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Exclusive: what drove JKUAT student Brian Bera to attack State House

As this week began, Kenyans were subjected to the spectacle of yet another state House intruder.

This time round the intruder was a mechanical engineering student in his final year at JKUAT. The reactions from Kenyans came in thick and fast. On the one side were his peers, his fellow Kenyan youths, who lionized his actions and declared him a hero.

On the opposing side of the debate were the rationalists who could not understand his actions and were quick to blame drugs, others claimed he had gone mad.

As it so happens with most social media debates, the truth got lost in the din and noise. TV47 decided to carry out an investigation and the following is what we dug up.

Brian Kibet Bera does not seem to be insane, and neither is he on drugs. Brian’s condition is similar to a lot of Kenyan youths. Their lives dogged in constant turmoil with no useful guidebook in sight.

Feeling their way in life like a blind man in a dark room and at the same time drowning in a sea of information that may or may not lead them astray. As for Brian that sea led him very astray.

By all definitions, Brian appears to have had a pretty normal childhood. He passed his primary school and got admitted to Nairobi School, where he managed to score a solid A and was admitted to JKUAT to study mechanical engineering.

His first three years in the university were uneventful and he appears to have cruised through without a hitch.

Brian’s problems, according to his father, seem to have begun in 2016 while he was in third year. Nothing dramatic happened to him in 2016 but in the course of our investigation, we came across an odd fact.

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2016 was the first time Brian failed at anything. He failed three courses units in his exams. This set off a chain reaction that can be hard to appreciate in scope.

Brian resat his papers the following year and passed two and failed one. This led to two outcomes, one he had to leave school the following year for months due to school policy and two, he had in effect been set back a whole year and had to repeat to catch up. Brian’s downward spiral can be traced to these two events.

Brian went back home to Mt Elgon. From this unrequested sabbatical from school he had much free time on his hands. From here we can see the beginnings of his anarchist philosophies.

He has many strongly held beliefs that we can unpack. First and foremost, he is a bonafide Christian. His classmates can attest to his devotion as he peppered their social media groups with scripture quotes and aphorisms.

Secondly, he enjoyed his own company and was a bit of loner. Brian did not socially interact much with his classmates but he came alive in class and would occasionally contribute to discussions.

He was, by all means, a committed student and was working on a material alloy for aircraft manufacturing as his final project which he successfully defended. His classmates tolerated his social media gospel missives as he was not aggressive in person and was a bit of an introvert.

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His passions before he went home for a year, according to his classmates were, the Bible, the work of Henry Ford the Ford founder, Ethiopia, which led him to adopt the moniker, prince of Ethiopia. He often came up with bizarre ideas that he would defend before his classmates with solid arguments. He could back up most of his claims.

However, after he went home and came back something in him had shifted. His views turned negative and dark. He claimed to have no ambition for education anymore and now wanted to be a pastoralist.

His engineering school dean confessed to us that he had once told him he now thought school was satanic and keeping him from God. He now claimed the Illuminati had infiltrated the school.

More somberly, his views towards his father grew increasingly dark. He claimed he had sold his land birthright for him to go to school while now he didn’t see any need for education.

He was also prone to wandering while he was on his break, to be found near rivers and caves. He was even arrested once in Naromoru trying to climb Mt Kenya.

Once, he called his father while in Athi River asking for lunch money and telling him that he was on his way to Mombasa on foot. He was obviously not much interested in staying home.

When he resumed school, the Dean of faculty Dr Mutuku Muvengei and some colleagues noticed his new attitude and recommended him to the counsellor. He resisted the move but he was able to slot in a few sessions. The counsellor sensed that his problems were family-related and recommended the appropriate treatment.

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We visited his house and found Spartan-like conditions. He owns no bed and makes do with a threadbare mattress in a tiny room with only space for a ‘meko’ and a small table.

No evidence of drug use is visible apart from a few cigarette butts and matchboxes. So why would an engineering student with weeks to graduation take a knife and attempt to enter the most guarded residence in the entire country?

To answer this question, it was important to understand who he was. Who then was Brian Bera? Brian is a typical Kenyan youth. Tormented by new 21st century challenges. Pressure to succeed in school was so high that failing 3 papers threw him way off balance. He was also dealing with family pressures and fissures that we all eventually have to confront which can either make or break you.

He comes from a region with a long history of land tussles and armed struggles for land and livestock. The Mt Elgon area is not exactly known for being peaceful.

He was not particularly well off and that must have intimidated him to no end among his savvier Nairobi peers. He also had a mild mental disorder which might explain his aloofness and extreme introversion as explained by his neighbours who described him as not much of a sociable individual or a talker for that matter.

He had adopted radical stances influenced by social media. Brian probably knew that even with his fancy engineering degree he would have to tarmac and probably make do with a job he was overqualified for that paid peanuts.