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Inside the secret lives of Omar and the Keroche heiress he dared to love

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By the time Tecra Muigai Karanja fell to her death in a rental house in Lamu’s Shela village, she and her lover Omar Lali Omar were just a month away from a wedding.

Their two families had discussed it and a date was set, following Omar’s proposal next to a picturesque waterfall that perhaps signified the freefall their relationship had been in since they first met on June 6, 2019.

But unknown to them at the time, the descent of those rushed drops of water into the river below would come to signify the fluidity of their dreams. Their ambitions. And what they hoped life would be.

Like everything else around them, their union started like it ended: with a story.

But while for some it was a love story, for others it was a tragedy. For the couple, it was a yearlong tale of wild romance that saw them immerse themselves in dizzying adventures that took them from the continent’s best beaches to its premium safari destinations, and finally a grave for one and a jail cell for the other.

Their story’s first chapter was set on the sandy beaches of Shela, a village on Lamu Island where Omar has now gone back to but without the person he calls the love of his life.

But even if Omar were not in the picture, it is easy to see why Tecra would be enchanted with island life.

There are few places on earth where one feels in control of their time. Shela is one of them.

The turquoise waters, beachside conversations punctuated by 15-horsepower speedboat engines, plus the heat and the endless opportunities for a swim provide a potent mix. One that can become an addiction for someone running away from or towards something.

And here, both Omar and Tecra fed their respective addictions to a hassle-free life.

“She was a special lady,” says Omar, 51, in an exclusive interview. “Even I know there can never be another like her.”

Omar is now some sort of celebrity on the island. In the weeks that have followed his lover’s death, he has had tourists come up to him for selfies.

He has had relatives knock on his door early in the morning requesting him to introduce them to the witchdoctor who helped him get free after he was almost charged him with murder.

“They get offended that I don’t share the contacts. Some think I am very selfish because of this,” he says.

Omar might have survived. But just barely. A lot has been said about him since April 23.

But even as his friends and family members remain grateful that he can walk the sandy beaches of Lamu barefoot once again, he has moments when he breaks down. He thinks back to what was, thinks forward to what might have been, before being jolted back to the present.

Often, during these times, he is alone at one of his favourite places on the shores where fishing and sail boats rub against each other gently. Up and down, responding to the rhythm of the ocean as the waves softly beat against their hulls.

Often, during these times, he lights a bonfire, sits next to it with a few stems of khat popping from under his kikoy, and loses himself to the embers of the flame.

“God had his reasons for taking her this early,” he says on one such night. “We will never know why.”

READ ALSO:   Keroche heiress fell to her death, but was she pushed?

He looks almost as if he is in a trance. As if these same words would come out of his mouth even if he were alone, away from the intrusion of a journalist with many questions.

“I miss many things about her. You would never get bored around her. She never talked ill about anyone else. She was sensible. Always had a smile on her. Her smile and her heart were the same,” he says.

“Sometimes I think if I talk about her like this the world will become jealous and get back at me.”

Omar talks like a man who had put his lover, Tecra, on a pedestal, with superlatives forming the base of every conversation revolving around her.

He says she had a certain light around her. He says with a single look at her you could tell that she was special. He says she liked helping people. He says his four-year-old daughter and a niece, also ten, idolised Tecra and to date, they keep asking him why she has not returned.

He says he is sure there is a lesson somewhere in the events of the past few months, but he is struggling to see what it is.

He says because of her nature, people often took advantage of her, but she always found a way of forgiving them.

After another long look into the fire, Omar says that in a different world, his whole family would be in Naivasha right now because before her death, Tecra had got a number of his siblings jobs in the town.

Mtu mwenye kukunyooshea mkono kukupa kitu ni mpita njia. Mtu mwenye kukufungulia maisha ni mtu anayekupatia kazi ya kuendelea na maisha yako,” he says. And Tecra did the latter for the Lali household.

Until April 23 when an evening of fun turned tragic, and the light that had drawn the Lalis in went out. It set the stage for a roller-coaster of emotions for two families that were, even then, worlds apart.

Champagne with lunch

Tecra and Omar’s lives were colourful. Like any other lovers, they had good times and bad ones. But there was always colour and spontaneity.

On Christmas Eve of 2019, the couple checked in at one of the island’s high-end hotels. They had, as was now customary, woken up to yet another day of merrymaking. They had champagne served with an early lunch.

Waitstaff who served them are divided on what the main protein for the meal was. Some say it was crab. Others say it was lobster. But what they are absolutely sure about is that the food was served with incredible amounts of pasta, generous amounts of cheese and a homemade chilli sauce.

