You’ve probably heard it before.If you haven’t you are about to. Somewhere west of this sovereign nation of Kenya lives a people within hills not high enough to be mountains; but low enough to be highlands. There at the bosom of these hills, a tribe called Abagusii dwells, calm and composed. It goes by intact in its state, almost indifferent, like it had no other choice but to be what it is, where it is. Yours truly happens to hail from there. Yeah, someone played pinky pinky ponky and that is where the finger pointed- also not much of a choice.
While we are known for many things, one subject persists, it is almost always the conversation starter whenever you introduce yourself as a Kisii to strangers – strangers who either honestly want to confirm the rumor, or those who pretend not to have met any of your kind before; just to roast you. Just to see the look of denial on your face. Most of those who ask are the latter. For some ill-informed reason the question: ”Is it true you people run at night and eat dead people?” should be good enough for an ice-breaker the moment a stranger realizes you are a Mogaka or Nyaboke. The nerve of some people! Now with the powers vested upon me by… uh, forget it. While I may not be in perfect shape to…wait, I am in perfect shape. While I may lack the capacity to make logic out of the cannibalism part because – and here is the perfect excuse – I do not pursue biology as neither a major nor a minor, I would like to hard-headedly broach the subject of night-running. Why? Because it is fun. And fun is good.
That we engage our heels in the devilish hours of the night with no flair or decorum is an open secret. It is out there in the public domain. The press knows, the masses know, your landlord knows, heck, maybe he partakes too. We intentionally get out of clothes in the dead of night when the cold is biting to the marrow and without smearing any petroleum jelly on our birthday suits we suit ourselves (Should I drop the mic, err, keyboard already?) We take to the streets… Ahem! The village trails so to speak, solo or in groups, and paint them black(er). Speaking of groups, in this era of Whatsapp groups, for everything; I will not be surprised to learn night-runners have theirs too. No one wants to be left behind these days. That is why you should be careful not to eagerly shout “Praise the Lord” to that friend of yours in a group dubbed “Kuna nuru gizani”, because you never know. Unless confirmed otherwise of course. Be even more careful with that one in a group called “The Night’s watch” masquerading as huge fans of Game of Thrones. We know your ways.
Banter aside, we run. We do it half-naked or truly naked-the haves and the have-nots alike. I dare say mostly the have-nots because who will you be fooling that you are doing the dark practice of night-running through the leafy suburbs of Kitisuru with all those manicured lawns, German dogs and chandeliered street lights?
Sometimes we pull off dramatic stunts while at it, a little icing on the cake if you may, by say, peeing on doorsteps or going all the way commando-if you know what I mean. Other theatrics include stone-throwing on roofs – the iron mabati work best in this scenario – doing somersaults, producing weird sounds or doing a jig or two to a tune in our heads. Just like pay-tv stations there are packages, from free-to-air which is for amateurs who are still learning the ropes to the premium package that comes with experience and a wider scope of activities which may or may not extend to the cannibalism topic that I so cleverly avoided in the first paragraph.
After shoddy research here are the reasons I came up with for why we night-run:
We are a shy people.
The limelight is not meant for us. Have you seen our political arena? Do we have a political arena to begin with? Here’s a quick test (for non-Kisii). Count to three and name the first Kisii politician that comes to mind. If you named Matiang’i you are wrong because that is a cabinet secretary and last I checked those do not have political affiliations. Ever since Simeon Nyachae and Sam Ongeri, our political compass with regard to the high offices of power has been dancing at south. Maybe we are shy. Maybe we are afraid of people seeing us and that is why instead of running for office in the day of light we run at night.
We are that sibling who has a bigger sister who is prettier, brighter in class, more charismatic, knows how to hold small talk and maintain eye contact at the same time and that, every boy likes. We are living in the shadows of a greater force and much as we appreciate ‘big siz’ because she gives us reason to brag; we silently wish we were her. I am talking about our friends from Rift Valley who have made a good name and fortune out of running, even at night (but at the Olympics) while no one acknowledges our own sprinting. If we ran during the day they will laugh at our gawkiness, so we keep it 100% nightshift. Low self-esteem does actually drive people to dark places literally!
The devil is a liar.
Yes he is! We were last in line when fancy cultural practices were being dished out. When other people’s cultural ‘flaws’ entail the bride having to pay the bride price and not the groom we had to take the ‘yuck’ version. Worse still is that this dark practice is passed from generation to another yet what is supposed to be passed on is the Gospel truth. What we need is the Lord Jesus Christ because the devil is indeed a liar.
We are too busy during the day
How else do you think we get to grow all those bananas you enjoy so much?
P.S. I do not run at night, unless a dog is chasing me or I’m chasing after a dog that took my food. The “we” is a P.R thing. I rest my case.