Kimani sat in the dock waiting to hear his fate. When the judge said, “Will the accused please stand up to hear the verdict of the court,” Kimani stood up in his ill fitting suit and faced the judge. The judge continued, “After listening to the evidence from the witnesses, I am convinced you are guilty of the crimes of smuggling and selling blood diamonds from Sierra Leone. I sentence you to life in prison so it may be a deterrent to others like you how think they can use their positions in employment to conduct illegal activities.”
Kimani looked at his lawyer in shock, then at his family who were sitting in the viewing section of the courtroom. His mother and sister were weeping and wailing and his father and brother were doing their best to comfort them.
Njoroge, his former best friend, workmate and betrayer, was comforting Kimani’s fiancée. His arms were around her as he herded her towards the door. He paused as he reached the door, turned around and smiled at Kimani who watched Njoroge walk out of the courtroom as he; the innocent dupe in a grand international smuggling ring, stood, bewilderment on his face, in chains.
Kimani grew up in a small village in Nyeri. His family did not have much money but they lived a modest life. Kimani was bright and he did well in school. In high school he joined the aviation club and learnt how to fly planes. After school he got a scholarship to study aeronautical engineering. He passed with flying colors and worked with different organizations before he landed a position as a flight engineer with an international firm that specialized in transporting goods all over the continent.
Kimani was excited because the money was very good. The plane would have just him and the pilot dropping and picking goods. Kimani had worked on the required flight hours to qualify as a registered pilot. In case of an emergency, he could also land a plane.
Kimani met Njoroge at his new job where Njoroge was the pilot and Kimani the engineer/co-pilot. Njoroge was from a prominent family. He had studied at high cost schools and was earning a huge salary. “I like the small planes because they offer more flexibility in terms of work hours, I have more free time for my family business most of the time,” he explained to Kimani.
Njoroge taught Kimani everything he needed to know about flying the small planes that and he would sometimes let Kimani pilot the plane.
As time went by, Kimani was able to fulfill all requirements and got his pilot’s license. Njoroge would let him to fly while he relaxed. They became firm friends and before long, Njoroge was inviting Kimani to exclusive events where the high and mighty were present. Kimani and Njoroge started hanging out together regularly. They would hit the town and party over weekends when they were not working. Njoroge seemed to be known by everyone who was anyone.
From time to time, Njoroge would ask Kimani to help him carry his bags or through customs and give it to a specific customs officer. He explained that he was carrying gifts for his family and he did not want to be hassled by the customs officer. He said that he wanted Njoroge to help him because it would raise suspicion if it was noted that was he always went to the same customs officer. Sometimes though, he would send Kimani with his bags and tell him he could go to any customs official.
After Kimani had worked for about six months Njoroge asked him what his plans were. Kimani told him that he hoped to get married to his girlfriend from the village who had just completed her degree in commerce. He told Njoroge that he was helping her look for a job in Nairobi. Kimani also told him that he was trying to save some money so that he could set up a business for his brother and sister so that they could be stop depending on him.
Njoroge told Kimani that maybe he could help. “I know many people, just send me her to CV” he said. Njoroge was impressed by Njeri’s qualifications – she had graduated with a first class degree. He told Kimani to tell Njeri to come to Nairobi for an interview in his company.
Njoroge was struck by Njeri’s beauty. She was soft also spoken but aggressive. He offered her a job as his personal assistant which she accepted after consulting Kimani
with that problem out of the way, Kimani focused on making money to build a business for his siblings. One day, Njoroge returned from a flight and called Kimani who was on leave to his house. When he got to Njoroge’s house, Njoroge had a bottle of champagne on ice and he looked very happy.
“Kimani today is your lucky day. I just concluded some family business in Sierra Leone and made good money. I want to give you a loan so that you can start your siblings’ business. You can pay me in a year’s time. There’s no hurry. I have money to burn and I don’t need it in a hurry.” He threw a bag at Kimani.
When Kimani opened the counted dollars that were the equivalent of 800,000 Kenya shillings. He protested that that was too much money but Njoroge told him it was okay as long as he paid it back.
