Sharing a name with a suspect in a high-profile criminal case can turn your life upside down, and a 24-year-old writer in Nairobi has experienced it first-hand.
Mr Brian Kasaine, also a motivational speaker, is a namesake of the neighbour of newscaster Jacque Maribe, who is being investigated in relation to a gun found in his house and its connection with the September 19 killing of 28-year-old Monica Kimani.
Having the same name as the other Kassaine, who is now in custody, has subjected him to toxic cyberbullying, incessant calls, sleepless nights and an anxiety that could not let him work.
So perturbed was Mr Kasaine (whose name has a single “s” unlike the suspect’s) that he that had to present himself at the headquarters of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on Wednesday.
The move was aimed to put to rest the posts that were circulating on social media bearing his photo and linking him with the police investigations.
An employee of KenyaBuzz, a Nation Media Group product, Mr Kasaine also decided to share his tribulations with the Sunday Nation, if to shut down the rumours once and for all.
His troubles started with the news of Mr Kassaine’s arrest, which spread like bushfire last Saturday. For the better part of that day, he was attending a friend’s graduation at United States International University-Africa at Ruaraka.
The source of all the confusion, Mr Kasaine believes, is one local TV station that tweeted about the arrest of Mr Kassaine without offering much clarification on who that was.
SCARED AND BITTER
“I got the first call at around 8pm, from one of the members of the Writers’ Guild Kenya. She is in Mombasa. The moment I picked the call, she said, ‘Oh, I’m so happy you’ve picked, because it means you are not the one.’ I was surprised and I asked her what was going on,” narrated Mr Kasaine.
An hour later, his phone was buzzing with calls from friends and relatives. From the enquiries, he decoded, there are people who thought he had relapsed to his old habits that had seen him expelled from a secondary school in Nakuru County in 2011 for leading a strike.
Whenever a friend or relative called to ask about his whereabouts, he assured them that he was safe, thinking this was a small misunderstanding that could go away soon.
He was wrong.
A blog called Kenyan Daily Post had carried the story of Mr Kassaine’s arrest and published the writer’s photo along with the story.
“If you googled the Brian Kassaine who had been arrested, he has no online traces, and my photos are available because I have been published here and there,” said Mr Kasaine.
He says he was “scared and bitter” when he saw the blog post. “The first thing I did was call my cousin who is a lawyer.”
The lawyer instructed him to take screenshots of the publication so they could use it to seek redress.
All this time, his phone kept buzzing, and one of the callers was a lecturer from Co-operative University of Kenya, from where he finished his studies in June and is awaiting graduation in December.
On Tuesday as he headed to work, he came across a tweet that read: “These criminals engage in murder during the night and motivational talks on entrepreneurship during the day.”
His heart sank.
Besides, there was a post on the infamous Facebook group Kilimani Mums and Dads with an insult-laden message to the effect that handsome men like Mr Kasaine should be avoided.
“I felt so bitter, and felt tears welling in my eyes. Then I called my boss and told him I was on my way to work but I couldn’t make it there before going to town to set the record straight,” he said.
His first stop was Nairobi’s Central Police Station, where officers referred him to the DCI headquarters.
“I went there and they asked me a few questions and also helped relieve my stress because they were making fun of it, with one saying, ‘Kumbe you are the one we were looking for,’” he said.
He later returned to the police station and got an OB number plus a typed statement, which police said could bolster his lawsuit against those who defamed him.
GUNS IN STORIES
“They gave me their numbers and said I should call in case of anything,” he said.
By Friday, the tension was dying down, but one incident at a hotel in Roysambu a day earlier was disturbing him.
“The waiters were staring at me and my friend, nudging each other and whispering. I am an introvert, so it really hurt me,” he said.
And on Saturday, when he went to Narok to give a motivational speech to students, he was shocked to learn that the management of the hotel they had booked had cancelled the event.
The owner refunded the booking cash at the eleventh hour and they had to look for another venue from which they could talk to Form Fours.
“One of the reasons the owner gave was that he doesn’t want his hotel associated with Brian Kassaine,” he said.
Mr Kasaine considers the whole incident a bad dream. He jokes that as a creative writer, he definitely has “guns”.
“My guns are in my stories. I don’t shoot with them; my characters do,” he said.
The firm of FK Naipanoi and Associates has written a demand letter to Kenya Daily Post, asking them to pull down the post and issue an apology in a newspaper of nationwide circulation or face action. They have since removed Mr Kasaine’s photo from the story.