By Nimmo Anita
Last month I watched them kill my best friend Otii. Reason?
They claimed that he was seen stealing a phone!
Stealing? I can swear Otii has never stolen, not even once!
I was with him on that day, he did not do it, and I saw it all. But to cover their mess, they put a fake gun on him, a gun he has never known. Then they hit the headlines and the faithful but misled citizens applauded them.
What do you do when you run out of suspects and want to retain your rank? When you desperately want to prove to citizens that you are doing the work they deployed to do? You look for an easy target, someone that no one will claim, someone that’s never known to the world apart from his little “family”. Someone you thought is a nuisance, and you were doing the world justice by eliminating him for a real thief? He might have been insignificant to you, but to us he meant the world. He was our bread winner! A true friend and family!
But then who bothers. After all we – most of us – were born here… in the streets. We have never known any other home. Some of us ran away from where we were born, ‘cos of the circumstances we could not bear any longer; being abused, both physically and emotionally, cruelty from those who were supposed to be family, those who were supposed to love us, protect us and take care of us. We became subject to their anger, greed and pride. We had to leave; we came here, and made this our home.
Unfortunately, having nowhere to go, we ended up here; and to us it doesn’t matter anymore how and why we found ourselves here. In the streets is where we belong, we are one, we are family, we have no one else in the world except each other, we love each other and we look out for each other. We share the little food we get, we lie together in the cold hard corridors with nothing to keep us warm except each others’ bodies. We found refuge in each others’ arms. We became one big family.
You treat us as aliens
On the other hand you are our greatest threat. Yes you. Why do you always give us that suspicious look? Having a street for a home doesn’t mean that we are thieves, murderers and all those other names you may want baptize us. Some of us have never stolen anything. The foods in the bins and the few coins you throw us as you pass by keeps us going.
Whenever something goes wrong, we become your number one target, we become suspects just because we happen to live in the streets. How would you feel when someone comes to your home and all of a sudden decides to accuse you of stealing? And the truth is you did not steal! It may just be a street for you where you pass by as you go to wherever you are going, but that street is our home.
You kill us for fame; you kill us to move to higher ranks. We can’t talk for ourselves. We are never given a chance to prove our innocence, and even if we are given one, who would listen? We don’t mean anything to you, do we? You treat us as aliens. You have decided to put us all in the same basket of criminals, while we have never committed any crime. I wonder when being homeless became a crime.
I’m not saying that we are all innocent. Some pickpockets, and do bad stuff, but that does not mean we are all criminals. We have values, we are disciplined, we would never hurt you. So next time you think of classifying us all as criminals, look at us in the eye, you will see the innocence that lie within.
Yesterday I watched my brother die in my arms, so innocent, so tender. He was coughing real hard and all I could see was pain in his eyes, with every cough, he would look in my eyes and the pain would register in my heart.
Who would care to treat a street child? With no money to buy medicine, and when you borrow strangers as they pass by, they think you are conning them, I had no option left. With less to eat, since Otii was murdered and nothing to keep him warm, I watched as life drained out of him drop by drop. I could not sleep, I held him all along, it’s the best I could do for my little brother Wafula from another mother.
We don’t hate school at all, who wouldn’t want to be educated and maybe be someone someday? But, when do we go to school and fetch our own food? Yes the primary school education is free and we are grateful, but to be honest we can’t concentrate in empty stomachs. They don’t allow in pupils without school uniforms too. We are too young to get decent jobs and buy the uniforms ourselves, so we have to stay out of school and look for ways to survive.
We dream, yes, we dream a lot, and we pray too
I’m not here to complain or judge you, I’m not here to ask you to house us or make us your children, No. I’m here to ask for a little favor, TREAT US AS HUMAN BEINGS WE ARE! Our lives are dear to us just as yours are. Sometimes we fear, we tremble and are scared of the dark, just as you. We fear death and sickness just like anyone else, we are not aliens, we are not from another planet, and we are just like you.
We love, we get hurt, we mourn and cry when our loved ones depart from us, we are emotional like anyone else. We would not hate to have a bath daily, dress up in clean clothes and maybe some sandals and smell fresh and nice, we would love that. Having a roof over our heads, a plate of good food and probably a clean soft bed has always been our dream. We dream, yes, we dream a lot, and we pray too, hoping that someday all this nightmare will come to pass. All this animosity will be a thing of the past.
We are not asking you to say hi to us, no, that would be asking too much of you. But please would you care enough to greet us back when we greet you? Or just smile or nod your head? You don’t know how such simple responses make us happy. They make us feel part of humanity. If you have time, sometime drop by, have a little chat with us, we love talking to you. Don’t just drop that coin and walk away fast like we are robbing you, I understand that our hands are dirty, but give it to us nicely then go use your sanitizer. Maybe someday, somehow, you will have the pleasure, to drink from this fountain of untapped love that lies within our hearts.
Thank you for listening to my unheard voice!