By Mukurima X Muriuki
Like every other Kenyan, my heart is downcast following the death of musician Achieng Abura. To her son Prince; in the midst of the heartbreak you are going through, may your heart be filled with hope premised in the support Kenyans of goodwill are extending-consoling you at the hour of grief and also pooling together resources to finance your medical treatment. I am persuaded that because of the life your mom lived that was filled with integrity, honesty, and love; death will not be a full stop for her, but a comma to punctuate her life to a better significance.
To her siblings, aunts, uncles, nephews, cousins, and close friends; I extend my deepest condolences. There is nothing I can say that will fill the precipitous void left in your family. I mourn with you. I share in your grief and in the same spirit of harambee, I add my little faith to yours, and we all agree that indeed it well with thy soul.
I never met Achieng Abura in person. I do however, recall how she rallied the country in 2004, bagging a Kora award, a recognition that her music was not just food that fed the hunger for quality music in Kenya, but was also the musical drink that quenched a lyrical thirst across the continent. When she placed her hands on the piano, Achieng Abura brought out a beat that massaged and caressed the imagination of Africans. It is not strange today that because Achieng Abura opened those doors of victory, musical groups like Sauti Sol continue to conquer Africa and the world.
Achieng Abura’s calm and composed demeanor would land her a role in the famous Tusker Project fame-a talent search competition modelled in the design of American Idol. She was the house principal, and boy did she inspire the contestants. She became a darling of viewers for how she was able to calm nerves of the contestants any time Judge Ian would eviscerate their performance. Ask the likes of Nakaaya, Nava, and Jacob. She helped them to pick up their pieces every time they stumbled.
That is the Achieng Abura who was my friend on Facebook.
Her posts and updates betrayed her essence; measured language and never being dismissive. She talked to anyone, even those without a social status like myself were welcome to engage with her. She accepted differing point of views which means she was not one to play games with goose steppers. Any time she disagreed with a comment, she did not attack the personality of the other party, rather, she provided facts and added logic to support her line of thinking. Yet, in spite of how she conducted her business online, there are many I noticed folks ridiculing her opinion and line of thought, so much so that they would get personal.
Many times her posts elicited controversy, not because they were controversial in any way, but because they stung like a bee and exposed the deep hypocrisy in our society, or simply put, a reminder of the creed that truth does in fact hurt. For example, during the Koffi Olomide debacle a few months ago, the country was united in condemning the Congolese singer for a kung-fu-like kick that landed on one of his dancers. What he did was deplorable and no one can argue otherwise. Achieng Abura condemned Koffi too! However, she beseeched Kenyans to forgive him. She reminded us that Koffi was not defined by those instances where he had acted in a foolish manner, that there was something more to the man. In hindsight, I make the assumption that Koffi was there for Achieng Abura at her point of need while we were not!
Forgiveness and restoration, I noticed, were central themes in Achieng Abura’s world. Early in April this year, she called a media briefing and extolled the country to get serious relative to settling the 2008 post-election injustices. She advocated a peace framework around the idea of restorative justice where the victims and offenders would reconcile and in so doing fully heal the wounds that still fester to date. People mocked her, others laughed at her. She took everything in, for laughter, she resonated with John Ruganda, is like rain-it comes and goes.
I sent Achieng Abura a message via her Facebook account to offer my support and encouragement. After a brief introduction, I made it known to her that she was right on track. I beseeched her not to let the noise in the woods stop her. Our conversation went deeper into dynamics of conflict resolution, the Kenya mediation process and so on, areas that I am heavily invested in. And it was apparent these were topics that she cared for:
This is what she told me:
“I have been involved in peace at various levels. I was a Raporteur for the Sudan Peace Process for two years. Unless we face our issues and allow for forgiveness and healing, the country will implode at the slightest provocation. Will keep pushing. Positive seeds sown can germinate and transform a country, giving hope…. Bitterness and hatred has taken root because issues have not been discussed and justice has not been realized. We can implode any time……. We cannot wait for the leaders to show the way. Both sides were compromised during the PEV. We need a people driven independent process that they should support…. We are already in a state of conflict, verbal, economic among others. Conflict is not limited to armed conflict.
We’ll continue this discussion every so often. I am very open to learning and expanding my understanding. God bless.”
Now she is gone. Achieng Abura. She is gone.
Scripture reminds me that there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. I am sure God had a plan and a purpose for Abura. She is now with the Lord, God. She belongs to the ages.