After the meal, the two wanted something extra to jazz up their day. They couldn’t leave the island because there were no commercial flights. But when they got to the Manda Airstrip, Tecra spotted a two-seater, fixed-wing plane.

They asked who the owner was and if it was available for hire. Fifteen minutes later, they were in Malindi. They shopped around for a few essentials and three hours later chartered the same plane back to Lamu in time for fireworks later that night.

Theirs was an almost Bonnie and Clyde life. Minus the run-ins with the law. For most parts, it seemed like it was them against the world, an attitude that defined the days they spent travelling.

In August 2019, two months after they had met, they flew to Nairobi and hired a Toyota Land Cruiser to explore what lay outside the sandy beaches that had intoxicated them. They went to Meru National Park and toured conservancies with one of Tecra’s cousins and the family driver.

READ ALSO:   Omar Lali: Tecra Mugai's boyfriend charged with murder

After being away from the country for most of her adult life, for the first time Tecra started thinking of settling back in Kenya. Close friends say before she met Omar, she was already planning to go back to Italy. Those who spoke to us say they are not sure when and how she changed her mind. But after Shela, she had her mind fixed on staying home.

She had already initiated conversations with her parents over the possibility of them hiving off a chunk of family land in Naivasha for her to set up a rustic hotel and campsite.

Already, she had started rearing chicken, turkeys and goats in anticipation of the traffic that would eventually find its way to what would be a boutique restaurant.

But before she settled down, there was some time for at least one last hurrah. And this involved a whirlwind of trips.

On August 30 last year, she and Omar left the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. In an hour and a half, they landed in Dar-es-Salaam’s Julius Nyerere International Airport. Tecra’s brother James was just about to celebrate a birthday and the two were not going to miss it. They were in Tanzania for a week before leaving for Zanzibar on September 6.

The Spice Island hosted them for a couple of days before they came back to Nairobi and then proceeded to Addis Ababa on October 12. Their Ethiopian adventures, however, were cut short by what they told friends was a bad flu. On October 22, they flew back to Nairobi and onwards to Naivasha, where another chapter of their relationship would be written.

Wife and children

Omar is well travelled. He lived in the United Kingdom with his wife and children for close to 15 years. At a certain point in his life, he got used to riding on trams, the little comforts that proper cities offer.

He is a holder of a British passport and has lived in the Netherlands, too, where he has another wife and child.

But you don’t imagine these things about him at first glance. Omar’s face is hidden behind a cloud of grey hair, with a matt of dreadlocks on his head.

He can be comfortable in a pair of fitting chinos, but is more at home in a wraparound kikoy. He can be comfortable in a pair of brown, size 11 Clarks — his favourite brand — but he much prefers it when his toes are free and can wiggle in the sand.

He knows that not everyone appreciates the look he has going on but says he was still surprised at the reaction he got when Tecra told her extended family that the two were dating.

“I was called Al Shabaab. Some said I was too old for her. Many thought perhaps I was out to get her money,” he says.

Their union, despite them spending months together, wasn’t well received at first.

And a visit to Naivasha, which forms the setting of the second chapter of their lives, almost broke their relationship, threatening to sever lifelong ties between Tecra and some members of her extended family.

It all started with a WhatsApp message. In it was a selfie Tecra had taken with Omar. There were no hashtags. Only a simple explanation that the man in the photo was Tecra’s boyfriend and she hoped to bring him home soon and introduce him to the family.

READ ALSO:   Keroche heiress fell to her death, but was she pushed?

So the two went to Naivasha towards the end of October 2019, and this time opted to rent a house rather than spend most of their time in hotels. But then things took an unexpected turn.

Omar sees the events of that day as an ambush. But to some, it was an intervention. He claims someone called and told him some of Tecra’s relatives were coming to the house the couple was staying in.

When the cars pulled up in the driveway, Omar panicked.

“I don’t know why I did what I did,” he says.

He ran away from the house and hid in a guard house.

“I felt like my life was in danger. I was far from home and I knew they had not taken a liking to me. Plus, who was I to them? I felt they could do whatever they wanted to me and no one would ask a question.”

As he fled, Tecra followed. After reasoning things out a bit, they agreed that she goes back to the house.

The intervention lasted the entire day, and when it ended, it was thought that a resolution had been arrived at. But Tecra stood her ground. She wanted to live her life as she pleased.

By the time the ‘intervention’ party had left, the couple had made up their minds to return to the seaside peace they had grown accustomed to.

Tecra, just like Omar at some point, had also got used to the little pleasures of the First World. There are things she had never done in her life, but after that intervention in Naivasha, she was about to do one of them for the first time.

