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Peter Kirunji aka Mudavadi Peter Kirunji with a curious smile vividly recollects the events of the Wednesday

morning in late 2003. He was up and about in his place of work to provide for his family as a matatu driver plying the route 44. He was picking passengers at an illegal pick up point in downtown Nairobi, when he was arrested by a traffic policeman. This action would change his life forever. On the said morning him and his conductor were busy at work at Cross Road, it took less time to fill the matatu and with a bribe of 50 shillings, some traffic policemen would look the other way. They were arrested and were en route to Kamkunji Police Station when he says a white saloon car pulled in front of the matatu and a man inquired on the reason for their arrest. He was told and he

went on, the conductor then took the opportunity to show a clean pair of heels to escape the hassle of a court case. Peter was left alone with the traffic policeman. He tried pleading but his pleas fell to deaf ears and this persistence enraged the policeman who then slapped him on the face breaking his eyeglasses. He got a cut on his right eye. On Thursday morning, he was arraigned in High Court 87, with the traffic offence of obstruction and subsequently fined a sum of 3000 shillings. He went back to his daily schedule as a driver without getting any checkup. A week after his arrest, the pain in his eye became unbearable. He then sought help at Kikuyu Eye Hospital. He was given medication which he took home but they didnt afford him any relief. He was back at the hospital on the following Monday, where a preliminary check up was done and he found that he had to undergo an eye operation which would cost him 18,000 shillings. The operation was to be done by a visiting German eye specialist who was leaving in 3 days time to a hospital in Moshi in neighboring Tanzania, a fact which he didnt have prior knowledge of. On Friday he was back armed with 5000 shillings which he had managed to raise. To his shock and horror, he learnt that the doctor had already left and he had the tough choice of following him to Tanzania or to go Kenyatta Hospital for the urgent operation. He went to Kenyatta Hospital where he was attended to by Dr Nyagah, an eye specialist. His right eye was found to be inoperable. He went back to Kikuyu Eye Hospital to get a letter to sue the policeman who had assaulted him. He recalls the name of his assailant, an officer named Corporal Kisia who was based at Kamkunji Police Station. Letter in hand, he filed his complaint at the same station and the OCS Mr. Ombeo in November 2003 accompanied with his sister. The case was assigned to Mr. Kariuki as the investigative officer. The complication of the

case was that there were no witnesses to corroborate his accusation. The conductor had fled before the deed was committed and the case ended without it commencing. He went back to his job as a driver on Route 44 until March 2007. That morning at 5 am he was in Roysambu scheduled for his second trip, when the trouble with his eyes became worse. He understood that he had to seek help. So he swapped over the wheels with another driver. He recalls his last sights- those of Saint Peters Clavers. When he alighted he was completely blind. He was rushed to and operated on the following day at Kenyatta National Hospital; he got back sight in his left eye. He had to leave his job as a driver which required visual acuity. After 3 to 4 months he went back for a second operation that wasnt successful and he lost the sight of his left eye. He was now permanently blind. It was hard for him to fathom what had happened to him and what kind of future lay ahead for him. It was tough to adjust but for the support of his wife who gave him courage and took care of him. His faith in God also encouraged him and he took this as an opportunity to better himself.

He didnt give up and in early 2008; he went back to Kikuyu Eye Hospital where he was offered the chance to undergo counseling and rehabilitation at the hospital or at Machakos Technical Training Institute for the Blind. He chose the latter and in July 2008, he organized a small fundraiser with the help of former colleagues and friends. The total raised was twenty four thousand shillings. In September of 2008, during the second term Peter enrolled for a six month course at Machakos Technical Training Institute for the Blind. His coursework entailed learning mobility and orientation, independence living skills and writing and reading Braille. He met other blind students and he was amazed with uniqueness of each of his blind colleagues. Some

