Petals of the Sun: Tribute to the comrades KU lost

The university community is grappling with a profound sense of disbelief and sorrow

In Summary

• This tragedy reminds all of the fragile thread that binds humanity together

Students from the School of Health Sciences of Kenyatta University follow proceedings during the memorial service of their 11 colleagues who died in a road accident on Monday at Maungu in Voi on March 24
Students from the School of Health Sciences of Kenyatta University follow proceedings during the memorial service of their 11 colleagues who died in a road accident on Monday at Maungu in Voi on March 24

In Kenyatta University, a profound sense of grief still envelopes the air following the loss of several comrades a fortnight ago. As the semester approaches its end, the atmosphere is heavy with sorrow.

Hearts still reel from the devastating news that struck like lightning on a serene Monday morning, like any other last month.

A group of 58 bright souls, students from the School of Public Health, embarked on an academic trip with aspirations, only to have their hopes dashed in an instant.

Along the treacherous Mombasa-Nairobi highway, in the vicinity of Maungu, Voi, Taita Taveta County, tragedy unfolded as our bus collided with a trailer, leaving behind a trail of devastation.

Eleven promising lives, vibrant with dreams and potential, were extinguished in the blink of an eye, their names etched now into the annals of sorrow: Navile Opiyo, Beneas Otieno, Hellen Kisilu, Michael Muteti, Vallary Ouma, Oslo Mwendwa, Felix Nyaata, Austine Owino, Rodger Rono, John Mureithi and Patricia Mwangi.

In the wake of such profound loss, the university community is grappling with a profound sense of disbelief and sorrow. Faculty, students and staff alike find themselves united in mourning, their hearts heavy with the weight of collective grief.

For a university popular with the youth, that serves as a beacon of knowledge, this tragedy strikes at our core, our ethos, reminding all of the fragile thread that binds humanity together.

Since the fateful day to last week, the bodies of the departed found their temporary resting place at the Kenyatta University morgue, before heading to their respective homesteads for the final rites of farewell.

A solemn, elaborate farewell was accorded them by the entire varsity fraternity. Yet wounds inflicted by this tragedy remain raw and unhealed. This is a semester that has carved sorrow in our hearts.

In the midst of this darkness, poetry emerges as a sunshine of solace, offering a glimmer of light in the shadow of despair. Taunted by grief, and as a don and poet, domiciled in this affected varsity, may my words below serve as a balm for the wounded humanity here?

Through verse, let’s find a sanctuary for our sorrow, a space where we may honour the memory of those we have lost and find solace in the beauty of their legacy.

Through the power of language, may we find voice to the ineffable pain that resides within us, to honour the memory of the departed, and to find the sunshine of hope amidst the darkness of accidents?

Let them awaken all the stakeholders to ensure our roads are safer and safest as our students engage in their final exams with a view of travelling back to their homesteads for the long holidays.


Fare Thee Well, Young Comrades

On plains of red soil, in shadows of baobabs

I stand, a teacher, with bowed head.

Before me lies a student, eyes in shock and dead

A crash scene, now her bed!


I am out of mind; a wanderer, lost,

In the depths of grief, where memories exhaust.

Philosophy whispers, in the winds so kind,

But answers elude, as questions bind.


The road to knowledge, fraught with pain,

Yet ignorance, too, bears its stain.

What price for wisdom, what toll to pay,

In the wake of tragedy, on this fateful day?


Death, not our kin, yet here it stands,

Claiming lives with steely hands.

I mourn KU students, their dreams untold,

Their journey cut short, on red tarmac, spread.


At the crossroads of fate, I stand forlorn

In the aftermath, where echoes groan.

Lecture halls empty, seats unfilled,

A void that lingers, grief distilled.


Oh! Death, what have you done,

To tear apart the lives we've spun?

I am confused, I am out of my mind,

In the land of pain, where teeth grind.


But still, I am here, a poem in our sigh,

Wingless bird, in the skies




(After Catallus 101)


Fellow comrades, with anguish we depart,

Leaving behind our cherished bodies.

In realms unseen, our souls take flight,

Beyond skies of darkest night.


No more shall we share laughter in the mess,

Nor feel the warmth of each embrace.

Gone are the days of KU delights,

Lost now, to the shadows of endless nights.


Yet, in your hearts, let memories dwell,

Of moments shared, too brief to tell.

Though fate has torn us far apart,

Know, comrades, you're still in our spirit.


So, hail and farewell, in love we part,

Till destiny unites our souls once more,

up so high, in that eternal hut!


Machungu Maungu! - the Song of Agony

(For drivers of A104 and A2)

Where old baobabs weep,

there fog veils our sight,

The road coils like a serpent,

in the dimming light.

Long and narrow,

it weaves thread of fates

There buses and trucks meet,

to trade destinies


Through the mist,

a driver takes flight out of life,

Lost in the echo of a deafening plight.

In the chaos,

where metals grind

into crimson strains on tar,

Do buses and trucks

feel the agony that drivers do?


A burst of collision, a bubble of fate,

As vehicles clash, into a violent embrace of pain.

The screams - after the big Baaang!

Rips the air apart in foggy Maungu,

the place of Machungu bila mfano....


(A minute of silence)


Amidst wreckage and wane,

in a scene of fatal embrace,

The drivers’ souls linger,

in ethereal plane of pain.


A tale of shocked souls etched

in the grammar

of road designs and kismet.


A cautionary note for the heedful ones: 


mind the kerbs, the long lanes,

the serpent of travel, drivers.


Tread with care on

these winding trails of travel


Where Destiny's hand

weaves intricate tales.


In the land of sojourns,

where lurkers dwell....


As echoes that tolls the knell

for drivers and vehicles of here.

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