Please don’t tell anyone I lent you money. You know how guys are at the office. They will think I am the World Bank. This is between the two of us, don’t even tell Njeri.” Kimani agreed too stunned to think.
The next morning, he deposited the money in the bank. Then he called his siblings and asked them to come to Nairobi. Within two months he had set up a business that imported and sold clothes and jewelry which he brought in from all over Africa in the course of his duties.
Kimani was a happy man. All that was wedding was his wedding. It was three months away. As these thoughts ran through his mind, Kimani was getting ready to land. They had just flown in from Sierra Leone with Njoroge and he was looking forward to spending some quality time with Njeri. In fact he was carrying her engagement ring which he had just bought. Everything was going like a dream.
Kimani and Njoroge disembarked and were picking their bags when Njoroge’s phone rang. He asked Kimani to wait for him as he moved away to talk on the phone. When he came back, he looked upset. He gave Kimani one of his bags and told him to go ahead with it, he was coming. He had left something on the plane that he was supposed to give to Mutiso the customs officer.
Kimani took the bag together with his and headed for the customs desk. When he got there, there was a new man at the desk, Kimani asked for Mutiso . The Immigration officer said, “Mutiso is not here, I am on duty today. Open the bags and let me see what’s inside.”
Kimani gave him the bags and looked around the small airport terminal. There was an eerie silence. It seemed the airport was filled with silent strangers. He wondered where everyone else was.
The immigration officers finished with his bags and then opened the one belonging to Njoroge. He went through it thoroughly and pulled out a small bag from the bottom of the bag. He opened it and poured out the contents.
He picked up a phone and made a call. “I have found them. I have found the stones; they were in the flight engineer’s bag. Come quickly,” he said.
Kimani was stunned. What was going on he wondered? Before he could recollect his thoughts, there were two airport police at his side.
Alarmed, he protested, “it’s not my bag. I am carrying it for my friend Njoroge the pilot. It’s all a misunderstanding. Please call him, he will explain”. The policemen shrugged their shoulders, handcuffed him and led him to an interrogation room.
Kimani was forcefully seated on a cracked plastic seat and told to wait. About ten minutes later, a white guy in an expensive Italian suit walked in. He had a name tag written Inspector Matthews, international crimes, Interpol.
Inspector Matthews sat opposite Kimani and said, “Mr. Kimani, you have been found trying to smuggle blood diamonds from Sierra Leone. We have been under observation for a while and finally we have caught you. Do you have anything to say?
Kimani told him, “I am innocent. That bag belongs to the pilot. He gave it to me to carry. Ask him. It’s not mine.” The inspector nodded to one of the policemen. He left the room and returned with Njoroge and the bag Kimani had been carrying. Matthews gestured to Njoroge, “is this him?” Kimani nodded.
Matthews turned to Njoroge and said, “Mr. Kimani is alleging that the bag is yours. What do you have to say about that?” Njoroge with an easy smile said, “He’s lying that’s not my bag. If it is mine then it should have my things in it. Let’s open the bag and see what’s in it.”
Matthews gestured for the bag to be opened. A suit of flight clothes in a laundry bag was removed, cologne, and some magazines. Kimani’s heart sank when he saw the magazines had a subscription label with his name. How he wondered had landed in Njoroges bag.
He cheered up momentarily when he realized they were going to open the laundry bag zip. He knew he did not have any missing suit. This will prove my innocence, he thought. When they brought out the suit his smile faded. On the breast pocket in embroidered gold thread was the name Kimani, Flight Engineer. Kimani finally realized Njoroge had set him up to take the fall. Kimani figured that the immigration officer had tipped Njoroge about the crackdown at the airport and gone into hiding.
When Njoroge saw the dawning realization on kimani’s face he smiled. Looking at the inspector, Njoroge said “as you can see there is nothing of mine in that bag. Am sorry my friend has been caught up in this smuggling business but it has been proven that nothing of mine is in the bag. You have checked my bags and found nothing unusual. Can I be permitted to go? You know where to find me!” the inspector looked at him then told him that he could go.
