Anne Wanjiku Mutunga’s life hasn’t been a walk in the park. Within a span of a few years, she lost three important people in her life and was tied into a debt that threatened her personal freedom. The now single mother of three girls has had a rocky journey and is hopeful all will be well one day. Anne shared her story with MWAURA MUIGANA.
“The events of October 26, 2003 are still fresh in my mind. Together with my three children – Cynthia Wanjiru, Stephen Makau, and Dorcas Kanini – we were waiting to board a matatu at a bus stop near our home in Kiamumbi in Nairobi. We were heading to a Sunday service at a church in Nairobi’s city centre where I was an intercessor.
I spotted a speeding car coming downhill towards our direction. I remarked loudly that the driver was on a suicide mission and before I could finish those words, I saw the car fail to negotiate a corner, lose control, overturn and roll over several times. And in the blink of an eye, it headed straight in our direction and before I could do anything, my six-and-a-half year-old son had been swept away. The horrendous scene still plays out in my mind up to this day.
The vehicle then hit a tree and landed in a ditch. I frantically looked around for my son and found him laying a few metres away with his mouth and eyes wide open but no visible injuries. I called out his name as I tried to lift him up but his body seemed lifeless. I paced up and down crying and praying and also blaming myself for not acting fast enough to get my son out of harm’s way. In total confusion I asked my daughter Cynthia to run back home and alert our neighbours. My husband, Samuel Mutunga, who was a driver with the then Kenya Bus Services, was on duty in Homa Bay.
A Good Samaritan stopped to help me take my son to Nairobi’s Guru Nanak Hospital. The journey appeared painstakingly slow but I kept praying for my son’s survival. By the time we arrived at the hospital blood was oozing from his mouth and nose. He was wheeled to the emergency room, but the doctor returned shortly with the bad news – my son was dead. I was inconsolable. I called my brother-in-law, then a police officer at Buru Buru police station, who helped me transport the body to the City Mortuary.
My husband was in denial when he learnt of the death of his son. He was bitter that he died in such horrible circumstances out of somebody’s reckless driving. For a man who had served God as an evangelist since his youth to denounce his faith and castigate God for taking away his son, this went to show the depth of the pain he felt. There were times he threatened to commit suicide when the pain was too much to bear.
The death of our son brought back stark memories of the loss of our first child in 1996. I was 33 weeks pregnant when doctors at the Masaba Hospital in Adams Arcade discovered that the umbilical cord had entangled the baby’s neck and head. An emergency caesarean section was performed and our son, Stephen Makau, was born weighing 1.9kg and placed in an incubator.
We were discharged from hospital after a few weeks. Baby Stephen was doing well but unfortunately got a cold four weeks after we got home and the nasal congestion made him choke on milk as I breastfed him. We rushed him to Masaba Hospital where he died while undergoing treatment. This loss was not only painful, but also mentally and physically devastating because as a newly married couple we were really looking forward to the beginning of motherhood. And as if the death of my son was not enough, the cesarean section wound got infected. I was in great pain and discomfort as we buried our son in a simple ceremony at the Lang’ata Cemetery.
As we mourned our son, we turned to God in prayer for another child. The pregnancy came sooner than anticipated and although the doctor thought it was unwise to conceive so soon after a caesarian section, I carried the pregnancy to term and in exactly one year after the death of our son; our second son was born on April 23, 1997. We named him Stephen Makau, just like his departed brother and we jealously guarded him as we brought him up with fond memories of his brother. He grew into a wonderful boy.
I was a happy and fulfilled mother until that Sunday when death came again to take my other Stephen, my lovely boy. We buried him in our home in Mwala in Machakos County. The driver of the matatu that caused his death was charged with two counts of causing death and dangerous driving and jailed for one-and-a-half years with an option of a fine of Ksh 65,000.
Death wins again…
Giving birth to our last child, Debra Mwende, in July 14, 2004 eased the pain of losing our son a little.Debra is now seven and a half years and in Class two. I guess the peace and tranquility that engulfed our home after Debra’s birth was not meant to last. My husband, who had remained unemployed for a while, was lucky to get a job as a driver with Molo Line Bus Services Ltd. On the evening of November 10, 2007 he left for work on a scheduled trip to ferry passengers to Kendu Bay in Western Kenya. He arrived safely but on his way back with more passengers headed for Nairobi met with tragedy.
