Gladwell Otieno commemorates son on crash site as driver convicted of causing deaths 11 years later

Liz Mwaura (left) mother of Brian Waweru and and Gladwell Otieno (Right) Silvano Otieno's mother with other relatives

Liz Mwaura (left) mother of Brian Waweru and and Gladwell Otieno (Right) Silvano Otieno's mother with other relatives at the scene where the three friends perished in a road accident on April 15, 2012.

Photo credit: Joseph Ndunda | Nation Media Group

Silvano Mandla Otieno would perhaps be a globe-trotting diplomat had a grisly road accident not cut short his life on the night of April 15, 2012.

The only child of Gladwell Otieno, the founder and executive director of the Africa Centre for Open Governance, Silvano’s life was ended by a reckless driver. He was 22. 

The international relations student at the United States International University Africa, Nairobi, perished alongside his two friends, Brian Waweru and Nsanya Otis Kapya, after a head-on collision with another motorist on James Gichuru Road.

In an interview yesterday, moments after holding the 11th anniversary of his death at the scene of the accident, his mother said Silvano and his two friends were creative, talented and charismatic men who had great potential to move society forward.

“I can’t pretend to know their dreams. But they were good people who believed in things,” she said thoughtfully.
Relatives of the three friends and Tijan Kisilu, the only survivor of the accident, congregated to commemorate them. They have been in court for 11 years seeking justice for the victims. 

Kisilu suffered serious injuries. They had left a function in the capital and were headed for Karen when the accident occurred.

Kisilu recalls they just saw some headlights directly facing their car. Silvano, who was on the wheel, tried moving the car to the left as much as he could but that did not make a difference. Their car rolled and ended up in a ditch. Mr Kisilu said the 11 years that the case has dragged in courts felt like an eternity.

“It has been interesting to see how the Judiciary handles issues of life and death and pain, to see that families and people like me get some form of justice,” he said.

“It changed my life in ways I cannot begin to explain. As you can see, I have some five missing teeth, my jaw was shattered and I have a shorter leg, three inches shorter.  At the time of the accident I fractured three ribs and had a haemorrhage in the head. I am still coping with the injuries and am now classified as a person living with disability. This is the reality I have to accept.

Guilty

“I’m just happy that the legal system allowed that process to play out and ended up with Gichuki (driver of the other vehicle) being convicted. Personally, I forgive him, I forgave him a long time ago. Whatever comes up next week I just hope he will have the strength to accept positively for what happened.”

The court visited the accident scene during the trial of David Gichuki, who hit the victims’ car while driving on the wrong side of the road. Ms Otieno termed the court hearings “unduly long” but added that the families were pleased with the judgment delivered on Thursday, in which Mr Gichuki was convicted of causing deaths by dangerous driving.

“We look forward to a sentence that reflects the seriousness of what happened. We look forward to working with other families to ensure those going through the same are firm and inspired to keep struggling for justice because many families don’t have the reach and experience and may give up easily. 

“We really hope the sentencing will reflect the sort of the impact of what happened,” she said at the scene of the accident.

Waweru’s father, Samuel Mwaura, said the families of the friends are satisfied with the conviction of Mr Gichuki by Senior Principal Magistrate Derrick Kutto after successful prosecution. “We are delighted with the judgment delivered and that this matter is now coming to a close even as we wait for an equally crucial stage of sentencing,” he said.

“We are very clear that we are not seeking that the accused be punished for us to get anything back to hurt him. What we are seeking is the sentencing to send a strong message to other road users that there are consequences of driving on public roads without due care. That message should be delivered to save the lives of other people who may fall victim to careless driving.”

He added that the pain of waiting for justice for 11 years would have been reduced and made a little easier if the case had been concluded quickly. He said the case could have been concluded in three years at most.

Mr Gichuki had been charged with three counts of causing death by dangerous driving contrary to the Traffic Act and was found guilty on all counts by the Kibera law courts and is awaiting sentencing.

He was driving his car, a Toyota Land Cruiser, on the wrong side of the road at around 1am when he killed the three and left Mr Kisilu with serious injuries. He had denied the charges throughout his trial but was eventually found guilty as charged. He has been on Sh50,000 bail.

Sentencing will happen after mitigation.