Report by WANGUI NGECHU for eDaily.
General Service Unit special officer Barnabas Mele of Number 97344PC lost his life in a gruesome road accident in Karai area, Naivasha that plunged the entire nation into mourning Saturday night through Sunday and subsequent days.
Mr Mele was among 11 GSU personnel who were part of a team that guarded President Uhuru Kenyatta Saturday noon. Sadly, they were all burned beyond recognition after a canter transporting flammable materials from Mombasa toward Uganda lost control and hit oncoming vehicles, instantly bursting into a fireball that has so far claimed the lives of 43.
Opposition Chief Raila Odinga described the death of the 43 as “a painful way to lose a family member or friend”.
The unequalled pain is much felt by Mele’s mother Jecinta Abei Eremon from Turkana.
eDaily’s Leah Ngechu caught up with Ms Eremon at Chiromo mortuary in Nairobi on Tuesday as she waited for the news about her fallen son.
With a lime turban tied on her head, a brown jacket, an orange top and a leso which has elements of red, black and white worn diagonally from her shoulder dropping down to slightly below her knee, Ms Eremon looked downcast with erratic episodes of depression weighing her down, while she waited to confirm that her son is no more.
“I am waiting to see it for myself and I am not afraid. I will wait here (Chiromo mortuary) until I am allowed to see my son,” said Ms Eremon in Turkana via a translator.
Mr Mele was a debonair gentleman and an epitome of a responsible human figure who would do anything and everything – assiduously – to ensure his family never lacked – at least basic needs, said his mother Ms Eremon.
According to the elderly woman, Mr Mele was her only offspring who was educated to an extent many would consider sophisticated.
While she referred to him as not only a son but a friend and the main man in her home, Ms Eremon expressed despondency, saying her future appears bleak now that her son is no more.
“Communication to me has only been through the media, no official from the government has come to me or spoken to my family regarding my son’s death,” she said.
Mr Mele was aged 30 when he died, and he was waiting to welcome his baby this December. He joined the GSU outfit in 2011.
Mr Mele’s cousin named Michael Kaatho was among the last people to communicate with the GSU officer before he died. He remembers the time vividly. “It was 1pm on Saturday,” he said.
Kaatho recounted his reaction when he received the heartrending news about Mr Mele’s death.
“I tried to ring him, but his cell phone was switched off. My heart skipped a beat, and hoped that the news was untrue. But the more I called, and my attempts to communicate with him were unsuccessful, the more the sad reality looked imminent,” said Mr Kaatho.
Mr Kaatho afterward called his crony, who was Mr Mele’s colleague. The news that he did not want to hear was broken. “It is true, Mele is dead,” Mr Kaatho’s friend told him.
He thereafter traveled to Mele’s rural home where he picked Mele’s mother and embarked on a journey to the city – to identify their loved one, take his body home and accord him a decent burial.
“Attendants at Chiromo mortuary have told us that Mele was burned beyond recognition and only DNA test would enable us identify him. I still want to see his remains by myself so that I believe,” said Mr Kaatho.
The painful wait, however, would continue for another two weeks after Nathan King’otho – the National Disaster Operation Center director – announced that the DNA results will be released after a fortnight, earliest.
According to Mr King’otho, the wait may last longer for some families, given the extent of damage on bodies of their loved ones. He, however, promises to subject the 43 who died to DNA testing.
Meanwhile, the center continues to offer counseling services to the affected families at Chiromo morgue.