WHEREVER there was trouble in East Africa Hos Maina was in the thick of it. Not that you would notice. Maina was the most diffident and unostentatious journalist I ever met. He was Reuters' workaday staff photographer based in Nairobi, but this unobtrusive man often got to places other photographers did not reach. He spoke softly and slowly and had a sceptical 'What-do-I-know?' grin. But I learnt over the years that Maina usually knew most things that were going on. He began working as a photographer for the Daily Nation, Kenya's leading daily paper and then became a freelance and worked for Reuters. He was married and had two boys and a girl but, like most journalists in East Africa, recently spent a lot of uncomfortable time away from home.
He was brave. He covered the worst times in Uganda, the civil war in Sudan, the overthrow of President Mengistu in Ethiopia and the civil war in Somalia and the American invasion, and of course the upheavals in his own country, Kenya. He once rescued me from an angry crowd in Kenya - a crowd probably not unlike the one which killed him on Monday. It is still unclear how the Somali drivers and translators who guide and protect journalists in Mogadishu failed to save him and the three other journalists who were beaten to death by a mob but I cannot imagine Hos Maina running. He would have stood his ground and politely tried to reason with them.
Once he was attending a rally for President Daniel arap Moi, who was denouncing multi-party democracy and claiming that everyone supported him. The president turned to those around him and made the mistake of picking on Maina and asking him what he thought. It was at a time when not many Kenyan politicians had the courage to say what they thought, but Maina told him casually that he thought multi-party democracy was a good idea for Kenya. 'You're mad,' I said to him. 'Someone had to tell him,' he shrugged.
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