Everyone loves a good redemption story, but few people realize that real-life stories can be better than fiction, and the story of Nicholas Cheruiyot Kilel, alias King Kafu, has the making of a fiction novel.
In an interview dated April 14, 2018, on The Chipukeezy Show, the Ghetto Radio presenter intimated that his past life was checkered and wasn't proud of it.
He hosts the morning breakfast show, Brekko, along with former renowned musician Maji Maji from 6 a.m to 10 a.m
Kafu revealed that prior to being a radio presenter, he was an armed robber. He gave a narration of acts he did to earn himself a living that he would rather forget, but noted was determined to help others find the right path.
"I was wrongly convicted of a crime I did not commit, so I reasoned, since crime or no crime I would still end in jail, why not get jailed for a crime I actually committed," Kafu stated.
On an early morning in 2002, he woke up early in search of a day job when he and his elder brother were arrested alongside nine others. The police alleged that one of them had stolen a professional camera, money and a phone.
While at Pangani Police Station, he was identified by the owner of the camera, a sports journalist, as the thief and ended up in an Industrial Area police cell for six months. His older brother was able to identify the thief.
"As I served my term, my other brother found out who had committed the crime, reported and had them arrested, but that did not mean freedom for us. Juacali’s brother later bailed me out on cash bail," Kafu recounted.
His older brother served his term but died shortly after he was released, due to complications from a disease he had contracted while in jail.
Kafu was driven by the anger of wrongful incarceration and the death of his brother to dive right into crime. On his release, he linked up with a friend with whom they started off by snatching property from unsuspecting members of the public.
After a few robberies, he felt the urge to step it up a notch. They scaled up from just snatching to using violence, even acquiring a gun.
"I linked up with a friend with whom we attended jam sessions and started snatching people’s bags; chains, watches, wallets you name it.
"I felt the need to upgrade. My team and I shifted our focus to the use of guns for carjackings. The gun we had, had been given to me by a friend. The gun had a faulty firing pin and could not actually fire any bullets but inflicting the fear was enough,
"Besides carjacking, we would raid fundraising events. Once we collect the spoils, we would share out among the team with me as the leader taking the lion’s share," he conceded.
Kafu stated that he mentored himself into crime. He revealed that one had to learn and study people's body language, to determine whether they were in possession of valuables or not.
"For instance, someone walking down the streets with valuables tends to be tense, fidgety and very self-aware, constantly touching their pockets or bag for reassurance that the possession is still there," Kafu narrated.
He admitted to indulging in alcohol prior to an 'operation' to boost his confidence. Just a little to fend off fear, and not too much to intoxicate him.
Kafu gathered his team in a rather unsuspecting manner, as they would convene as friends attending jam sessions.
His exploits resulted in two stints in jail, one for three years, he later got out but was back for another two-year stint.
In 2006, Robert Ochola, a neighbour to Kafu, who would visit him in prison. He gave him a number of lectures and talks on turning his life around.
"He sat me down and asked me what it would take for me to quit this life of crime before I found myself dead. I told him to find me a job, and he did," Kafu recalled.
"I started off cutting business cards, calendars, magazines and posters for Ksh 100 per day, then worked as a carpenter at the city mortuary, making coffins.
"He urged me, however, to stay put for an opening that would be showing up at a radio station yet to be launched," he narrated.
When Ghetto Radio was launched in 2007, he was absorbed as a messenger. At the time, he was focused on bettering his life and had made a resolution to be a better person, noting that the rate at which his peers were losing their lives to crime served as a wake-up call to him.
"As we passed time between deliveries, we would chat at the balcony. All the while, Rapture The Scientist, who I had once met in jail, was recording our conversations and playing them on air," Kafu recounted.
"As a result, that segment that aired our conversations got many hits that I was called in to be a presenter. I was trained on the job, and started the drive show," he added.
The success of the program led to his promotion to hosting the morning breakfast show.
Kafu uses his life experiences to educate and help reform youths in the society.
At the moment, he runs a movement, Mfungwa ni Binadamu Initiative, that aims at the integration and motivation of ex-convicts, and those incarcerated into society.
He urges the government to work with reformists in ensuring that the youth are afforded a second shot at a better life.
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