Ken Walibora’s death left many distressed. Radio huvuma “siku njema.” Nasi husema maneno kwandama “siku njema siku njema, kweli siku njema.”
This poem, by Said Mohamed, was the first piece of literacy genius anyone who read Siku Njema by Ken Walibora fell in love with.
The poem was a perfect segue into the world of Msanifu Kombo, the only son of Zainabu Makame and Mwinyi Makame’s grandson.
Mzee Makame lived in Mwanza, Tanzania. This where his polygamous lifestyle comprised 12 wives and 90 children.Superficial wealth as seen in those days.Wealth was measured in terms an unbridled ability to sire children and have many wives.
Zainabu Makame, Msanifu Kombo’s mother, was a talented Taarab singer. She was blessed with an articulate, eloquent, and artistic Kiswahili tongue. It was not strange therefore that she found a spot as a lead singer for Mbelewele band. With no time, she had all of East Africa gyrating or twiddling thumbs to her music. For some reason the mental image I have of her is that of Tshala Muana.
Regrettably, Msanifu Kombo did not have a father figure to look up to. His mother’s brothers Kitwana Makame and Salim Makame were busy painting the motif of their own life and had no time for their nephew. Kitwana Makame was however, the better uncle, but he could not be that father-figure Msanifu Kombo craved for.
Ken Conquered Hardship
Life was not easy for Msanifu Kombo. The irony was that as her mom churned hit singles that melted the hearts of her fans and comforted the hearts of many, poverty was an inescapable reality. It melted her family into an abyss of oblivion.
She would soon get sick and die leaving his beloved son an “orphan.” On her deathbed was her son’s best friend Vumilia Binti Abdalla.
In her last days, Zainabu Makame pulled her son close and whispered:
“Mwanangu, wanaume ni wanyama. Tulilolitaka halikuwa….halikuwa. Haidhuru asaa itakuja siku njema kwako. Itakuja siku njema.
School children chided Msanifu Kombo for being born out of wedlock. Their derisive laughter and sardonic smiles at the young lad’s misfortune were punctuated by their use of the word “mwanaharamu” to mean he was a product of illicit hanky pankies.
With nothing to look forward to in Tanga where his mother had migrated together with his grandmother, Msanifu Kombo boarded MV Tawfiq to Mombasa. Because he was poor, he did not have money to buy a ticket. His ass was saved from the wrath of the ferry inspector by a woman called Amina who eked out a living working as a prostitute.
Amina was generous and she hosted Msanifu Kombo in her house. She liked what she saw in the young man and in the evening, she asked him if “nikupea utawezana.” Instead of the cursory and obvious “nitawezana” answer Mr. Kombo shot back:
“Nilipozaliwa, wajua Kiswahili waliniita mwanaharmu… Ingawa kwangu mwanaharamu hamna; kitendo ndicho haramu”
In Mombasa, Msanifu Kombo’s brilliance in Kiswahili earned him the nickname Kongowea Mswahili. One day he was invited to give an educational speech at Suwerwa. On his way he met an old man called Mzee Kazikwisha.
The old man insisted that Kongowea had to go to his house, and he obliged.It was odd that this man he had never met had so much to share about his own personal affairs.
When he showed Kongowea a spot in his piece of land it was more bewildering. He asked where he asked Kongowea to bury him upon death.
Later, Mzee Kazikvisha died. Msanifu Kombo realized that the man was his father. His real name was Juma Mukosi. A renowned author and lecturer at Kiswahili University in Nairobi.
And oh, Kongowea Mswahili married Vumilia Binti Abdalla.
That is what Ken Walibora did to me and to you.He gave us a front row ticket to a beautiful theater to watch the film of the self-discovery of a young man who, on his way to the peak of success, scarred his knees and tore his heart, but kept his sights on the ultimate prize.
I’ll never forget to listen to a young Ken Walibora on KBC Idhaa ya Taifa.Him alongside Leonard Mambo Mbotela, he was thrown into Kenya soccer commentary.
Football fans in those days knew Mambo Mbotela, Nick Okanga Naftaly, Billy Omara, Jack Oyoo Sylverster and Ali Salim Omanga ‘s voice. Ken was unique, he was different.
He projected a calm aura and an unparalleled poise. Despite Gor Mahia’s Bonaventure Maruti scoring a wonder goal against Chemilil Sugar.
Kamusi Changamka on Nation FM is arguably one of the best shows to have graced the Kenyan radio space.
Call it showboating. Ken Walibora’s display of Kiswahili mastery in an educative and entertaining manner is something I will never forget. Oh, and don’t you miss Munene Nyaga and Ustadh Walla Bin Walla!
Ken Walibora is dead and gone. May Ken’s family will have the strength and grace in this time of sorrow. I add my faith to their belief. Ken Walibora is at peace and doing what he does to teach others using Kiswahili as best as possible.
I also pray for the matatu driver whose recklessness has killed Ken.
My hope is that he will now understand the sadness which his action has brought about. For a while our tears will cry a river as it stings to death.
Fare thee well Ken Walibora