had been blind since birth, others from accidents or disease. While there he talked to lecturers about pursuing his O levels since he didnt get the opportunity due to lack of school fees. After finishing the course he went to Thika High School for the Blind but he couldnt get admission due to his marital status. He wasnt deterred. He went back to Machakos Technical Training Institute for the Blind in November 2010 to pursue a six month course in Shoemaking, Leatherwork and Leather Tanning. He sat for the course exams in July 2011 and passed. He says he can do everything that entails leatherwork apart from the use of a sewing machine. His most important ambition is to set up a leather and shoe making business but he lacks the funds to kick off his dream due to the expensive nature of the business. He needs a sum of not less than forty five thousand to buy the equipment needed which include pincers, last, lasting pliers, Indian pattern knife and accessories such as leather glue, texon board and the services of a helper to be his eyes. The big challenge for him is the unavailability of tailor-made funding avenues that can be accessed by disabled entrepreneurs. He has hopes that he will be able to start a model business that will be source of inspiration and gives weight to the saying disability is not inability. As the interview wore on, Peter Kirunji never lost the smile on his face even when he talked about the officer who put him in the position he found himself in. All he had to say about it is that forgiveness is the only thing that frees oneself from the shackles of regrets, anger and depression. Forgive and you live a fruitful life. He has no feelings of hatred towards the officer who caused his blindness. Since 2008 he has been a member of the congregation of PCEA Kahawa Farmers. Before the blindness, he was a catholic but due to his wife insistence; he was born again in February 2008 and is a member of the Presbyterian Church Mens Fellowship (PCMF). He is able to read the bible in Braille at his church to the delight of his fellow

worshippers. He believes the power of God is within him and each one of us, there is no tragedy that God cannot mend and his tale is of exactly that power at work. He has since forgiven the officer and holds no grudge against him. On April 29, 2012, he celebrated the birth of two bouncing girls at Kiambu District Hospital, a very welcome addition to his family. With a toothy smile he told me when God takes, he gives you double double this was a reference to the twin girls who is Nyambura named after his sister who hasnt been blessed with a child and the other girl Wangechi. He says his happiness comes from his family which now has grown to 3 kids including a boy who was born before. At home he is like any other young father, he can cook for himself. He even invited me for a meal next time. The loss of his vision hasnt changed his outlook and he is still fiercely independent. He makes regular trips to the City center unaccompanied. All he needs is his walking stick and he is ready to take on the world in his words. He can be found at his stand adjacent to the bus stop at Githurai 44 where he sells sweets, leather belts, shoe laces and shoe shining. He tells me that he used to have a stall but that was demolished with the recent construction boom in major parts of the city, thats when he moved to his current location. Peter first came to Nairobi in 1994 after completing his class eight exams and due to the inaccessibility of school fees. His aunt who lived in Nairobi, helped him secure work at Dandora Millers, a maize processing firm where he was employed until May 1997. In the process he also got his driving license. He then went work for a Bata stockiest shop in Kiambu town as a cleaner and he stayed there for two years. He lost his job due to the influx of second hand shoes into the Kenyan market. He then went back to Nyeri town at a Gatitu Shopping centre and got employed at a beer and soft drinks distributor between 2001 and 2002. He came back to Nairobi at the end of 2003, where his brother worked as a conductor in the

Route 44 stage and he got a job driving one of the matatus plying the route. This is the job he held until the fateful day of 2007 when he lost his eyesight. His one regret is that he wasnt able to continue with his high school education to a myriad of reasons. He has hope in his heart for a bright future for himself and his family. He says the support of his family and his friends is the pillar of his conviction that being blind doesnt mean the end of life. He lost his sight but he has gained more by learning a new trade and life skills. He is capable adult and nothing will stop him from setting up his business. His main wish is to get the capital needed to achieve this. He appeals to well wishers to come forward and help him turn his tragedy to triumph. I couldnt help wonder the untiring strength of this brave young man who has beaten the odds. He wakes up every morning like any other young man to provide for his ever growing family. He is a source of inspiration among his many colleagues and friends at the Githurai 44 bus stage. They fondly call him Mudavadi, a name that was bestowed upon him for his staunch support of the current Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi during the 2002 General election, where he was the running mate to the then Presidential aspirant Uhuru Kenyatta. Peter can be found at his stand milling and chatting animatedly with his customers. He exemplifies the true meaning of faith, hope and the invincibility of the human spirit. There are no insurmountable walls that a human being cannot overcome was the parting shot as we wound up the interview.