"My brother did not like girls with big hips."
These were the words of Janet Wangari, sister of Kelvin Kariuki Gitonga who was killed in the Dusit attack in Nairobi on Tuesday last week.
Wangari was eulogising her brother, 28, who died together with five other colleagues who worked for Cellulant Corporation. He was easygoing and independent-minded.
Mourners laughed through their tears.
Relatives and families of the victims flocked to Citam Valley Road in Nairobi to pay tribute to Gitonga, Winfred Kareithi, John Wanyaga, Jeremia Mathai, Dennis Munene and Ashford Maina.
"He was jovial and always calm no matter the situation. He rarely followed the multitude and you had to be very convincing to make him change his mind," Wangari said weeping.
"We have grown up together and we got so connected. My brother didn’t like girls with big hips and the day I joined Form 1 he advised me not to be lured into being a bad girl due to peer pressure. His only concern was my size and he told me not to develop big hips like those other girls."
Gitonga and the five other Cellulant victims are among 21 young Kenyans who lost their lives following the 14 Riverside Drive attack.
The service started at 10am after Cabinet Secretary for ICT Joe Mucheru arrived.
As the mourners, mostly in black, sang a song of comfort and hope, the families walked in, one by one, lit candles and then made their way to their seats.
There was a moment of silence and prayer.
One by one, families paid tribute, described their agony — and their anger.
They said dark cloud was hanging over them.
Cellulant co-founder and CEO Ken Njoroge called the six courageous who would undertake any mission.
“There are no words to capture our sadness and our heartbreak in losing our six brothers and colleagues. They fought a good fight, a fight that has brought hope and meaning to millions of Africans across the continent,” Njoroge said.
They walked downstairs to the first floor where Dennis and colleagues were hiding. The terrorists saw their shadows. They walked straight to them and shot at them.
"Luckily the woman with them survived because they all shielded her. When the terrorists came to confirm the deaths, the woman had smeared blood on herself, which saved her life," Njoroge said.
“Let us look at January 15 not as a day we lost our brothers through an act of cowardice meant to instil fear, instead let it be a day we exalt them,” Njoroge said.
Agnes Makumi said Ashord Maina was a logical thinker with encyclopaedic knowledge.
She said though he disliked washing dishes and folding clothes, he ensured all was perfectly done.
“My nephew died because he wanted all his colleagues out of the building," Makumi said.
Ashford, 36, was planning his wedding.
“Ash, your work was not in vain," a colleague said.
Dennis Munene, 29, was described as a curious, an explorer, strategic thinker and exemplary leader.
Eng Peter Njagi his uncle said Munene always made him laugh and brought joy to the entire family. He was a tech guru.
“I would still say I do, if I am given that chance to be with you. You joked and pranked me. You moulded yourself into that perfect guy for me. You brought so much joy to me and our child. Why you, my love, why this early,” the widow of Jeremia Mathai, 31, said.
Charles Njiru, who paid tribute on behalf of the family, termed Jeremia as the go-to person.
“Jere made us dream big and achieve big. He challenged us to find better ways of doing things and we trusted him with our dreams. He always attributed his success to God,” a tribute from colleagues read.
John Wanyaga 29, well known as Mutts, used to crack dark jokes that left everyone laughing.
“If you wanted to laugh or you had a bad day, the Mutts would be the guy,” his sister said.
Wanyaga is said to have had a good mastery of the Sheng language that left his colleagues puzzled.
“There are so many memories of Mutts, from the day he joined the quality assurance department as an intern, the day he met his dear wife, the several road trips we made together. In setting, John always took the role of the person who made sure that everyone and everything was okay,” his colleagues said in a tribute.
Kelvin Gitonga 28, is described as a jovial guy who believed that technology would change the world.
He is said to have been working on a project to assemble an electric bike because he wanted to become more efficient.
“He had placed an order of bike parts and the day it arrived he was the happiest. His spirits were high on that day and we wish he would live to see his dreams come true,” a tribute from colleagues read.
Wilfred Kareithi, 23 years old is said to have physically tussled with the attackers on the 7th floor to save his friends.
It is said his courage is what distracted the attackers from finding the others who were hiding in the next toilet.
Michael Muriuki said Kareithi was always energetic and enthusiastic.
He said his brother had grown up to be admired by many.
Being our last born, I watched him grow into a man he was always happy and never shied away from any challenge.
Wilfred fondly known as chief is described by his colleagues as cheerful and helped unconditionally.
He is said to have been helpful to the interns who joined their department until he was branded ‘group head of interns’.
“Apart from his love for computers, he loved cars and superbikes. Every time he was asked why he did what he did, he would always say,’that is just me, that is how I was raised,” Ken Lisudsa, a colleague said.’