By Francis Ngige
At the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital, Kevin Muriuki is caught up in a flurry of activities. The youthful man is being attended to at the casualty department of the hospital, but his presence has attracted an unusually large crowd.
Yet in another ward at the hospital, Simon Kiguta’s disfigured stature has baffled fellow patients and health workers. Kiguta’s condition makes one wonder what kind of callousness can trigger a person to inflict such injuries on a human being.
His wife allegedly attacked Kiguta, who talked shortly after leaving the intensive care unit, with a panga.
His picture and story were a fodder for debate in the social media as well as a subject of gossip in the local village market. Vividly recalling the events of the material night, Kiguta said he was attacked while sleeping in his matrimonial bed.
He said when he arrived home drunk and his wife opened the door for him. "I went to bed after surrendering the little money that I had and retired to bed," he said.
When she later joined him in bed, she did not undress, as is often the case. "She was not in a position to speak as she was furious," Kiguta recalls. When he attempted to make advances towards her, he was attacked with a panga.
But his wife who has since been charged in court with attempted murder denied harming him. Ms Juliana Wairimu said she had nothing to do with her husband’s injuries. Wairimu told a Mukurweini court that she had run away from her home in Mihuti for fear of her life after strangers came knocking at his door. "I did not escape to avoid arrest, I was doing so for my safety as things had been exaggerated," said Wairimu.
Having heard that Muriuki is one of Nyeri men allegedly trapped in an abusive marriage, many are eager to see the diminutive man and possibly hear him out. "I am not ready to go back to that house and live with my cruel wife. This is too much to bear," declares Muriuki, as the inquisitive crowd prods for more information.
Six years ago when he met Ms Magdalene Wamaitha, the then lovebirds envisaged a good marriage after courting for a short time before settling down as husband and wife. But now Muriuki is forced to put aside those happy memories and ponder the possibility of separating with Wamaitha since, as far as he is concerned, the marriage is no longer tenable.
As he grimaces in pain at the hospital bench, he vows never to return to their matrimonial home, despite being built on a piece of land he has inherited.
The wife allegedly hired goons to "teach" him a lesson for failing to fend for the family.
Wamaitha also denied being behind the husband’s attacks, saying the accusation was based on falsehoods. "I was hanging clothes out to dry in the backyard and on returning, I found that there were people beating up my husband," she said from her Skuta home.
Muriuki and Kiguta’s tales are now becoming a familiar narrative of husband battering in Nyeri County. The two are among scores of men who have come out of their closets to reveal what a few men would be willing to share with the world – that they are abused by their wives.
But the matter of women beating up their wives in Nyeri is nothing new. A story is told of how a local tycoon was forced to flee his matrimonial home after some church elders found his wife beating him.
It is claimed that for fear of further humiliation, the tycoon simply moved out of town. For the partygoers, it is many times they have witnessed the spectacle of a wife storming into a joint where her husband is merry-making and causing trouble.
In one such case, a man incurred a heavy bill after his wife entered a club where her husband was partying with his friends and spilled all the drinks. She nearly caused a riot as intoxicated revellers wanted to "teach her a lesson." But the brave woman could not be cowed, saying she was ready to fight anyone as her business was to protect her husband. Most of the women in Nyeri claim their forthrightness has been misunderstood for highhandedness.
"We are good at protecting our territory: If this is what you call husband battering, so be it," says Ms Jacinta Nyakonyu, a Nyeri town resident. She adds, "One thing I cannot tolerate is my husband coming to the house drank every day and yet he does not provide for the family.You will be recognised as head of the house if you deserve it."
As The Standard On Saturday found out, Muriuki and Kiguta’s plight transcends age and exposes the vices that are slowly tearing society. In the nearby Kamakwa village, 70-year-old Christopher Mwangi too has a harrowing tale to tell. The elderly man has his two front teeth knocked out allegedly by his wife of nearly 30 years. The retired soldier can barely boast of his days at the military when he energetic and the envy of many. When we visited their Kamakwa home early this week, a combative Mary Muringe confidently stated she had reason to teach Mwangi a lesson.
"There is no way I’m going to fend for a grown up man who has abdicated his parental responsibilities and resorted to heavy drinking at the expense of the family," interjected Muringe, as we spoke to her husband. Their differences played out during the interview, with the wife constantly being restrained by neighbours from attacking the octogenarian.
"Stop lying and tell them that you no longer care about the welfare of your family and that all you do is drinking," the wife drowned Mwangi’s voice with her shouts. Within no time, the interview degenerated into a verbal exchange between the two, as their children watched.
Mwangi claimed that his wife had knocked off his two missing incisors during one of the many beatings.
Claiming that the wife was using frivolous reasons to pick up quarrels, Mwangi said he had been tired of the marriage for a while now, but it was not easy for him to walk out.
"At my age, do you think that I can get someone else to marry? But I don’t see her as my wife anymore! How do you explain the fact that I wash my clothes? I no longer sleep in my matrimonial bed, having been squeezed out years ago," a bitter Mwangi recounted.
Muringe did not rebut the testimony on them sleeping separately despite being husband and wife.
"Ask him why this is happening. He no longer provides for me, and the children. Where does he expect me to get food to feed him?" posed Muringe.
She added: "I only give him food when he does not use abusive language against me and my children. When he behaves that is the only time there is peace in this house.
She explained that Mwangi had resorted to heavy drinking after he retired from the local council where he got another job after quitting the military. "Look at him, he has made alcohol his food. It no longer bothers him that he has a family that needs to be taken care of," she said.
Mwangi’s story reflects the plight of Ephraim Mwangi, who is also among the many men who claim to be victims of wife battering. With seven children, he says it has been difficult to fend for his large family and this has made him remain at loggerheads with his wife.
"Sometime casual work is hard to come by but that is the source of problems with my wife. She cannot understand why I can spend the whole day in the house without work," said Mwangi.
He claimed that on one occasion, his wife pushed him out of their house and he fractured his right hand.
"One thing I cannot do is run away because I still love her and there is also the children to take care of. Even after that incident where I broke my hand, I have forgiven her and decided to move on," revealed Mwangi.