Last conversation between Hellen Mtawali, Achieng Abura


LEFT: Achieng Abura. RIGHT: Hellen Mtawali [PHOTO/EDAILY]
LEFT: Achieng Abura. RIGHT: Hellen Mtawali [PHOTO/EDAILY]

The Kenyan entertainment industry continues to mourn the death of legendary Afro-Fusion artiste Achieng Abura, which occurred Thursday evening at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) after a short illness. She had been admitted at the KNH on October 13.

“We thank the Almighty God for her time here with us, for her music, and for her efforts towards social prosperity and harmony. While we will miss her dearly, memories of her will remain with us forever. The family kindly requests your support during this trying time,” reads a statement sent to press by the spokesperson of Achieng Abura’s family, Sandra Owiti, on Friday, October 21.

Achieng Abura’s close friend and former Tusker Project Fame judge Hellen Mtawali has exclusively recounted to eDaily her (Ms Mtawali’s) last conversation with the late Afro-Fusion star, which took place recently.

“She (Ms Abura) told me she was not well and she was crying. She told me she needed KSh50, 000 to be admitted in hospital. Then I gave her what I could for that moment… She would not call me that much because she said I have too many mouths to feed,” Principal Mtawali recounted.

“But whenever I saw her ringing my phone I knew: ‘Wooo get money Prince (Ms Abura’s son) is in bad shape’. This time she told me she was the one sick…”

The buddies would share conversations in between, but few days before October 20 happened to be the last moments that the two would communicate with each other, as Achieng Abura passed on when Hellen Mtawali was optimistic she would recover.

“Only to hear now on social media that she passed away. I called immediately I saw the first note and too late her house help said it was true,” Ms Mtawali said amid sadness.

Principal Hellen Mtwali describes Achieng Abura as a “warrior, who was humble and well-read”.

“She sang a song called the Spirit of a Warrior. She is a warrior. Achieng believed in herself. We have lost a true songstress, a mentor, a comic, smart intelligent, well read, humble, African queen,” Mtawali said.

“I learnt so much from her. She is the one who introduced me to the music scene. We were deep friends and she stood by me when I lost my brother. I have lost my angel. Before I was Principal she was. She was never jealous of me but would warn me when she saw danger. She guided me on every step I took. She prepared me to take over from her and every show I did, she gave me feedback. I will miss her advice. She advised me even in the world of academia then I’d advice her on how to live life fully,” concluded Ms Mtwali.

As Kenyans, in thousands, continue to take to social media to condole with the family of the late singer, many did not know that the mother-of-one was going through a turbulent period in life.

Her 23-year-old son, Prince, who has sickle cell anaemia, was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2011 – and since then, Ms Abura became the pillar of her son, whom she described as “mature and comfortable in himself”.

“He is a clever boy, he got scholarships. He was supposed to have started last year (2015) in April, but just before that he was in ICU for over a month. But now doctors want to strengthen his heart. They can,” she told Business Daily in a July, 2016 interview.

KSh12 million was urgently needed for Ms Abura son’s treatment – and due to the nature of the condition, he was to be airlifted to the United Kingdom for advanced treatment.

“The alternative is to have a doctor, a nurse, myself and him on business class for KSh4 million. So we are trying to raise KSh4 million,” she said in July, 2016.

Achieng’ Abura was thus tasked to look for KSh4 million for her son’s urgent medical care. She set a date for a fundraiser – and few of her friends turned up; leaving her to fight for her son nearly alone.

“I called a harambee and there was less than 10 people. Then we did a show with Suzanne, Makadem… a big line-up. Still, we didn’t get the numbers. I’ve raised money for so many things and I was hoping that somebody in turn says, “Okay, let’s support her.” I have learnt one thing from this experience; the people who don’t have that much are the ones who donate to help. But the people who you are certain have, they don’t give,” she told Business Daily.

“…This experience has brought me new friends and it has also taught me that the ones I thought were my friends are not quite my friends… if you drop a little bit, they take off.”

Abura, a Bachelor’s degree holder in Chemistry and a Master’s degree holder in environmental studies, had plans, plans which sadly would not come to pass following her demise.

“When my son starts college I’m going to do my PhD…” she said in July, 2016.

Her son, she said, kept her in check; especially when she suspected she was binge drinking, Business Daily wrote.

“There was a time I used to indulge a bit heavily in alcohol… I knew I was doing something wrong. I just kind of kept on going and feeling guilty…But one thing that has always been my pillar in life is my son. When I go out there, I always remember that I want my son to be proud of me and so that has helped me a lot.”

Sources told eDaily that the late singer’s son is still undergoing treatment in hospital.

Achieng Abura checked herself in at the Kenyatta National Hospital on October 13 after she fell ill with an undisclosed illness.

Her struggles surfaced in one of her earlier posts on social media, where she revealed she had been battling with weight problems.

“I have lost over 50kgs in the last three years. Everything is hanging and weak. Walking is a problem with pains all over. Doctor says I must add 30kgs then lose it as I exercise and firm up; the irony of life. I was not even losing weight intentionally! I allowed life to get the better of me. Learn from my mistakes,” Abura wrote on Facebook on October 7.

Achieng Abura, a three-time Tusker Project Fame Principal, embarked on music and a socio-political peace project that sought to enhance the Kenyan identity after she left the talent search programme.

Until her demise, she had been in the music scene for more than 25 years. In 1990, she was already releasing her first album and since then she released almost half a dozen albums, winning a Kora Award in 2004.

May her soul rest in peace.

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Brian Okoth
Story By Brian Okoth
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