By all accounts, Tecra was a child of privilege, so when the duo decided to make their way to Lamu minus the comforts of cash on demand, it was only natural that Omar takes the lead.

With the little cash they had, they took a matatu from Naivasha to Nairobi. They then proceeded to Accra Road to buy bus tickets to Mombasa before proceeding to Malindi and eventually to Lamu.

Time, however, was not on their side. By the time they got to the station, most buses to Mombasa had already left. The only available one had two open seats: one in the middle, the other at the back.

“We tried to reason with the passengers to switch with us, but none of them agreed,” Omar says. He is not sure whether what he did next was guided by love or infatuation.

“She was shaken, so I couldn’t let her sit by her own, so I sat on the aisle with her on the chair,” he says.

The floor soon became too hard for him though. They then decided that Omar takes the seat and Tecra sits on his laps.

“But she wasn’t light, so after a while, I had to surrender the seat to her again,” he says.

As this went on, a conductor took pity on the fleeing couple and gave Omar a cushion. It might have been just a few inches thick, but for the rest of the journey, Omar felt like he sat on feathers.

By Standardmedia.co.ke

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How we solved thorny issues in our not-so-rosy union

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Robert Wambugu and Lucy Wambui’s marriage has been a bitter-sweet experience. When their firstborn son was a toddler, he almost drowned in a basin full of water.

“The water had been stored on the corridor and the young boy sneaked out of the house. Within a split of a second, he had fallen head first and was in there for almost a minute before we were alerted by other children. He passed out, but was saved by quick intervention from a nearby hospital,” Lucy says.

Lucy says they faced a lot of challenges driven by their lack of marriage experience due to their young age. She was 20, Robert was 21. “We had not received proper counselling and did not know how to handle our personality differences. Let’s just say we were clueless of what was ahead of us. We used to have endless arguments, long weeks without speaking to each other and so on. It wasn’t until we got support from a neighbour who cared and counselled us,” she says.

Making it work

They worked on improving their communication and openness to each other. She offers: “We started giving each other constructive feedback that builds someone rather than hurt them emotionally. We stopped pointing fingers at faults and started addressing the issue rather than attacking the person. For instance, Robert was forgetful. At first, this used to make me think he was deliberately ignoring me and I would choose to just stay quiet and ‘payback’. But one time he told me he would start working on a “To do list” and once he started it, I saw great improvement. He also asked me to be sending him reminders on pending stuff. This way, we were able to handle that issue once and for all. On the other hand, I would prepare food that he didn’t like and he would not eat it. I would feel like he was eating elsewhere. At one time, I asked him to recommend what he prefers and how he liked it made. It took time to understand and master this, but it was worth it.”

READ ALSO:   Omar Lali: Tecra Mugai's boyfriend charged with murder

Lucy and Robert also worked on their decision-making, as well as teamwork, and from that point things changed for the better.

Other challenges have arisen when they had to juggle between work and raising children. “Sometimes as a working parent, you realise you have to spend time with your children and establish a personal connection. For me, this is important and if I have to work from home to do this, I do not mind doing so. But it can be quite overwhelming,” she adds.

Lucy and Robert both live in Rwanda. They have been married for 11 years and have three children-two boys, Arthur aged 10, Fabrice aged seven and a girl, Ashe Wambui aged 1.5 years. Lucy runs a cake business while Robert works as a Certified Hospitality Training Manager at Marriot International, and is also an experienced digital marketer and art director. She is also a co-director at Halleria Consult, a marketing consulting agency they started together with her husband. He is the country manager in charge of overall operations of the consultancy.

They also mentor young couples on marriage and parenting.

Lucy terms her husband as her greatest support system. “He has been supportive in raising the children. He spends his free time with them. On the other hand, when we visit our parents in Nairobi, we ensure that the children spend time with their grandparents. I get tips from our parents from both sides and I ensure they communicate as often so that they build that bond. I have also taken part in a programme called ‘Mother of Sons’ that focuses on mothers who are raising boys. It gives mums the space to learn how to handle boys’ challenges as well as bringing up men who are well nurtured,” she says.

READ ALSO:   Keroche heiress fell to her death, but was she pushed?

Discovering children’s potential

Their parenting approach is centred on raising children who understand between right and wrong and are able to make independent and right choices. Lucy is a disciplinarian. “I don’t shy away from using the rod where necessary. But I spend time trying to find effective non-authoritarian ways to help mentor them, especially in matters self-confidence and life skills,” she reveals.

