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Wife endured gang rape to save man from forced circumcision

7 August 2017 - 15:08

Ten years since the chaos that erupted after the 2007 elections, Kenya goes to the polls again on Tuesday, August 8. Over the years there have been attempts, some even official, to erase the memory of the 2007/08 post-election violence from public consciousness. Yet, each time reality has found a way to impose itself. Victims still cry for justice and many Kenyans, scared by the possibility of a recurrence of violence, are fleeing towns and cities for their rural homes. 

The shadow of what happened in 2007/8 looms large over the August 8, 2017, elections. Repetition is only possible if Kenyans forget from where they have come. Never Again, just as it did in its former iteration as The Hague Trials Kenya, continues to keep the tragic events of 2007 at the fore lobe of public discourse. This piece is part of a multi-installment series that Never Again is rolling out to peel the veil of secrecy from some of the cruellest crimes committed against men in the post-election violence in Kenya, and the effects they continue to live with today.

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Confronted with the impossible choice of her husband being forcibly circumcised and being gang raped, Peter’s wife chose the latter.

It has been 10 years since that terrible choice, but she has never recovered from it.  Peter looks back with deep regret, wishing that he had volunteered to be forcibly circumcised.

“She is going. She is going. She is gone,” Peter says, drawing in his breath deeply.

On the evening of January 28, 2008 when revenge attacks for Kikuyu killings in Kiambaa targeted the Luo in Naivasha and Nakuru, Peter’s family was caught in the crosshairs. As tension heightened in the area, Peter recalls that the Kikuyu would use the term ‘madoadoa’(stains) to refer to non-Kikuyu living in the area. They threatened to uproot all madoadoa from their region.

Peter was a 38-year-old budding manager at a driving school in Nakuru town. He was doing well and had big dreams for his family.

One evening, he was returning home from an errand when he noticed that his wife was locked in a deathly scuffle with four dreadlocked men. He hid in an outhouse latrine where he could overhear the gang demanding to know from her where her husband was. She had caught a glimpse of him hiding but did not breathe a word.

Within moments, she was confronted with an impossible choice: “You either tell us where your husband is or we will all rape you,” Peter remembers distinctly hearing the order. His wife stood her ground and refused to disclose her husband’s whereabouts. The men raped her in turns as Peter, paralysed with fear, watched helplessly from a tiny hole in the latrine. He wanted to come out and confront the men but he was sure they would kill him. Their children watched the ordeal. In the end, she just lay there, waiting to die.

Peter hid in the latrine for three days -- numb from anger, shock and disbelief. He didn’t know where his family was or if they had been killed.

When the Peter’s finally reunited and settled in Miwani after a stint at a camp for displaced people, he began life again from the bottom -- fetching water from the river for a pittance, and accepting manual labour of weeding sugar cane. He thought people looked down upon him; some ridiculed him, saying he had become a woman. “This made me feel less of a man,” he says.

His wife was sickly. She had contracted sexually transmitted infections from the gang rape, and treating her ate into the family’s meagre resources. The ordeal changed her completely from a once jovial woman to a recluse. The horrors from Nakuru followed her like a shadow. She had seen many dead and witnessed brutal killings. She saw Mungiki gangs slashing off men’s genitals. And she blamed her husband for not protecting her from the gangs.

Her health deteriorated, with one thing leading to another; from stress to depression to chronic depression and now – insanity. Before Peter understood what his wife was going through, he admits that he used to beat her up. “She could cook food for the children and eat it all or worse still, pour it all out. This pained me a lot and I resorted to beating her.”

Peter says his wife’s parents almost disowned their daughter, associating her condition with witchcraft. His family thought her mental illness could have stemmed from her side of the family. On the other hand, his side of the family thought that the mental illness came from the woman’s side of the family; prompting him to marry another wife.

“I wish I had just let them circumcise me and spared my wife. I blame myself for her condition.”

His first wife is in bad shape with her mental condition deteriorating by the day. Many are the times Peter wants to tie her up and stabilize her but he still deeply loves his wife. “She has become mad, I mean mwendawazimu. My wife is there but not there.”

He took a second wife when his first wife’s condition went from bad to worse. His first marriage produced seven children while the new one has two more. He decided to remarry to get a helper in the house, he says.

Even though he admits that his wife’s condition has improved in the past three months, he is keen to get her professional help. He hopes that his wife can be observed by a specialist and put on proper care immediately.

Soon, he cuts the interview off. He has to hurry back to his demanding job as a bodaboda rider ferrying passengers between Kibigori and Kisumu.

*A pseudonym has been used to protect the subject’s privacy

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