Before My Eyes

Nairobi

Milimani Law Courts

March 13, 2002

10:17 a.m.

The court has considered and weighed the aggravating and mitigating circumstances found to exist in this case, bearing in mind that human life is at stake here.
The court finds, as did the jury, that the aggravating circumstances present in this case outweigh the mitigating circumstances present.

It is ordered and adjudged that the defendant, Chris Ombeta, is hereby sentenced to death for the murder of the victim, David Muhoro. As of the offence you have committed is of first degree. The defendant is hereby committed to the custody of the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison for execution of this sentence as provided by law.

Kiambu

Kamiti Maximum Security Prison

Condemn A

April 28, 2025

3:00 a.m.

My limp body leans against the frigid wall. I stare at the small grilled opening at the top part of the wall. It’s the only way I know it’s at night. I have been segregated for twenty three years. A short break of thirty minutes everyday—to breathe, to eat—is what I get. Approximately four thousand, one hundred and ninety seven hours (4,197) is the time I’ve had to remind me that I’m still human. Unlike you who has had approximately two hundred and one thousand, four hundred and eighty hours. (201, 480)

But all that ends today.

It’s torturous and traumatising not knowing whether you’ll meet the noose or not. The pained cries; the eerie silence; the anger outbursts, is hell in itself. For twenty three years I’ve been hanging on a thread. Being on the death row is like being in a desert. The thirst for freedom is fierce. In a bated breath, you wait with an open mouth for just one drop of water. Which in this case the drop of water like freedom is either the Power of Mercy or abolishment of the death penalty, where one can serve a less tough sentence.

Before my eyes is death.

I’m numb and it scares me.

3:35 a.m.

My legs are giving in, I slide down the wall and squat, barely on the floor.

I fumble with the ring on my finger. When I came here, I was five years into marriage. A young and promising one. I unwillingly walked out on my family: a daughter who was still in my wife’s womb at eight months and my wife.

I feared that she would lose the baby. When I was sentenced, a piece of her died. She was utterly broken. Her husband, just like that, was a criminal. A murderer.

I first saw my daughter when she was six years old. Today, my heart does not fail to beat faster whenever I think of that day. The emotion was intense, the crying overwhelming. She had just lost her first tooth and her smile on that day was one to die for.

My wife did not hide her away from me. She made known to our daughter that I was the dad, from the get go. She is not ashamed of me. She is stronger than I am even. Fighting for the both of us, that woman. For better or for worse, she has held on. My woman.

My daughter has my eyes, big eyes. The saucer kind. Her skin is dark like her mother’s. On that day when she came to meet her father for the first time, her mother held her through the window. I did not touch her. Our relationship has been brewed through a window. And that is the hardest, most torturous thing for me as a father. Watching my daughter grow through a window is punishment enough. She turned twenty one last week, and that was the first time I held her.

Well, it was time to say goodbye.

From through a window, we graduated to a small opening through a window. It was better. Limiting but better. I held her hand for the first time. It was a first for us. It was priceless. The emotion, the tears that I shed on that day, were wrenching. I guess that is why I’m numb today. I’ve exhausted the life in me.

It was worse than the day I was passed my sentence. This was not your everyday kind of goodbye.

‘Goodbye. See you tomorrow!’

Or

‘Bye. Nishow ukifika’ (tell me when you arrive)

No. This was, they will kill me and you will not have a place to mourn me, goodbye.

And the last words I told both of them were, “I’m sorry.”

3:45 a.m.

The door to my cell creaks. A torch blinds my vision and I strain to see my new company.

Voice: Kwani umelala? Amka, amka! (Are you asleep? Wake up, wake up!)

I stand up and hiss as my joints stretch. I have a clear look of my company and he is the warder. Not just any other warder, the head of prison, Condemn A. He is dressed in a long black overall and I can see his black boots peering.

He grabs me and turns me to the wall, my back to his front. His protruding belly pokes my once brawn back.

Warder: (tying the rope on my arms) Maneno ya mwisho? (Last words?)

With the state I’m in, I don’t mind his warm and foul breath on my ear. And I don’t give in to his teasing.

He turns me to face him. He looks right into my eyes. We are of the same height, head to head. He holds the gaze, so long, I look away.

A hood is placed over my head.

It is about time.

3:50 a.m.

I did not tell the two women in my life that I was going to die today.

The warder whistles as he walks beside me

I had the chance when they last visited. But I chose not to.

He tightens his grip on my arms.

They should be asleep. My wife should be snoring by now. She is a snorer. I hated it. But I beared. That is what you do when you love someone.

The hood blinds my vision. But I think we are walking through a corridor.

My daughter? I’ve not had the chance to tuck her in bed or watch her sleep, you know.But she once told me she is afraid of the dark. Maybe her lights are on.

He urges me to walk faster. We are running out of time, he says.

They will hate me tomorrow. They will think I betrayed them. I will be long gone but they will still ask me questions.

Why did you not tell us?

How can you be this heartless?

I threw hints at them. I told them to go and live again. Life is too short, I insisted. But all they did was firmly hold my hands, saying they are praying for me. And that I should not think of when they will kill me. Live in the moment, my wife pleaded.

We have stopped walking. A door is opened. It creaks, it has to be a heavy steel door. We walk in.

Kiambu

Kamiti Maximum Security Prison

Execution Chambers – Gallows

April 28, 2025

3:55 a.m.

You live by the gun and die by the gun. This saying was written for people like me. I stabbed a man, if you are curious. You know what beer does to an angry man, a frustrated one, right?

I broke his own bottle and dug it deep in his stomach. Turned it slowly, till blood came out of his mouth. And I did not stop.

He poked an angry lion and it tore him apart. I was something else at that moment but the law does not recognize that.

The devil paid a visit on that day. And I bowed to him.

Another hand grips my arms and walks me away from he that brought me in here.

It is silent. But I feel there are people in here with me. They ought to be accustomed to this. Watching a man’s neck break and his eyes pop out is not a parambulation!

A rope is tied on my neck.

The siren goes off.

4:00 a.m.

And the only thing I do is breathe. One last time.

Because you cannot cheat death.

Featured image courtesy of, Pinterest.

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