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Abomination of widows fight while mourning

By Maureen Odiwuor | August 2nd 2013

BY Maureen Odiwuor

Siaya County: In Luo traditional culture, people related to a deceased person are not allowed to fight or be fought physically from the time someone dies until a few weeks after his burial.

Within this period, cleansing rituals are supposed to be performed in case a fight breaks and it affects those who are supposed to be mourning.

Octogenarian Grace Sirman, 88, says that under such circumstances, if a person who is not directly related to the deceased person fights with a relative to the deceased, the former should take manyasi as an antidote for the chira (abomination) or else prepare him or herself for death.

“This is considered an abomination and the person has to be given manyasi or else he or she will die,” Sirman says.

But in Lieta village in Uyoma of Siaya County, tradition was put a side as a woman who was still mourning her husband fought with her co-wife during the funeral ceremony.

Mysterious death

The women who were married to two brothers began fighting after a well kept secret of the mysterious death of the late leaked in the middle of the funeral service.

One of the women, Nyar Ugenya (lady from Ugenya), had lost her husband a year earlier while the husband to the ‘fresh widow’ died recently under mysterious circumstances.

The widow who had gone for some errands in preparation for the burial ceremony went straight to the Siwandha (a tent where the funeral service is held) and smoked out Nyar Ugenya.

Without forewarning, she threw her to the ground and began beating her up. The crowd that had gathered to accord their last respect to the dead was shocked at what was happening.

The two engaged in a fierce battle; tearing off each others’ clothes and pulling each other’s hair, oblivious that their sons-in-law and relatives were watching the embarrassing scene.

The crowd was puzzled at what was happening yet it was only a few hours to the burial of the deceased.

They separated the two and the widow was admonished for fighting with someone while her husband had not been buried.

“Maiti ni e milambo, in gi chola tidhao (the deceased has not been buried and you are fighting at such an abominable state)” the elders reproached the host widow after separating them.

The widow explained that she had information her husband allegedly died when having sex with the other woman.

In this case, if the other woman dies, the death will be directly blamed on the one she fought with because fighting someone while under chola (mourning state) is equivalent to committing murder.

Joseph Owino, 55 says the deceased man can also be blamed for having eyes for his late older brother’s wife.

“It is not wrong to inherit your brother’s wife especially if he is your follower, but if he was older than you, it does not sound right,” he says.

All the drama began when a misunderstanding arose between the fresher widow and some boda boda operators.

She was not, until the burial day, aware of what allegedly caused the death of her husband.


It is the boda boda operators who by a slip of the tongue informed her that her husband got an attack while in the act with her elder brother in-law’s widow.

“Isungrinwa kae to chuori otho gi lum e dhoge (You are boasting yet your husband died with a grass in his mouth), began one drunk boda boda rider after he argued with the wife to the deceased.

Not understanding what the motor bike rider meant, she did not argue anymore and began leaving the scene around the gate of her homestead, but something stopped her.

She turned to look at the man who had insulted her deceased husband and the other operators burst into laughter.

“You mean you are not aware that your husband died at Nyar Ugenya’s house in the act?” burst another one amidst more laughter.

The now shocked widow began sweating as her temper rose. She went back to where the boda boda operators were, got hold of one of them by the neck and ordered him to speak clearly what he meant.

Fearing the wrath that was confronting him, the cyclist confessed that they found the other woman trying to bury the man’s body at 10pm in the night in the bush around his home.

He even told her that they were paid to keep quiet about the incident.

“She and her shamba boy carried your deceased husband who used to frequent her home during the weekend,” narrated the boda boda operator.

When the boda boda operators ambushed the two, they pleaded with them not to tell the incident to anyone.

The boda boda men say they refused to leave the man for dead in the bush and helped them get transport to a hospital where they took the man and left him at the entrance before the medical attendants could come.

It is the hospital attendants who found him with a phone and called the wife because they found him outside the premise.

The hospital attendants told the wife that her husband was mysteriously brought to the hospital and that he died while undergoing treatment.

Post moterm results indicated he had a heart attack.

“But my husband died of a heart attack, how can this be possible,” she shouted.

Penj nyar Ugenya (ask the lady from Ugenya),” they responded and left the homestead knowing that they had already ignited a flame they could not extinguish.

That is when the widow went for the other woman.

Calm was later restored and the burial ceremony went on well, but villagers still speak in hushed tones concerning the incident.

It is obvious, manyasi must be taken in this case by Nyar Ugenya or both of them depending on what elders say.



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