Her husband, however, uses a different approach. He uses experiential learning techniques where through observation, he has identified some interests in them. Both boys love using 3D modelling software and have basic photography skills. He spends time training them. “We thank God that this strategy has helped them learn and be responsible. We also encourage them to go out and play and develop a social life. The first one is an extrovert. He makes friends quite easily while the second one is an introvert who prefers staying indoors. The last one is starting the ‘terrible two phase’, always throwing tantrums,” Lucy says.

Lucy’s word of advise to couples and parents is: “Love, support your spouse and walk with them. You don’t get into a relationship to attain happiness. Rather make it your role to create an environment that sustains joy. If this is done, it’s easier to get the other person to reciprocate. Before you point fingers at your spouse, first do a self-analysis and see what you would do to work on yourself and improve. That way, we shall have happier relationships.”

READ ALSO:   Omar Lali: Tecra Mugai's boyfriend charged with murder

By PD.co.ke

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Things get thick in Thika: Missing millionaire was heavily indebted

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The missing Thika businessman Julius Gitau was heavily indebted and going through a marital problem when he mysteriously disappeared, the Nation has learnt.

With creditors breathing down his neck, auctioneers knocking on his doors and a marriage on the rocks, the trader rushed to his mother on September 20 for emotional support when everything around him seemed to be falling apart.

The Covid-19 pandemic had affected his businesses as sales had dipped by over 70 per cent due to the tough restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

At home, things were also getting out of control due to bad blood between his first love Lucy Wahu and her co-wives, Rachel Muthoni and Celina Nelly.

“Gitau told me that he was having problems with his suppliers. Five firms had even started sending auctioneers to his two general merchandise shops in Thika town, an issue that had embarrassed him. My son was going through mental torture,” Ms Rosemary Wanjiru, 68, told the Nation at her Kaharati home in Murang’a yesterday.

Some of the suppliers had even repossessed their stock and pressure was mounting on him to pay up or face legal action.

“Proud and stubborn, my son hates any form of embarrassment and has a very dry sense of humour, that’s why those public tiffs with creditors were taking a toll on his mental health,” said Ms Wanjiru.

READ ALSO:   Omar Lali: Tecra Mugai's boyfriend charged with murder

Gitau then left his mother’s home at midnight, promising to call in the morning, but her maternal instincts kept her awake throughout.

“His confessions troubled me. I thought of selling part of our family land so Gitau could settle some of his most pressing debts. I called him at around 7.30am and we spoke for a few minutes. I cannot tell whether he was in his second or first wife’s home, or elsewhere. I wish I had asked him because this would have given us a starting point in this long and anxious search for him,” she said.

Suicide note

Earlier, Gitau had taken his second wife Muthoni to Nakuru to inspect one of his farms.

“He showed Muthoni a piece of land he had bought for her. He later visited his third wife, Nelly, in Ithanga village. I tried to convince him to spend the night with us but he refused as he wanted to brief her on her properties, before heading back to Maporomoko Estate in Thika to Wahu,” said Ms Wanjiru.

“He shared briefly that Wahu was giving him problems owing to the family wealth share ratio but I told him to use dialogue and compromises to settle the matter,” she added.

The following day, Wahu and her nephew, Geoffrey Wachira, reported to police at around 4pm that the trader was missing and had left behind a suicide note that indicated he had lost hope in life. They gave Gitau’s age as 60, yet he is 44 years.

READ ALSO:   Keroche heiress fell to her death, but was she pushed?

Wahu said she was with Gitau in one of the Thika shops at around 9.30am when he allegedly left for the gym in an old truck that he later abandoned near Blue Post Hotel at around 10am.

Detectives have since dismissed this narrative, with Thika Businessmen Community chairman Alfred Wanyoike terming it “a silly fabrication”.

Police claimed Gitau never authored the suicide note while business associates alleged the trader did not show up in Thika town that morning.

“Please get my son before I die of anxiety… each day that passes without knowing the whereabouts of my son drives me closer to the grave. I remain hopeful he is alive somewhere,” Ms Wanjiru told the Nation.

by nation.africa

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End our anxiety, families of missing Lamu men tell State

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Lamu families whose kinsmen disappeared mysteriously are questioning the government’s continued silence on the matter.

The families had hoped the year 2020 would bring to an end all the emotional turmoil they have undergone while wondering whether their relatives are alive or dead. The year is now almost over and there are no signs of their loved ones coming back.

More than 10 families in the region have, for several years, been in the dark concerning the whereabouts of their brothers and uncles who vanished under unclear circumstances, some in the hands of security agencies.

Families, relatives and friends of the victims interviewed by Nation.Africa acknowledged finding it hard to cope with the unanswered questions.

