Outside the fortified gate and police cordon, troops convened in hurdles, burgeoning by the minute; ordinary folk who wanted to catch a glimpse of the proceedings. Politicians. Animated activists and a horde of journalists; all of them white: jostling to glean word from the slightest of credible sources. It was a stirring cacophony of vocal ranges, the pandemonium growing even more potent. This was a colossal seminal event. The heavy presence of the state mercenary was all but not reassuring of the trajectory the ruling was projected to take. For now, grey ominous clouds hang in the ether.
Inside, folk intuitively rose as the grumpy Caucasian jurist shuffled into the main courthouse, his back slightly hunched, obviously, from old age and not the burden of justice as there wasn’t much to do in the main courts anyway. At his behest, folk – mostly black – religiously perched on their seats, their high fidelity to the skewed law that had for long subjugated them still subservient and profound. Perhaps, somewhere in the horizon hope flickered as other African countries acquired self rule.
Hitherto, accused persons were dealt a heavy hand. Cases were determined at an arbitrary level, albeit slowly, that had begun changing. As atrocities by the colonial government seeped to global light in the 1950’s, the colonial power had started receiving international pressure to forfeit their grasp on Kenya for their inhumane deeds. Gradually things started taking a different course. Sparse cases, most of them high profile, had started seeing their day in court. The proceedings were a perpetual sham, a charade before international scrutiny with all the accused going to the can. The grotesque depiction of progress was akin to pittances thrown at the feet of downtrodden Kenyans to give the semblance of justice.
A few paces away from the judge was a black stenographer in a delightful afro. Somewhere underneath that immense mane was her face. She was one of the few black Kenyans instituted in the court system in a pussyfooted attempt to indulge in the discourse of inclusivity. She churned on a typewriter dutifully, always gazing down at the keyboard like a droid.
The all white jury had deliberated for five days in a case of: Mbui vs The State. It was the longest a deliberation had taken yet. The jurors sat on the right end of the house, grave looks on their faces. Most of the English expatriates always seemed to cast an innate solemn disposition; a little jarring in considering all the rich parcels of land they had usurped from disenfranchised black locals. Most of them were disillusioned by the actual reality of relocating to Africa. They were unnerved, their preconceived notion and depiction of how life was down here had been a far cry of the status quo. Agitated and growing more impatient, most wanted to ship back to Britain.
Intrepid 16-year-old Mbui had allegedly waylaid a white soldier and robbed him of his firearm. After a massive crackdown, an en masse roundup was orchestrated by the authorities in his community, the local homeguards, in tandem with infamous hooded informants picked him out from a police lineup.
A scrawny Mbui, now a pale shadow of his former self, sat in a small enclosed steel cage to the side, dehumanised, stripped of his dignity and honour but somehow – yet more exuberant than the white people in the segregated courtroom. His once salient dreadlocks were cut off, head painfully shaven to the scalp. Sporadically, underneath the veil of adversity that hounded him he mockingly flashed smirks from behind the corroding rails. His fate was sealed and he knew it, it wouldn’t hurt to irk the white judge a few times before his verdict was read.
Joito, Mbui’s counsel, a stout clean shaven debonair man, was the first black accredited lawyer in the country. He resolutely sat beside the cage on a lone chair. He had astutely made his case as a defence lawyer notwithstanding the overt contempt the judge fostered for him. Occasionally, the few white people went against the grain and stamped their feet to acknowledge his chops during the hearing. All this while, the grouchy judge had swiveled his seat to face the wall not wanting to look into the eyes of the black lawyer. The foothold the imperial power had on the country’s neck was ebbing away and it was gruelling for him.
“With all the pertinent parties present I will proceed to declare the verdict,” the judge growled.
Wincing his mole-laden face on a sheaf of papers he beckoned at one policeman who strutted to him. For a few minutes, a few mummers ensued. The prosecution lawyer also approached the judge as they went back and forth in unperceivable cooing. One juror cut a grin and almost promptly the judge swiveled his chair to the wall anew. The people present paused with bated breaths. Swiftly, the judge swiveled his chair back to the wall and everything descended into stillness, proverbial eloquent silence.
“Not guilty,” the judge nonchalantly declared.
The black people inside erupted into a brouhaha, embracing and kissing. Some even broke into tears. This was an unprecedented ruling. Word got out and the ripple effect was even more fervent outside the courtroom, the throngs burst out in unbridled hysteria. The spiteful police dematerialized, perchance, dispirited that they won’t be breaking some bones. A palpable cloud of red dust rose into the ether, even that didn’t deter the revelry that was afoot. The crowd was exuberant.
Joito ambled out and the crowd heaved him up. Launching him into the air and briskly hoisting him back up as soon as he landed on their arms. Journalists exerted to get a word from him to no fruition. The furore had just started. It was a smorgasbord of glee that would for a long time be etched onto the minds of those present and those who followed the proceedings.
Soon after, the colonial power toppled, ceded to pressure and local social movements over the call for independence. Petrified of retribution over their diabolical actions most whites opted to repatriate back to their country. It was a new dawn and things began to look up.