Kimani was left in the room with the inspector. “Mr. Kimani do you have anything to say about the diamonds. It would be easier and better for you if you told us the truth,” Matthews said. Kimani looked at Matthews straight in the eye and said, “Inspector, I know what the evidence suggests but I am innocent. I have been set up. Except for the magazines and suit, nothing else is mine. I don’t even know how they got there. You have captured the wrong guy.” Matthews looked at Kimani thoughtfully and said, “We will see,” then he left the room.
Kimani was manhandled by the two policemen and taken into a waiting Land Rover where he was stashed in the boot. He was taken to Nyayo House for interrogation. Word was out about the prestigious flight engineer who had been caught with blood diamonds and reporters and cameramen jostled to take picture of Kimani before he was whisked into the building.
Kimani was transferred to Kamiti Maximum Prison after being interrogated by Interpol and the local police. His family visited him and engaged one of the prominent lawyers to defend him. Life was not too bad in the prison because two of his cousins who were in remand for armed robbery ensured he was not harassed.
Njeri came to see him a week later. “Sorry I couldn’t come earlier. It was very busy in the office with reporters calling to ask Njoroge for a statement. Njoroge told me everything. How could you accuse him of being involved? He is rich. Why would he need to smuggle diamonds. Please tell the truth and they will go easy on you.” Kimani could not believe what she was saying. He just looked at her and did not utter a word. She looked disgusted. After looking him up and down as if trying to see what she had seen in him, she walked out.
She never visited again. Instead, she sent his siblings with food and brief notes in which she explained that she still loved him but was busy.
After two months Kimani was arraigned in court. Evidence against him included a deposit for 800,000 Kenya shillings in his account. In court he pleaded not guilty and the trial dated was to be in three months time. The judge denied him bail based on the fact that he was a pilot and flight engineer and he had money. “there is reason to believe that the accused is a flight risk so I deny bail” said the judge in his summary.
Kimani realized that things were really bad and he might be convicted for a crime he did not commit. He was taken back to Kamiti.
The next day, the Interpol agent visited him. Inspector Matthews looked at Kimani across a scarred wooden table. He said “I have a feeling that you are innocent or are a very small pawn in this game. I want to help you so help me help you. Is there anything you can tell me that can help me tie Njoroge to this thing. You do know Njoroge’s family have lobbied their ‘important’ friends including the politicians and the police and they are planning to bribe the judge. So if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life in prison you need to give me information. I am trying to investigate but the police are stonewalling me.”
Kimani told him that the only thing he knew that could link Njoroge to the diamonds was the missing immigration officer. Matthews told Kimani that he would leave his number with his brother so that he could get in touch if he remembered anything. “I am leaving the country but will be back for the trial. Let me know if you remember anything significant before then.”
Three months later, Kimani was taken to court. He had not had anything about the whereabouts of the immigration officer and had given up any hope of convincing the court that he was innocent. He heard rumors that the policemen who had arrested him had been bribed by Njoroge to say that he had even been found with drugs in his possession.
Kimani was praying for a miracle, that Interpol would present new evidence that would clear him. Yet at the back of his mind he was aware that like most prisoners from humble backgrounds, from the village and no connections, or money to corrupt the officers concerned, he had no hope of getting out. As he listened to all the evidence against him, he realized that if he had read those facts in the newspaper about someone else, he would have presumed they were guilty. Kimani wanted to scream ‘am innocent’ but he knew at this point all was lost.
The trial took four months to conclude. Kimani knew that there were only two people who could prove that he was telling the truth. One had disappeared and the other was his friend who was framing him. “How could I have trusted him so completely? I should have asked questions. Now it’s too late!” he thought.
When the judge asked Kimani to stand to hear the judgment of the court, Kimani braced himself for the worst as he stood. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment at Naivasha Maximum Prison. Kimani was shocked. He watched without expression as his family and friends cried. Njoroge walked out with Njeri hand in hand. At the door he turned and smiled at Kimani.
Kimani was allowed to see his family before being transported to Kamiti where he would spend a week before being taken to Naivasha with other prisoners. He hugged his family and as he left, his brother handed him his bible. He was grateful though he wondered how I can read God’s word when he has abandoned me.