Most of the victims have been missing for as long as eight years.

An example is the family of Makka Mzee living at Mkunumbi in Lamu West.

Mr Mzee, a teacher by profession, has undergone tough times since his son, Imrana Said Makka, 29, went missing on March 31, 2015.

Mr Imrana Said Makka, 29, who went missing since March 31, 2015.

Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

Imrana was abducted by three men who identified themselves as anti-terror officers in Malindi town on that fateful day, never to be found or heard of again.

It is now six years since his mysterious disappearance.

Imrana’s sister Sada Said Makka told the Nation that they have not heard any news concerning his brother who left behind three children.

READ ALSO:   Omar Lali: Tecra Mugai's boyfriend charged with murder

“Despite our efforts to visit various police stations in Lamu, Malindi and Mombasa for enquiries, nothing has materialised. We’re yet to get any news on Imrana’s whereabouts.

We’re very much unhappy with the way the government has been silent on the matter despite the numerous reports we filed,” said Ms Sada.

The situation is similar in Kwasasi Village in Hindi, Lamu West, where the family of 42-year-old Ali Bunu is yet to come to terms with his mysterious disappearance five years ago.

The father of nine and who owned an estate in Kwasasi Village was said to have been picked up at his farm by unknown people in State-owned police and military vehicles on the night of April 8, 2016.

Mr Ali Bunu, 42, who went missing in April 2016.

Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

During the incident, Mr Bunu’s house and livestock were torched by the ”officers” before he was whisked away with his four workers and a nephew to an unknown destination on that night.

All except Bunu were the next day dumped in the bush near the Bar’goni military camp from where they found their way back home.

Relatives of Mr Bunu believe the State is better placed to answer their questions since the vehicles that picked up their kin bore government number plates.

“My brother’s children are suffering. Their education has been very stressful. Even processing their ID cards has been a problem, all because their father is absent. The piece of land that our brother owns at Kwasasi in Hindi has partially been grabbed since the owner is not around. The government should help us find our brother so that we can be at peace as a family,” said Mrs Hafswa Bunu, a sister.

READ ALSO:   Keroche heiress fell to her death, but was she pushed?

In Witu town, another family is in agony over the disappearance of 32-year-old Mohamed Abdalla Ali.

Mr Mohamed Abdalla Ali, 32, a resident of Witu in Lamu West who went missing on June 14, 2018.

Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

Mr Ali went missing on the night of June 14, 2018.

He had accompanied his friends to watch a Fifa World Cup tournament in one of the hotels in Witu.

The last born in a family of five had completed his Form Four at Witu Secondary and was yet to join college.

His father Abdalla Basalama is a retired Administration Police Senior Sergeant.

Ali’s eldest sister Amina Abdalla says that for all that time, they have searched for Ali without success.

“We’ve visited all police stations but we haven’t traced Ali. We’re appealing to the police and any other security agencies to help my family track down the whereabouts of Ali whether alive or dead,” said Ms Amina.

The family of 43-year-old Mohamed Avukame Haroun is also yet to come to terms with his mysterious disappearance on August 23, 2017.

Mr Mohamed, a Malindi-based businessman who also deals in property management and land, was taken away by men in a black vehicle (a Toyota Prado) to an unknown destination.

READ ALSO:   Omar Lali: Tecra Mugai's boyfriend charged with murder

His elder brother, Bwanaheri Avukame Haroun, says the father of two was bundled into the car by two armed men who accosted him within Mombasa High Court precincts.

Mr Mohamed Avukame Haroun, 43, who went missing on August 23, 2017.

Kalume Kazungu | Nation Media Group

Mr Bwanaheri insists that those who took away his brother are police officers since they had handcuffs and were armed with guns.

“His phone has been off since then. The State is aware of the whereabouts of my brother. Let the government assist us in tracing the whereabouts of my brother. His family is suffering,” said Mr Bwanaheri.

At Mpeketoni in Lamu West, the family of 35-year-old Osman Abdi is also in the dark after the man went missing just days after the June 15, 2014, Mpeketoni attacks.

Mr Abdi, a milk vendor, is said to have been arrested by police.

In a recent interview with the Nation, Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia asked families whose kinsmen had disappeared to come out and record statements with police and his office for action.

“These people might have crossed into Somalia. So there is a need for families to come out and report such cases to authorities for action,” said Mr Macharia.

In 2018, Haki Africa Organisation listed Lamu as among leading counties in the Coast region with many cases of mysteriously missing persons.

Various activists and religious leaders in the county and across the Coast region have on various occasions pleaded with the State to help the affected families find them.

by nationafrica

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