I walk freely, happily, openly and boldly down the streets of my community in Likoni with no fear, I don’t have to look over my shoulder, I don’t have to keep scanning the crowd for danger, I don’t have to prepare myself to break into a ran if need be; I’m a free man and freedom never tasted so sweet.
See, it wasn’t always like this for me. Freedom wasn’t something I could afford to partake. I couldn’t dare walk the streets in broad daylight, I couldn’t dare engage in a leisurely stroll in all of Mombasa County because I was a wanted man, a hunted man, a haunted man, a known criminal.
Most people are proud of their jobs and I was extremely proud of mine as a gang leader. Being in command of a group of men and not just ordinary men but hardened criminals was a badge of honour for me. It meant that absolutely no one, could afford to mess with me, no one dared to cross me, no one dared to go against my commands, everyone did as I instructed. It pleased me to no end that it wasn’t just my gang that recognized my leadership but other gangs as well, thus, in essence, I was a leader of several gangs in the Likoni area.
Members of the community were rightfully afraid of me. They knew that I could end a life with just a word. They knew I would never tolerate disrespect and that any slight to me or my gang would be met with a retaliatory attack without fail. I ruled with an iron fist and I was proud of the respect it accorded me.
I put on a brave face but if I was, to be honest, I’d have to confess that my life was lonely. Things weren’t as rosy as I painted them. I hated the fact that I could trust no one and of course no one trusted me, they knew I could change my mind and decide their fate in the blink of an eye. How I longed for real friendship, authentic relationships, open dealings – I longed to live my life like anybody else and go around conducting my business just like other people.
The police were always on my case. Every once in a while, I’d have to go into hiding to avoid arrest. Anytime anything happened in all of Mombasa County, I was always automatically a suspect and I’d have to go into hiding soon after. Freedom was something I craved but could never afford.
One day, a well-respected lady in my community approached me with an offer I just couldn’t say no to. She would put in a good word for me with the police if I agreed to attend sessions for something she called Kumekucha. I didn’t know what the sessions would entail but the offer to clear my name with the police was too good to pass up and so I found myself attending training on trauma healing.
When the facilitator opened the session and introduced us to the course material, I remember thinking that these people were wasting my time. But I’d promised to attend so I had no choice but to stay put. I’ve done many things in my life but I’m proudest of the fact that I went through the Kumekucha trauma healing training.
One word to describe what Kumekucha did for me is transform. My transformation was birthed then and grew in leaps and bounds as training progressed. I’d never heard of the word trauma or imagined that it could be used to illustrate what I’d gone through in life but I learned that the person I was and the criminals’ activities that I engaged in could be traced back to trauma – it was deeply eye-opening for me. Then learning how to cope with trauma, how to break the cycle of violence all felt like a drink of cold water in the desert; my soul rejoiced at all I was taking in.
I walked into Kumekucha a criminal and walked out a peace ambassador, I walked in broken and walked out healed, I walked in bruised and walked out soothed. For the first time in my life, I had been given the Platform and opportunity to open up in a safe environment and lay my burdens down, for the first time, people had looked at me and not seen a criminal to be afraid of but a man like themselves to listen to. I was reborn at Kumekucha.
Now I transverse the county preaching this good news that anyone can find healing from trauma and live their lives in peace and freedom. I talk to young men imprisoned by a life of crime and assure them that’s it’s possible to break away from that vicious cycle and live lives they can be proud of. I’m healed and I long for this healing for everyone I come across.