Back in his cell Kimani opened the bible and flipped the pages. He saw yellow post-it’s on which he had written verses and things to do. Discouraged he asked God, “how can one fall down so far so fast?” When he was about to close the bible he saw a note with a name and location. He tried remembering why he had written that name, and then it clicked.
“Lord thank you, thank you for answered prayers. I finally have something that can help me.” Excited he asked another prisoner for a pencil and started jotting notes. His hope restored, he went to his cousins who managed to get him a cell phone. He called his brother and told him to call inspector Matthew and ask him to come see Kimani. Kimani slept well for the first time since he was arrested.
The next morning Matthews came to see him. After greetings Kimani excitedly told him, “Mutiso the immigration guy, I know where to find him or rather how you can find him. Njoroge covered his tracks very well. There is nowhere I can incriminate him. Mutiso, on the other hand did not expect to ever be caught. He used to ask me for a lift sometimes when we were really late getting to the airport. There were certain houses in Eastleigh where he used to go.
“there was a time the airport was swarmed with VIPs so he couldn’t leave with the bag Njoroge had sent me with. He gave me a number, an address and a name where I would deliver the bag and a number of the person I was to give the package. I guess he thought Njoroge had told me what was going on so I was safe. I have written everything I can remember on the last page of the bible.” Kimani had been speaking so rapidly he ran out of breath. Kimani paused and asked Mathew, “can you help me? This is the only chance I have to prove my innocence.”
Matthew looked at Kimani. “I will see what I can do. This information would have been critical before you were convicted. It won’t be easy but don’t worry I will follow it up myself. I can’t trust the police not to leak this information. If I find out anything I will be in touch with your brother and lawyer.”
As he shook KImani’s hand before he left, Mathew said, “I have bad news though. You probably don’t know this but Njoroge and Njeri announced their engagement this morning. They are getting married in a month’s time. I thought you might like to know.”
Kimani was numb. For a while he could not think or understand. Of all the things Njoroge had done this hurt the most. He could not believe that Njeri, the woman he loved could betray him with his worst enemy to boot. Kimani was crushed. He walked back to his cell a broken man. His girlfriend’s betrayal managed what prison had failed to do to him.
Kimani was transferred to Naivasha maximum prison. Although his family had come every day to visit him and encourage him there was no word from Matthews. He had confided to his brother on what Mathews was working on but told him not to tell anyone else in the family. When Kimani arrived at Naivasha he quickly located his cousins’ contacts and once again, he was not harassed.
Matthews still had not contacted Kimani’s brother. Kimani was mentally counting the days to the wedding of Njoroge and Njeri. He fantasized about being set free just before the wedding and bursting in just as the priest asked “is there anyone who objects to this wedding?” then he would walk in and everyone would stare in shock and horror as he said, “I object. This woman is pledged to marry me. I am the innocent one. Lock him up.” Kimani realized that it was a fantasy. Things would never be the same again between him and Njeri. It was over.
Kimani was beginning to lose hope when two days before the wedding, Matthews came to see him. He had a smile and he even hugged Kimani.
“We found Mutiso. He confessed after we nabbed the man whose name and address you had. I used some of my contacts and the matter was hushed up. So your friend doesn’t know yet. We are ready to arrest him. Apparently the deals also involve Njoroge’s father and a few politicians who have been helping him to move the diamonds through diplomatic channels. I just wanted you to know. Obviously you can’t be freed right now. We have to wait until we set up another trial. In a few weeks you will be a free man.”
Kimani expected to feel relief at those words but he didn’t. He felt empty and angry. His life had been ruined by a man he had considered to be his best friend. His name was sullied and he had lost the love of his life. All he wanted now was revenge. He wanted Njoroge to feel the pain and humiliation he had felt.
Kimani said, “Matthews I need a favor.” Matthews leaned over and Kimani told him what he wanted.
The day was bright. The church was beautifully decorated and the cars outside the church showed that this was a wedding of class, no riff raff allowed. The guests were well known individuals from the political, social and entertainment scene. It took an engraved invitation to enter the glittery party.
