Kenya: A Tale Of Two Tragedies

By F. Wafula Okumu

Inside the East African Standard of December 15, 1997, there was a picture of Wilmina Achieng being transported to hospital on a wheelbarrow. She looked lifeless amid stares of bystanders whose faces betrayed their helplessness. Achieng had been "brutalized," as the East African Standard put it, by Danny Ndedah Ndembwa, her husband. The East African Standard narrated the following story.

On the evening of December 6, Danny returned home to find his wife not at home. She had gone to visit her sister-in-law, Danny's sister, and did not return until 8 p.m. When she returned, the husband pounced on her as she alighted from a matatu accompanied by her sister-in-law. By the time the couple reached their house, Achieng had been thrashed unconscious by Danny.

Apparently neighbors did not effectively intervene to stop "one of the most bizarre and brutal incidents witnessed anywhere in recent times." Danny continued raining blows and kicks on Achieng despite her loss of consciousness; and even at one time poured cold water on her in a bid to revive her.

Neighbors only made feeble attempts, through pleas, to stop Danny's sadistic abuse of his wife. Although he agreed to stop terrorizing her, he immediately continued after the neighbors left. For 10 hours, Danny "beat his wife senseless and brutally lacerated her private parts with thorns and sharpened pieces of wood."

Probably the only good thing the neighbors did was to spirit away the couple's three children so that they did not witness the violence between their parents. Despite the screams and loud struggles which went on the whole night, neighbors did nothing else.

On the morning of the following day, Danny awoke one of his neighbors and told her "to go dress up her friend." The neighbor, Mama Chris, was horrified by what she saw when she entered the victim's house. Achieng was lying naked on the floor with blood oozing from all over her body. Strewn all over the floor "were sharp pieces of wood covered with blood. Some of these pieces had nails popping out of their edges. These were the tools of torture used by Danny on his wife," said Mama Chris.

Neighbors say Danny showed no signs of remorse and appeared unperturbed by his actions. He even had the audacity to accuse his unconscious wife of hiding money which could be used to transport her to the hospital.

During his appearance in court, Danny justified his bestiality on the grounds that "his community allowed such punishments." He was merely punishing his wife for having left home "with no valid reason."

However, neighbors said that Danny's wife-battering and vicious assaults were daily occurrences. That "sometimes she had to bribe him with some money to stop the abuse." Achieng was a very humble and hard working woman who diligently struggled to keep her family going by peddling sukuma wiki and tomatoes on street curbs.

What is disturbing, as much as Danny's gruesome brutality, were the public reactions to this ghastly incident. It seems the neighbors let this brutality escalate to the point where Achieng had to be battered into an unconscious state before expressing shock and disgust. Beyond these expressions, the public in general did nothing for Achieng or thousands of other Achiengs. Only the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) came out to offer legal protection and pay her hospital bills.

What is even more disturbing is what happened on December 28, 1997, when Achieng was cleared to leave the hospital and was asked into whose custody she should be released. To her doctors' shock, she said she wanted to be returned to her husband. Despite the passionate pleas from her doctors not to return to a man who had almost completely taken away her life, she remained adamant.

There was unanimous agreement among social workers, psychologists and other health care providers that if she returned to Danny she will be killed.

There is a parallel to this sad story. Around the time Achieng was being brutalized, Kenya was preparing for the second "multi-party" elections. President Daniel arap Moi, who like Danny Ndedah Ndembwa, had accumulated a record enviable only to the likes of Mobutu, Marcos, the Duvaliers, Hitler, Musssolini, Samoza, and other similar power angry dictators of brutalizing his people for 19 years, was wooing the Kenyans to give him "5 more years to complete" his job.

For 19 years, nyayoism has spun Kenya into chaos, abject poverty, economic malaise, and political bankruptcy. President Dan's rule of malfeasance is presently nonpareil. It's most notable that President Dan embarked on his last term in office by making genocide a mantra of his administration. His failure to stem orgies of violence perpetrated by his sycophants and the deafening silence from State House when ethnic pogroms erupted at the Coast and the Rift Valley left no doubt in the mind of the world that he was behind the killing or knew the killers. Indeed, when historians write President Dan's legacy they will aptly give it the title: "How Moi's Reign of Error and Terror Bedeviled Kenya."

Just like I was praying for Achieng's recovery from Danny's sadistic assault, I prayed that on December 29, 1997, the Kenyans would seize the opportunity to liberate themselves from President Dan's untold abuses.

To my dismay, just like in the case of Achieng who demanded to return to the man who had almost killed her, the Kenyans on December 29 and 30 returned to power a man who has for 19 years excelled in raping the economy, terrorizing and dismembering communities, institutionalizing dependency, sowing hatred, promoting corruption, and then lying with a straight face.

President Dan and nyayoism has, in the words of The People (December 25-January 1, 1998), turned Kenyans into people who "are rude to (themselves) everywhere, to the point of not feeling any compunction for the sufferings of (their) neighbors, even when (they) are the cause of that suffering."

Five more years of President Dan will kill Kenya. Right now Kenya is slithering inexorably toward a state of anarchy. I strongly believe that President Dan will fulfill his campaign promise of "completing his job" of killing Kenya. What a tale of two tragedies.