A tribute to Stephen Nyash
Nyash almost always had a big smile pasted on his face.
Earlier this month of February, I had lunch with Nyash in Korogocho ghetto, where he spent most of his life. We had agreed to meet at Othaya, a popular nyama choma (roast meat) restaurant in Korogocho.
I arrived a bit earlier than him and when he arrived, he was spotting his trademark smile. He apologized for being late, noting that he had been concluding several meetings. I understood, because I knew that Nyash was either leading or deeply involved in many initiatives towards making life better for the people of Korogocho.
Within moments of his arrival, Nyash began assisting the waiter to serve the people who were flocking into the restaurant. He moved from table to table, chopping steaming meat and washing the hands of the people. He wasn’t doing this because he worked there but because he noticed that the sole waiter at the place was swamped with work.
As he was serving the people next to my table, he flashed that big smile at me and said cheerily, ‘sisi ni watumishi wa community – we are servants of the community.’
These five words best describe how Nyash lived and died – serving the community that he loved. Serving the people of Korogocho slums to put food on their table, seal leaking roofs, take their children to school, fight crime, make better roads, leave peaceably, find decent livelihoods and speak out.
Nyash did all this through Koch FM, the community radio station that he co-founded and chaired; Koch Hope, another organization which he co-founded that provides bathroom, conference and recreational services to the people of Korogocho; Ghetto Films, an organization that informs and empower slum dwellers through film and Kenya Indymedia, a movement that provides a platform for community activists to find unity and clarity in their common voice for the people.
From the moment that he knew about Kenya Indymedia, Nyash became not just an active participant but fellow leader of the movement. Together with three other activists, he represented Kenya Indymedia in Senegal during the Indymedia collective that was held there. Upon return, he immersed himself into the vision and work of Kenya Indymedia.
In our last ‘Conference of People’ event, Nyash played a pivotal role by mobilizing local activists and stakeholders. He also ensured the venue was available and later on organized lunch for the organizers.
I last talked with him on Saturday 18thof this month. Because I was then in Lamu Island, we agreed to meet on Wednesday 22nd so that we could prepare a strategy outline for Kenya Indymedia’s work for 2012.
Sadly on the morning of this day that we were to meet, I received text message from Roba, a Kenya Indymedia member and renowned activist musician. The text read simply that, ‘we have lost Nyash, bonge la maandamano Koch.’ We have lost Nyash and people all over Korogocho are demonstrating. Nyash had been gunned down a few hours earlier outside his house in Korogocho. He was shot in the chest and stomach and didn’t make it to hospital. It is still not clear who committed this brutal and evil act. What is clear is that although they took away his life, they can never take away his legacy. I will now leave you with his own words, ‘sisi ni watumishi wa community – we are servants of the community.’
The best tribute we can pay to our friend, comrade and brother Nyash is to ensure that his service remains alive and active by continuing to serve the people of Korogocho slums and those in our own societies who are less fortunate.
NB: Kenya Indymedia will meet and consult widely on how both the local and international community of activists can best pay tribute to Nyash by contributing to a concrete project that will help his family and the people of Korogocho.
By John Bwakali, Kenya Indymedia
Photo: Nyash (left) by Pato Shobz