroom. I got under the bed—all wet and drip­ping. Jolawi, my cat, recognized me and started meowing excitedly. My Mama followed me to her room as Edu quickly locked the door. “My Mama, they are after me. They raided my hideout. They were six men. I escaped from the back gate,” I whispered like a cornered animal trapped by the hunters.

“Let us pray,” my Mama said confidently.”

So many unanswered questions: did the caller from the Hague exist? What role did Omwa have to play in the Hague case? Was it all worth it?

The power of this story is that Omwa does not wallow in self-pity. She not only tells her story but blends it with the lives of victims of the PEV. She tells of lives led by prostitutes in dingy hotels; of the strangers she meets on her survival journey.

Nicely breaking her running story with a cocktail of her childhood Memories of an African/Christian Childhood and life back home, sometimes hilariously, this is a book you won’t put down until you’re done, and oh, you’ll suffer a thorough hang over.

To Omwa, who’s still in exile, every day presents an opportunity to peer into the future and what it holds. She lived and told her story, strongly so.

A powerful, intense and well – written story, this is a must read not only a journalists but for any curious mind as well.

And you’ll ‘love’ these confessions:

“Drunkards and brethren in Christ shared a platform. Side by side, they sang, clapped their hands, stomped their feet, and praised the wonderful works of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. A few drunkards peeped through the huge windows of the cathedral to hear in detail what the sinful brethren had been up to. There were great expectations. People wanted to know who had stolen their chicken or goat and who had bewitched them so that they could not prosper no matter how hard they worked. Mothers wanted to know who had bewitched their daughters so that they could not get husbands or babies. There was a lot at stake, and it appeared that the answers could be found at St. Petro in Milimani.”

  “Praise the Lord, brothers and sister.” Brother John Misango got up. “I am a sinner, a deep sinner. I have committed adultery. I have sinned before God and before man. I am not fit to be called God’s son. I have walked around with the heavy yoke of sin on my back. And, brethren, the yoke has been heavy, like a sack of potatoes on the back of a donkey on a market day. The devil is a liar. I slept with a married woman. That woman is right in our midst. She is Lefitina, our Reverend Elijah’s wife! This was seven years ago. The burden of this guilt has worn me out. My heart was spent like the sole of my shoes. But today the spirit of the Lord has shone before my face. Today, the Holy Spirit has challenged me to come clean on this matter. The boy Joyjoy, you see here, is not Reverend Elijah’s son but my own flesh and blood, conceived at a night lodging down by the Lakeside. I now kneel at the foot of the cross and ask the King to forgive my sins and cleanse me with his blood. Amen!” The brethren gasped in shock but soon contained themselves. “Have you forgiven me, brethren? Am I forgiven?”