NYERI, Kenya, Feb 19 – With a limping leg and a walking crutch, Wahinya Wa Boore is no longer active like he used to be in his heyday when he challenged the authoritarian rule of Kenya’s second President, the late Daniel Arap Moi.
Most of his life is now confined in the village, where he watches the sunrise and set, while looking after his goats and cows in rural Nyeri.
When not at home, he is at the Nyeri Level 5 hospital, for his scheduled hospital visits.
Age is fast catching up with a man regarded as a living legend in his Miagagu-Ini village, in Kimathi Sub-location- the home of renowned freedom fighter Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi who was sentenced by the colonial government and later hanged at the Kamiti Maximum Prison where his body is believed to have been buried at a secret location.
While everything depicts an aging man, Boore’s memory remains sharp and can almost recall every day of the 6 years he spent in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, for the role he was accused in the 1982 attempted coup.
The pain is still fresh for the torture he underwent while in incarceration at the Nyayo torture chambers for 46 days “with my feet under the water.”
“I wanted to die,” he said, echoing words I first heard from him in February 18, 2020, when we met at the torture chambers in Nairobi.
When he was arrested and jailed, he was a student at the Kenyatta University- then a constituent college of the University of Nairobi (UoN).
“This is the environment that made me who I am today,” a thrilled Boore told Capital FM crew, during an interview at his home last week. He was happy that someone was going to tell his story.
And just like in his personal life, a lot has changed in his village and so is in the country that is modern Kenya.
“When I grew up, all this area was a forest. We used to graze in open fields, but that is not possible now because of the subdivision of land,” he narrated of golden memories of his childhood.
But his 60 years have not been smooth, he said, and more so after he joined other Kenyans in the 1980’s to agitate for change in the country.
Decades later, he has nothing to show in terms of material wealth, other than a rich legacy.
A legacy that he earned through ‘making noise’ against social ills committed against Kenyans by the government.
“I never missed in the list of noisemakers in Primary school. I was a naughty boy,” with a wide smile on his face, he says of his school life in Karuna-Ini Primary School.
He then quickly clarifies that he was more of “industrious than just a naughty boy.”
“My teachers had hoped to contain me by appointing me as a class prefect, but it didn’t last for more than a day. I had an all-girls list of noisemakers.”
-Ngugi wa Thiong’o ‘opened’ his eyes-
His struggle for a better Kenya started when he joined the University in 1979, where he actively engaged in students’ politics.
It is a zeal that was triggered by iconic novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s lecture as a first-year student.
“He told us that we had gone there (to the University) to explore ways of making this country better and to open up our minds,” he narrated an interview with Capital FM’s Joseph Muraya and Sam Wanjohi.
Thiong’o warned them that any “inaction” on their part, will make them suffer in future.
Years later, he said, “those words still linger in my mind. They formed the basis of my struggle.”
It is Jeff Mwangi, a friend he met on his first day in the University that introduced him to philosophical and other revolutionary books.
“With time, I learnt to question everything. If you are told this is a stone, you don’t have to accept. It can be a weapon to you…it all depends with how you see it,” he said.
Some of his best books, he recalls, were the The Negro Travelers’ Green Book by Victor Hugo Green and several others by Thiong’o.
“I started reading philosophical and revolutionary books,” he said. “Ngugi words really opened up my mind.”
It is a path that he chose, and one that he believes cost the life of his brother and mother- who both developed health complications, fearing for his life.
“We wanted him to tone down since it was becoming too much for the family,” his elder sister, Wanja Boore, said of their fourth brother.
With a smile, she said “we warned him that if he gets arrested again, we will never go to visit him at the prison.”
And even when he was arrested, his friend, Kamotho Mwai, from a neighbouring village said “I saw it coming.”
“Wahinya was very vocal and aggressive. He openly spoke about the rights of all Kenyans specifically the university students, who were more than often being misused by the government.”
“We owe him a big gratitude as a country. Thanks to what Wahinya and others did, we can now talk freely and even openly support or oppose anything,” the father of three said of a friend he first met in Nairobi in 1980.
Wahinya would go to his house for sleep-overs since he was already in formal employment.
Interestingly, Waihinya said he drew most of support from his mother, who while she developed high blood pressure worrying over him, supported his ideals.
“She used to encourage me a lot,” he said, holding a cross on his mother’s graveyard.
-Betrayed by former Comrades-
Both her sister Wanja and best friend Kamotho believe he deserves better in life and so does he.
Like dozens of freedom and second liberation heroes, Wahinya has nothing to hold on to other than memories.
Decades later, anger consumes his soul and has vowed not to ever forgive his tormentors.
From Moi to those who did the actual beatings, Wahinya said “I will never forgive them.”
“Let me take this anger to the grave,” he said, with his striking teary eyes.
While he is cagey about everything that happened at that Nyayo torture chambers, he admits “it was hell on earth.”
But it is the betrayal by his colleagues, some in high political positions, that hurts him most.
“Why can’t they push the government to compensate us as directed by the court?” he poses.
The 46 Days of Torture is a feature documenting Wahinya Wa Boore, a second liberation hero who lost everything while fighting for his country. In part two of this story, we reveal the actual date the military had planned to overthrow President Moi’s government and Boore’s role.