The breaks of his vehicle failed during a heavy downpour at Chepkwonyo Bridge in Bomet. The bus plunged into the river killing 10 people on the spot. My husband succumbed to head injuries at Turkwen Mission Hospital where he and other passengers had been rushed. Seventeen out of 51 passengers perished from the accident.
I recall hearing the news on radio about a grisly road accident involving a Molo Line bus while I was in the bathroom but didn’t capture the full details. I rushed to a friend’s house to find out if she knew anything about the accident and it was then that a manager from the transport company called to inform me that my husband was the driver of the ill-fated bus. He said they were still awaiting details about the casualties but I instinctively felt apprehensive and began to pray. I called one of my brothers who confirmed with the transport company that my husband was one of the victims.
His body was transferred to Chiromo mortuary in Nairobi. I cannot begin to explain the devastation I suffered with my husband’s death, especially coming after our two sons. It’s easy for people to ask the bereaved to be courageous but death hits you in a way that leaves you weak and vulnerable. Without my husband I felt lonely and as if caged in a horrible pit.
Unlike in other deaths when my husband was there to comfort me, now I had no one by my side. I had to deal with the pain on my own and also come to terms with the fact that I was embarking on a new terrifying journey. Problems between my in-laws and I seemed to crop from nowhere and not even the intervention by my Bishop at the Deliverance Church, Kasarani could reconcile us.
Picking up the pieces…
It was my husband’s first month of work at the Molo Line Bus Services when he died. We, therefore, didn’t have any money to our name and he was the sole breadwinner of our family. Things were tough since Cynthia was in form three while Dorcas was in a private nursery school. With the little capital I had, I started a small business of selling clothes.
In 2009, I approached different lawyers to push for my late husband’s compensation and terminal benefits to be released to me. Their high professional fees were unaffordable and I finally let go of the chase for his benefits. I ran into rent arrears for our two-bedroom house and didn’t wish to make immediate drastic changes in our lives to avoid traumatizing my children so soon after the loss of their father. However, it became inevitable to that our lifestyle had to change.
We moved to a one-bedroom house but I couldn’t sustain this for long, as the landlord locked us out due to rent arrears accumulation. A friend accommodated us for a while until I found a one-roomed house in Githurai that I could afford. Our lives had drastically changed.
A helping hand…
Everything was taking a heavy toll on me. I became depressed. I couldn’t sleep at night and spent all day sleeping. At one point I didn’t see the need to continue living. Life was too hard. I thank God for my prayer partner who, in December 2009, mobilised friends to help raise money for my children’s school fees. Enough money was raised to cover my children’s education and I remain grateful to the two young men who contributed most of it.
Cynthia put a lot of effort in her school work and performed extremely well in the
Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations to get an A. She is in her second year at Moi University, Eldoret, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics
Through financial help from friends, we moved into a reasonable house in Githurai Estate in January 4, 2010 but we had to move out in February 2012 because I was unable to keep up the rent payments on my own. Running into debts became the story of our lives and I often turned to my sister, friends and relatives for help.
In the jaws of debt…
My clothes business was at the blink of collapse in 2010 but a friend advanced me a loan of Ksh 50,000. Unfortunately I sank the money into a business deal that went sour and I couldn’t repay the loan as per the agreement. She threatened to take action against me and I went underground for a while leaving my children on their own. When she couldn’t get hold of me, she used my children as bait to have me come out of hiding. She had them locked up in a police station but they were later released.
Because of the tribulations I was faced with, I went into seclusion at the Katoloni Prayer Centre in Machakos in May 2011 where I spent 34 days in prayer and fasting, pleading with God to come through for my family. I returned to Nairobi and put up with a friend and met my children at secret locations. I returned to Katoloni in June 2011 for another 40 days fasting and prayers.
The friend I owed money finally caught up with me at Katoloni and had me arrested in August 2011. I was escorted to Kiamumbi Police Station in Kahawa West and arraigned at the Kiambu Law Courts where I pleaded guilty to the charges and sought release on bond. My mother’s title deed, which I had hoped to use as a surety, was not available immediately and I was locked up in the cells awaiting its clearance.
I was transferred to the Lang’ata Women’s Prison where I remained for two weeks before being discharged when the title became available. I am still struggling to repay the debt and I am hopeful that one day I shall overcome these tribulations.”
Published in April 2013