The bride entered the church and the guests were stunned at how beautiful she was. She wore a white lace dress with crystal beads sown into it. She had a priceless diamond necklace around her neck and diamond eardrops. She looked like Cinderella at the ball. No one looking at her would be able to tell just how far she had come from the village.
When she reached the front, the handsome bridegroom took her hand and kissed it. There were many in the audience who wished at that moment that it was them up there getting married. The couple was looking too hot for words.
The minister read from the word and then asked is there anyone who has reason to declare why this two should not get married. There was a hush. Guests were conscious of the fact that Njeri’s ex-fiancé was in prison. They thought maybe his relatives or friends would try to stop the wedding. There was a collective sign of relief when no one stood or shouted an objection.
The couple then said their vows and went to sign the marriage certificate. As soon as that happened they were brought back to the front of the church and declared man and wife before the congregation. All of this was being televised live on TV to viewers who had wanted to catch a glimpse of this fairy tale wedding. They all thought, “lucky girl.”
The congregants’ private thoughts were suddenly interrupted by stomping boots as a group of policemen burst into church. Leading them was Matthews waving a bunch of papers and a gun. He walked right up to Njoroge and told him, “Mr. Njoroge, you are under arrest for the smuggling and selling of diamonds from Sierra Leone. Also for falsifying evidence against Mr. Kimani. Here is the arrest warrant.”
Njoroge’s fuming father shot up, “How dare you? Do you know who I am? How dare you embarrass my son like this? I will have you deported and I will sue Interpol.” Matthews smiled and said, “Sir I also have a warrant of arrest for you. You have been using your family business to buy and sell illegal gemstones from all over Africa” at this news Njoroge’s dad collapsed and was rushed to hospital. In the ensuing chaos Njeri could be heard screaming, “it can’t be true, it can’t be true. You mean Kimani was innocent? What have I done?
Over the next few weeks, the story made headlines especially after more politicians and businessmen were named and arrested for their involvement in the diamond scandal. Kimani was a hero to many especially those in prison. They applauded him for not giving up the fight for justice.
When he was released after Njoroge’s trial and subsequent life imprisonment, his family threw a party for him in Nyeri. He was trying to enjoy himself and enjoy the nyama choma and beer that he hadn’t tasted for almost a year, when his brother called him aside. “Njeri is here. She wants to talk to you. She is at your house.” Kimani walked to his house. “What do you want?” he asked.
“I came to say that I am sorry. I should have believed in you. I am sorry. Is it possible to start over?” Njeri pleaded.
Kimani coldly told her, “you know what I can’t forgive. You have known me all my life and you choose money over me. I can believe Njoroge fooled you at first; he did the same to me. but for you to forget the man you loved and believe a man you had only known for a few months. That is what I can’t forgive. Anyway aren’t you married? You should be comforting the man you choose. Don’t ever come look for me again. What we had is over. I never want to see you again,” with that he walked out and did not look back even as Njeri sobbed and screamed for him to come back
Njoroge was jailed for life with ten strokes of the cane after evidence was uncovered about different smuggling runs that he had conducted. Unfortunately for him, Kimani’s cousins were waiting for him at Kamiti. He obviously did not have a good time and after his trial he was send to Shimo la Tewa Maximum Prison where he was expected to spend the rest of his natural life.
His father was also convicted and the family business collapsed as his embarrassed wife and daughters ran off to Europe to escape the scandal.
Mutiso was also convicted of several crimes but his sentence was reduced after he testified and gave evidence linking several prominent politicians to the syndicate.
Matthews was given a medal of commendation by Interpol and another by his country. He is somewhere; undercover helping to get information on bad guys that will lead to prosecution.
Njeri was an outcast. No longer accepted in Nyeri and was snubbed by those who had embraced her and her marriage to Njoroge. She moved to Malindi were she is working as a tourist guide to make ends meet.
Kimani is studying law at the University of Nairobi. He realized that when he was in prison there are some innocent but poor prisoners who needed someone to defend and fight for their rights. He is also suing the government for 50 million for wrongful imprisonment and mistreatment of its agents for not investigating his case properly. The case has been adjourned severally but his lawyer Oozy is convinced that in the end, the government will have to settle the case.