Glowing tributes to Rita Tinina from family, colleagues and friends

A consummate and distinguished journalist, humble, remarkable, passionate, a great curator and storyteller; these were just some of the adjectives used to describe the colourful life of the late Rita Tinina during her Requiem Mass on Monday morning at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi.

Despite her senior position in the newsroom, she always made time to mentor her younger colleagues, regardless of her rigorous work schedule, she still found time for her family.

At the age of 46, Tinina, known as RT, T9 or simply Maasai, passed away, leaving behind a beautiful legacy and a void so large that all those who paid tribute to her described her as a gentle giant, the epitome of greatness and gentleness. How she balanced these parallel virtues remains a mystery.

She completed her secondary education at Maasai Girls before joining the Kenya Institute of Mass Communications and later the University of Nairobi to hone her journalism skills. When she started her career at Citizen TV in 1999, it was no secret that she was destined for greatness.

She later moved to NTV, then KTN News and back to NTV before her untimely demise.

RT touched the lives of thousands of people she interacted with, as evidenced by the testimonies given at her funeral service.

“I am heartbroken but happy to share Aunty Rita’s wonderful legacy with you all. She was a veteran journalist who worked across the country and around the world. She mentored and shaped the careers of many young people,” said Angela Yiapan, her niece.

In a stunning tribute, her partner, Robert Nagila, said that although Rita was gentle and loving, she was also “the stubbornest person who was principled and true to her beliefs”.

He said his heart was completely broken revealing that he had received numerous calls and messages from well-wishers over the past week asking how he was.

“Today I stand before you to answer that question. I am broken. But broken things can be mended, whereas the love of a loved one is absolute. They have left a void that cannot be filled. We are comforted by the memories created and are sure that we will live with them forever,” he said.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo described Rita as a distinguished professional and accomplished journalist who served the country with dignity, integrity and candour for over 20 years.

“I sincerely convey our message of condolence to Rita’s family, friends and the entire media fraternity. For those of us left behind, let us emulate and demonstrate the values that Rita exhibited and uphold the virtues that she stood for,” he said.

Nation Media Group Editor-in-Chief, Joe Ageyo, eulogised Rita as a dependable team member, indeed the ultimate team player, a consummate professional who gave her best during her two decades in the newsroom.

“We gather to reflect on the profound impact she had on us through her stories and her remarkable character. It has been said, and it is true, that Rita was more than a journalist. Her personal qualities left an indelible mark on all who knew her,” he said.

Through powerful stories, Rita pursued truth and justice and produced content that demanded change in a way that connected with her audience and stirred their emotions.

“Her unwavering integrity will continue to impact the earth long after she has left us,” he said, before reading an elegy he curated for Rita.

“In the hallowed halls where angels tread, we gather under the cross, hearts heavy as lead. For Rita, a beloved soul has found rest in the arms of the Father, blessed forever. Two decades later, our paths crossed in the realm of television, a stage divine… read part of the elegy.

When he bumped into Rita a month ago in the very church where he read her tribute yesterday,Royal Media Services Group Editorial Director Linus Kaikai did not know it would be their last conversation. They had even planned to meet again soon, but that was never to be.

“I will always have fond memories of one of the finest human souls. At her core, Rita remained in Nairobi as close as any mother could be – a good child and a meaningful adult. Always neat and tidy,” he said.

Not even the much-vaunted “character development” that so often befalls some people ever affected Rita, nor did the pollution of a city as big as Nairobi ever affect her morals, Mr Kaikai said.

“When the Nation Media Group celebrated its 50th anniversary, we broadcast our first full-length outdoor bulletins LIVE. Later in the year, we had the constitutional referendum with our rolling coverage starting days before the 4 August 220 referendum. Rita’s three words on the day of the referendum sound somehow sad today – this is it,” Mr Kaikai said.

For Olive Burrows, the extent of the late Tinina’s influence is “beyond comprehension” as she was a “remarkable woman whose values and impact on people’s lives speak for themselves”.

“She quietly conquered her world in a way that still puts her in the limelight. How she served the world diligently, but always had time for her family, is legendary,” she said.

Former Westlands MP Fred Gumo said he used to tease Tinina about her “friendship” with Mr Nagila, always asking when “their happy day” would come.

“You can’t be friends forever! I would tell her. She kept telling me, Mheshimiwa, do not worry, the day will come. At Robert’s father’s funeral I asked her again and she told me the day would come. I never knew that the day would come when I would be here saying these things,” he said.

Mr Gumo recounted how the deceased loved her job and always tried to get to the bottom of issues affecting both the government and its citizens.

Emotions then ran high as RT’s sisterhood group – The Strong Pillars – revealed that she not only gave them the name, but also introduced them to the idea of pallbearers. Loyce, Dorcas Njeri, Judy Kageni and Jane Nyagah.

“She introduced pallbearers to us with the idea that when one of us dies, we will bear the burden of riding or walking with others to the final resting place. We never expected the pallbearers plan to be implemented so soon, but here we are,” said Loyce Muna, in tears.

She said they had planned to go on another trip soon, but it was very sad that the only trip they would make would be to her home in Narok for her burial.

In their two-decade relationship, they knew Mrs Tinina as someone who denounced drama and mischief and strongly condemned lying, vices she summed up as Karagasha.

“I don’t do karaagasha, she always said, and when she came across it, she walked away,” she said.

For Ken Mijungu, the Standard Group’s deputy broadcast editor, Rita’s legacy defies mere words, adding that she devoted more than a decade of unwavering dedication to KTN News.

“Rita was not just an employee, she was the heartbeat of our newsroom. A beacon of integrity and grace. Her absence is a silent echo, a missing melody in a song. She was more than ink on paper. She was the voice of the voiceless,” he said.

He recounted how in 2017, Rita asked him to help her get a good car and when he quoted the required price, which he said was quite high, Rita didn’t bargain or haggle, she simply asked for the account number where she should deposit the money.

“Rita was a seeker of justice, a weaver of history and a guardian of democracy. She was not just a colleague, but a confidante, a sounding board and a friend. Her impact goes beyond the headlines,” he said.

Rita’s funeral and burial will take place on Wednesday (March 24, 2024) at Nosuupeni Farm Olokirikirai, Narok County from 10am.

“As we say goodbye to our friend, her memory will linger like a morning dew in a whispering light until the dawn of eternal light. Rest in peace, dear Rita, in God’s embrace, in the glory of His mercy and grace. Your legacy of goodness and truth, ever bright, will guide us home in His holy light,” Mr Ageyo’s elegy concluded.

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