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Sister's confession on death of NIS spy Tom Adala

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A portrait of the late Assistant Director of National Intelligence Service Tom Mboya Adala during the requiem mass at All Saints Cathedral on June 13, 2024.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

A sister of National Intelligence Service (NIS) officer Tom Adala, who died by suicide, has spoken of a burden her brother carried in secret in a moving tribute to a man hailed as a pillar of the family.

Atieno Adala, an elder sister, yesterday revealed the struggles the brother went through in dealing with an undisclosed illness, which she described as worse than the depression that has been blamed for his death.

Atieno recalled how her brother had asked her to travel to India in April to seek medical attention, only for her to learn on her return in May that he was also unwell and had been admitted to hospital. 

Adala had asked her other sister not to tell her about his illness so as not to worry her, and it took a lot of persuasion to get him to open up, Atieno said. 

Tom Adala's colleagues wheel out a casket bearing his remains during the Requiem Mass at All Saints Cathedral.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

She said she was worried that she had found her brother to be more "reserved" and not in his usual "exuberant" mood, which prompted her to find out what was troubling him.

And when she realised the pain her younger brother was going through, Atieno persuaded him to accept psychological help. Two days before Adala's death, she had gone so far as to call in the counsellors who were supposed to be looking after him.

Adala had managed to keep this condition a secret and only a few of his family members knew about it. 

Two days before Adala took his life, the sister had visited him at his home on Kirichwa Road in Kilimani, where they had discussed and agreed on the counsellors to look after him.

Atieno, in a tribute read during a requiem mass at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi Thursday, said Adala had been undergoing treatment.

"He (Adala) had already sought the help of a psychiatrist who had recommended psychological counselling in addition to the treatment he was receiving," Atieno said, playing down reports that he was battling depression. 

Atieno Adala, sister of the late Assistant Director of the National Intelligence Service Tom Mboya Adala, flanked by family members, speaks during the requiem mass at All Saints Cathedral.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

Atieno said that on the Monday before her brother's lifeless body was found in the servants' quarters of his home on the morning of June 4, she (Atieno) had visited him and they had agreed to consult the doctors.

They had spoken to two counsellors who said they would be available to see Adala on Friday, an appointment that turned out to be "a bit late".

"The next day I called my brother to confirm the appointment, but he did not answer. I rushed there only to find the lifeless body of my brother," Atieno told the mourners.

As fate would have it, Adala committed suicide before he could see the counsellors. According to a police report, he shot himself in the head with a pistol. A post-mortem examination by the government pathologist also concluded that a self-inflicted single gunshot wound to the head was the cause of death.

Atieno recalled that Adala had secretly sought treatment in a hospital in India in 2023 for the condition, but had kept the information secret.

On Thursday, hundreds of mourners, including family, friends and colleagues, attended the requiem mass for Adala.

Speakers, including his wife Habiba Seby, remembered Adala as a hardworking and dedicated man. She said Adala had a way of making even the most ordinary moments extraordinary.

Habiba said: "Always ready to offer a warm smile, an encouraging word or your unwavering support, you were a beacon of strength and kindness that brought joy and comfort to our children's lives".  

Monicah Juma, the National Security Advisor to President William Ruto, was among the top government officials who attended the ceremony. Ms Juma said: "I knew Tom, he was a hardworking and dedicated officer." 

NIS boss Noordin Haji said: "We mourn a dedicated and hardworking officer whose hard work we will remember."

Adala, an assistant director at the NIS headquarters in Ruaraka, was found dead in his home last Tuesday.

His nephew reported to Kilimani police station that his uncle had shot himself in the head with a pistol.

In his bedroom, police found a black notebook in which Adala, 54, had outlined some of the issues that led him to commit suicide.

The  notebook is now in the hands of Kilimani DCI officers and is believed to be the suicide note.