A recently released UN report shows Kenyans are the happiest lot in East Africa. But keener observations show Kenyan men could be an exemption and are probably the unhappiest and most scared people in the region.
Oddly, Kenyan men are not scared of robbers, bandits, deadly impurities in foods like mercury-laced sugar or even police brutality as one would expect. No, they are scared of their wives.
In the latest high profile case, a university lecturer shocked a court when he claimed that he had to desert his palatial home and file for divorce on fears that his wife was planning to kill him.
This comes against the backdrop of yet another scary case in which a Nyeri magistrate, Pauline Omungala, was arrested in connection with the murder of her lawyer husband, Robert Chesang.
The senior principal magistrate is now ‘assisting police with investigations’ into the murder as a prime suspect.
Hitmen now take as little as Sh5,000
“What you guys read in the media are cases involving big men. There are way too many ‘lowly’ men I know who don’t sleep easy. A case in point is a close friend whose wife suspected him of cheating on her and has since turned dangerously silent for months,” says Rono, a city resident.
He says his friend is so scared because even after explaining to his wife that she had the wrong information, she has launched a nasty ‘cold war’ and has been behaving in a manner likely to suggest she is plotting something sinister against him.
“The man is so scared of his wife’s food, fearing that she could poison him. Each time she picks a call, he has to keenly listen in, just in case she could be contacting killers,” says Rono.
He adds that his friend, who describes himself as a dead man walking, is scared even when in public on suspicion that hitmen, who now take as little as Sh5,000, hired by his angry wife could be trailing him.
His fears could be justified, especially coming months after former principal of Kiru Boys High School in Kiambu County met his death in the hands of hit-men suspected to have been hired by his wife over an alleged extramarital affair.
Panic each time wives wake up in dead of night
Apparently, each time Rono’s friend’s wife wakes up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom, he has to wake up and remain alert.
“We live in times where aggrieved wives sneak on husbands and chop of their privates or pour hot water or acid on them in sleep. So my pal tells me he doesn’t take chances,” says Rono.
But Rono’s friend is not alone. Tales abound of men who avoid their own homes and spend more time away, just to reduce contact time with wives.
“Some hang around pubs, only to get home to sleep; something they don’t do in peace, lest something bad is done to them while in deep slumber. Others get home but remain in cars in parking lots till late,” says Rono.
A recent report by the National Crime Research Centre aptly captures this sad state of affairs.
It indicates that 47.1 per cent of men in Kenya have been slapped or had something that could hurt thrown at them by an intimate partner.
Blind, scarred after acid attack by mama watoto
According to the study, a huge chunk of the male population has been a victim of domestic violence but they rarely talk about it.
Perhaps another explanation to why a huge chunk of Kenyan men are silently battling depression?
Many men pretend that all is well but deep down, they live in fear of their spouses.
Dan Makhaya is now blind, courtesy of acid that his wife used to attack him. In a police report, he recorded how his wife poured acid on his face, blinding him on impact. It has been five years since the incident, which is under trial.
Peter Mulwa, 37, whose wife slashed his face using a knife after a disagreement over money says he could not imagine the shame of walking around telling people that his wife had harmed him.
Silent male victims of domestic violence
“I lied that I had cut myself while pruning. It was better than saying I had been cut by my wife. People at work would have said I am weak,” he says.
Experts warn that if not addressed, domestic violence will soon be a big threat to the institution of marriage, scaring young men and women from settling down.
“It’s high time couples seek professional help. If this trend of bottling up continues, we will see more harm and deaths on both men and women,” says Emmanuel Agalo, a counselling psychologist based in Nairobi.
Data from the aforementioned report shows that while women’s vulnerability remains fairly constant, that of men has steadily been increasing over the years.
It also paints an ironic picture of counties that are considered to have a higher education level such as Nairobi ranking high in violence against men, while North Eastern that has the highest rates of illiteracy reporting lowest cases of domestic violence of both genders.
Denied conjugal rights and other emotional tortures
Maendeleo ya Wanaume chairman Nderitu Njoka says most men are tortured by their partners psychologically more than physically, which leaves them depressed.
“We have a lot of men suffering in silence, men sleeping in their cars but they cannot tell anyone because once they speak out, they will be victimised more by their partners,” says Njoka.
Njoka’s list of emotional torture is endless: It includes denial of conjugal rights, or refusal of a woman to do ‘wifely’ duties like cooking or washing.
Marriage experts insist that partners must work together as a team and remember the vows they took.
“What most marriages need is spicing up of things. Most partners are in loveless unions and are only there to raise children. When either of them wrongs the other, violence seem to be the only option,” says Agalo, an expert who has handle many cases of domestic violence.
He says men seem to have many options when things go wrong. Some, he says, keep mistresses who help in ‘releasing stress’ or run to their parallel families, where they are consoled and pampered.
“Unfortunately for women, most invest heavily in their one and only marriage and are scared of consequences of cheating, which in most cases is divorce. So when they realise that they are being taken for a ride, they express that anger in very nasty ways like hiring hitmen,” he says, urging men to speak up and report violence against them before it’s too late.
Besides cheating suspicion, another leading reason as to why wives now kill husbands is malicious schemes for property inheritance.