I am Sharon Otieno

Sharon Otieno was 26 and in love. The Rongo University student was on a night out with friends when she met the man that would dominate her mind and inbox for months to come.

A charming man

The man was charming. He was kind and good to her. She blushed whenever she spoke about him or saw his name on the caller ID. He was not just friendly to Sharon, he was Sharon’s friend. Despite his busy life as a politician, he always made time to meet Sharon.

He bought her gifts and flowers and took her to fancy restaurants. He was quite romantic. Sharon fell for the man. And she believed that he had fallen for her, because that’s what he said. She could also tell it from how he looked at her, and how he always referred to her as his sweetheart and “baby”.

You see, the man always kept his word. He was never physically abusive and he never said an unkind word to Sharon. When Sharon told him that she was pregnant, he never suggested abortion. This wasn’t just about sex to him. Instead, he promised to take care of the mother and child. He would always be there for his baby and their baby.

Sharon wasn’t stupid, despite what many people now think and say of her. Sharon did what we all do — she was bold enough to believe in true love. She dared to dream of a happy future with the man she loved. Their age difference wasn’t an issue — people with a much bigger gap between them had lived “happily ever after”. The fact that she was still a student didn’t matter. She was an adult.

A horrifying death

Sharon died afraid and confused. She died a horrifying death, in the hands of savage men that she didn’t even recognise. Sharon died with a thousand questions that she barely had time to articulate. Probably the final and most prominent thought on Sharon’s mind as she breathed her last was “why?”

This is also the question that many of us, in the wake of her demise, are left fiddling with. Strange men and women who have never even heard of Sharon have come up with strange riders to this existential word “Why.”

“Why was a student messing around with men her father’s age? Shouldn’t she have been in school focussing on her education?”

“Why was she involved with a prominent politician if her motive wasn’t to extort money from him and enrich herself out of the man’s misery?”

These whys have confounded many who came across them, especially on social media platforms. However, the larger majority of the whys were kinder to Sharon, more thoughtful and compassionate, even in the midst of the pain and rage.

“Why did anyone think Sharon deserved death?”

“Why take advantage of an innocent and impressionable girl only to end her life in such a cruel manner?”

And while we are at it, “Why is the world so cruel?”

We are Sharon Otieno

There are many dimensions to Sharon’s tragic love story that we will never understand. Yet we should never forget one thing: Sharon was never any more guilty or more foolish than any of us. Sharon’s story is our story.

We, too, will meet men and women that will knock us off our feet and make the world worth living in once more. We will come across men and women that will cause us to stay up late into the night Whatsapping goofy emojis and whispering sweet nothings until we fall asleep.

It won’t matter how rich these people are, as long as we are convinced that they love us and truly care for us. We will get pregnant out of wedlock and choose to keep the baby. We will make plans for our child’s future and stay up late chatting about baby names an the kind of schools we want our child to attend.

Sharon’s story is your story and my story. Her tragedy is our tragedy. Her and her family’s quest for justice is our quest. Her mistakes are our mistakes, and her heart is our heart.

Many more of us are still making and living in decisions much like Sharon’s. We are still falling in love with people the rest of the world believes are wrong for us. Our family and friends have probably tried to talk us out of those relationships, but we believe we know better. What we feel is real. If they truly loved and cared for us they would be on our team.

And many of them are. They are rooting for us. Praying for us. Hoping we will come to our senses and leave the relationship, and at the same time hoping that our relationship will bring lasting happiness.

Monster are us

Despite what we like to believe after the fact: there is no sure way of knowing if a relationship will be bad for you. Despite what we are thinking and saying about the “powerful” people behind Sharon’s death, we would be gravely mistaken to think that we know what monsters look like.

The monsters that walk among us don’t have long sharp canines or thick pointy horns on their heads. Monsters are not always out to get us. Many of them do genuinely fall in love and make sincere promises to marry us and spend the rest of their life with us. Many monsters are usually saints. Until they aren’t.

We would be gravely mistaken to assume we are faultless when it comes to our monster-detection capabilities. You see, it should not come as a surprise that sometimes monsters are us. The men that we write off as monsters after the (tragic) fact are our drinking buddies and “political connections” before the fact.

The man or woman’s political position or wealth or even his marital status have never been guarantees that we will never be happy with them. The heart wants what it wants, and Sharon’s heart made a choice, a choice that, despite her best judgment that it was the right choice, had tragic consequences.

Even as we watch and pick our lessons, may Sharon’s story cause us to be a little kinder with the truth — whatever we conceive it to be. If you have friends or family in Sharon’s position before her death, be there for them now rather than later. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Share your concern even as your cheer them on.

Love them with the truth.

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