Unanswered questions about Prof Ken Walibora’s death
Prof Ken Walibora was a literary giant, a consummate interrogator of society as depicted in his seminal works, an engaged public intellectual, journalist and a gentleman.
The scholar, who died through what police claim to be a road accident, dedicated his intellectual effort towards the promotion and development of Kiswahili.
The words of Prof Nina Berman, his doctoral teacher at Ohio State university are particularly profound.
“Kennedy Waliaula, was gentle and soft-spoken, but also firm in his convictions and passionate about the things he cared about, such as raising the status of Kiswahili in Kenya and advocating for free speech,” she wrote in a tribute.
But there have been mixed signals on circumstances surrounding his death. Initial police reports indicated that Walibora was hit by bus as he crossed a road in the city.
Government pathologist Johansen Odour has said they have reason to suspect the injury on the scholar’s right arm was sustained before the accident.
He said the journalist had a wound cut caused by a sharp knife between his thumb and the index finger which is not consistent with car accidents. Police have indicated that they are probing the death.
We think this will be an opportunity to answer key questions on the death: Who were the two men captured on CCTV pursuing Walibora as he crosses the road?
Why did it take so long to trace his car despite the fact that police have the Automatic Number Plate Recognition Control System?
Why has it taken the police inordinately long to trace his phone claimed to be in the hands of his attackers? Was he treated at the Kenyatta National Hospital where he was taken after the accident?
There are disturbing reports that the scholar lay at the emergency unit for days unattended.
But even then, the fact that a person of Walibora’s stature could lie unattended, unnoticed for days in a public hospital in critical condition, speaks volumes about the attitude of some of our health professionals.
We are reminded of the patient who dies in Magayu Magayu’s short story; Do You Know Anybody? because of neglect by medics due to his lack of “connections.”
It also speaks to our collective moral decay, a subject that Walibora relentlessly articulated in his works.
The truth around his death will be a befitting elegy for the Kiswahili legend. Rest in peace Mwalimu.