Humphrey was to rejoin his family in the city after sitting for his exams in November 1995. But he put his plans of travelling to the city on hold to take care of his widowed grandmother who was battling with throat cancer. He single handedly managed her home in the villages.
While struggling with daily chores at his grandmother’s home, he saw a money making opportunity and grabbed it. He transformed two of his grandmother’s six-acre farms into a horticultural crop project. Within no time , his project had successfully taken off and was the envy of the neighbourhood where maize, beans and banana farming were the norm. Consumers and traders flocked Humphrey’s farm to buy tomatoes, cabbages, and kales. The success of the project and favorable income encouraged Humphrey to increase the acreage under horticultural crops.
The drought that hit the country for the better part of ’96 only fueled Humphrey’s desire to succeed. A young uncle who had just graduated from University, joined him in the farming activity a short while later. Together they would wake up at 5 am every morning to fetch drums of water from the nearby River to irrigate the crops.
As the drought worsened, the horticulture plot owned by Humphrey and his uncle was the only source of green vegetables for households and traders in the area. The two young men also supplied their produce to the nearby Schools and hospitals. Traders placed their orders well in advance because demand was more that supplies. They made sales worth more every week.
After a month of sure green hold, the duo woke up one morning to a rude shock. Thieves had harvested a half an acre of their produce overnight. How were they going to compensate traders who had paid in advance for their orders? This prompted the duo to keep a night vigil on the garden for the next two weeks, hoping to catch the thieves if the returned. It seemed however, that the thieves’ 40 days were not exhausted, as they sneaked into the garden one early morning after Humphrey and his uncle had returned home and harvested the entire ripe tomato crop. Incensed, the boys resorted to an all- night vigil , this time determined to catch the thieves.
It was one Monday morning in March 1996 at around 4 am, When Humphrey spotted three men harvesting on their farm. He did not know how to confront them single handedly for they were armed, and his uncle was keeping watch from a banana plantation a short distance away. Humphrey’s said rose with every fruit of tomato the men had picked. That was his sweat. Torn between watching someone feed on his sweat and taking a risk to protect what belonged what belonged to him, Humphrey gathered courage and lunged with a club at the nearest thieve. Shocked, the man ran away as Humphrey pursued him. One of his accomplices hit Humphrey with a club, but he ignored the distraction, intent on arresting his target. He was by this time calling out for help. His uncle took ave and came to his aid. Their shouts alerted villagers.
The thieves split at this point, everyman for himself. For the two young men, a bird in hand was worth two in the bush – they were determined to arrest the they had concerned. Villagers were irritated after a spate of cattle thefts in the area and now bayed for the thief’s blood. They gathered around the man who was begging for mercy and hit him to his last breath.
The situation was out of theird hands, there was nothing we could do. A vigilante pleaded with the mob not to kill the man so that he could lead the police to the arrest of the gang, but to no avail. The beat him and left him for dead. The local Assistant Chief summoned the police who took the man to hospital, but was pronunced dead on arrival,Humphrey recalled the incident.
The following morning the Assistant Chief asked Humphrey and his uncle to accompany him to the local police station to make a routine report on the incident.
This is the formal procedure usually carried out when this kind of incident occurs . It will take a short time and you’ll soon be back home,he assured the young men.
At the police station, the Assistant Chief spent a long time briefing a senior station officer while we waited at the counter. He later left up without word. The officer commanding the station O. C. S was reportedly out and were requested to wait for him to give direction on our case, explained Humphrey. The young men assumed theirs was a straightforward case of mob justice and they were only in police station to record statement because the thieves had raided their farm.
We were wrong. The officer asked us to step into ‘that room’ and being my first time in a police station, I naively crossed and entered what turned out to be a hold up cell. I got concerned after we entered and the door locked behind us. The realisation that my uncle and I are under arrest was too much to comprehend. The early morning events replayed in my mind as I sat pensively on the cold floor wondering why it was taking so long for us to record a statement and be set free,Humphrey recalled.