• April 14, 2024
  • Last Update April 14, 2024 9:48 PM
  • Nairobi

Former prisoner turns page as carpentry skills put his life back on track


By Peter Ochieng

Silas Nachami Mukomi is a former prisoner whose life story revolves around Kenya’s major maximum security prisons.

During his time as a ‘guest of the State,’ Nachami spent time at Kamiti, Shimo La Tewa, Kibos, Manyani, King’ong’o, and Kodiaga, which was his last penal complex before being set free in 2019.

Born in Vihiga County in 1969, Nachami, after his form four education went to Kisumu in 1987 for his A levels. However, things did not go according to plan as he was forced to drop out of school due to lack of fees.

As a young man bustling with energy and ideas of how to earn a living, he decided to take up carpentry training. His skills earned him a fitting job at the house of one client, in Ahero, Kisumu county.

Unknown to him, the would-be client was reportedly a robber on the loose, under the radar of security officers, within and out of Kisumu. In one swoop, Nachami was arrested, charged and sentenced to a three-year-jail term.

He doesn’t have ill feelings against the judge who handed out the sentence. Nachami said all that mattered and matters in a court of law is evidence.

“I came to understand that people are not jailed because they committed a crime, but they are jailed because evidence provided proves that one committed a crime. Whether you committed a crime or not, the judge will jail you based on the evidence,” he said.

With the support of the late Mwai Abiero, former Bishop, Maseno South Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) diocese, Silas appealed the sentence. He got the shock of his life.

“The sentence was enhanced and the jail term increased to 8 years,” he recalled.

He then moved to the higher court with the hope of getting justice, but unfortunately, there was no reprieve. At the Court of Appeal, he was instead handed a death sentence and taken to the hanging block where he spent five years. In 2003, the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment before being set free in 2019, after successful petitions.

While in prison, he had a vision of starting a project that would help ex convicts to reintegrate back in the society. That is how the idea of Oracost furniture peroject came about. The late Bishop Abiero bought the idea and helped him set up at the ACK St. Stephens Cathedral in Kisumu.

“When somebody leaves prison after 5 or 10 years, he has an in print that he or she is a bad person. Lack of employment is there but there is another challenge that so and so was in prison,” he says.

“I had vision of starting a project so that those coming out of prison can have somewhere to start, showcase their skills, and raise some money so as to raise capital to start various economic ventures, besides showing the community that they have changed.”

The Bishop did not live long to see the project grow, leaving Nachami all by himself. He appreciates the church for holding his hand, all along.
Most of the fitting, carpentry and joinery skills he currently uses to earn a living were acquired during his time in prison.

“When jailed, you have to agree that you have been jailed, but do not allow your brain to be jailed. Invest in something during that wasted time,” he advises.

With a staff of 7 former inmates, Nachami majors in making chairs for the church. ACK is one of his major clients. He says that when he has a lot of work to do, the place is normally crowded with ex convicts.

Prices of their products, made from mahogany timber ordered from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ranges from Sh28, 000 to Sh95,000. With support, he plans to make the venture bigger so as to accommodate more former inmates.

Before his arrest, he had a wife and two children. The wife and one child died along the way. The surviving one was hit by stroke due to lack of care. He is currently at a Vocational Training Centre in Vihiga.

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