Violet Kemunto was the wife of Riverside terrorist Ali Gichunge. She called herself the Al Shabaab Bride. A picture of a woman in a niqab laced with blood was her profile picture on WhatsApp.
Ms. Kemunto had graduated with a Journalism and Public Relations degree from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) in 2015.
Records at the institution show she majored in PR. To her colleagues, she was entering the market to compete for elusive jobs in media companies.
But to her, this was just a rite of passage. She had other plans, and on Tuesday, those plans thrust her right in the eye of a terrorism storm. Police believe she crossed into Somalia hours before Tuesday’s attack.
Kemunto’s classmates painted the picture of a quiet and friendly woman, who wore loose clothing to class and always covered her head in a hijab, the head covering worn in public by some Muslim women.
“There was nothing unusual, except that we had initially assumed she was Christian, given her name,” a classmate at Masinde Muliro said.
“She was quiet most of the time and friendly to everyone she interacted with. She spoke only when taking part in class or group discussions and didn’t take alcohol or smoke cigarettes.”
At MMUST, competition for hostels had fuelled a construction craze as locals cashed in on the growing student population.
Kemunto, friends say, rented a hostel outside the university for most of her study period.
She was popularly known as Hadija, which she shortened to “Didge”, to her classmates.
She had three close friends, and the four of them were so tight that classmates referred to them as the Gang of Four, borrowing from the tag used on four Chinese rebel politicians — Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen — during Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution.
One of her friends shared contacts of Kemunto’s two family members, but they refused to talk when we called. They then switched off their mobile phones.
She had a boyfriend who studied the same course and they hang out together most of the time until she graduated.
Then she dumped him. “They were so close and planned to wed, but somehow things did not work out,” a friend said.
From there, she got a job at a phone shop in Nairobi. Then things moved so fast from there on and, before long, she had another boyfriend.
After that, she disappeared from the social scene. Friends didn’t hear from her again until she organised a wedding last year.
Neighbours at the Guango Estate home in Kiambu she shared with Gichunge described her as a quiet woman who liked to smile, but seldom spoke.
She was always wearing a niqab — a veil worn by some Muslim women in public, covering all of the face apart from the eyes — and seldom stepped out of the house unless in the company of Gichunge.
And she was a mystery. On her Facebook page, friends tried to find out why she had been so ‘lost’, street lingo for missing in action. She didn’t respond. One photo shows her hand with a wedding ring on one of the fingers, and in another post, she declared: “Nothing will happen to us except what God has written for us.”
Originally Published by the Daily Nation.