Sometime in the 1850s, the boxing sport developed a cardinal rule: a boxer must not hit his opponent below the belt — that is navel, genitals, legs and the crotch.Last week, Deputy President William Ruto did just, hit Defence CS Eugene Wamalwa below the belt. The saga begun when Wamalwa, who was speaking at a public rally, said DP Ruto nearly slapped him for taking a bunch of Luhyia politicians to see President Uhuru. Fact? Who knows?
Days later, the DP told a crowd in Trans Nzoia that where he comes from, they don’t slap women. That they have a great deal of respect for women. He urged the people in attendance deliver that message to Wamalwa. There is one problem though. Wamalwa, a Bukusu, faced the knife on Tuesday, August 10, 1982, at Sichei in Bungoma. The Bukusu, Bwana Ruto, circumcise men, never women. Further, Wamalwa is listed at the official Ministry of Defence website as “Male”. The Cabinet office lists his name as “Eugene Wamalwa” whose gender is “Male”. The all-important document that should have put this matter to rest is Wamalwa’s Birth Certificate. Here, the section requiring disclosure of the child’s gender is clearly filled, “MALE”.I had the benefit of joining the National Youth Service at Gilgil for pre-university paramilitary training. Men were admitted at Gilgil while women went to Naivasha Barracks. It was here that I met Wamalwa, again, in 1989. If Wamalwa was a woman as authoritatively stated by the Deputy President, he would have joined other women in Naivasha. He underwent the rigorous military training up to and including the pass out parade.After Gilgil, we were admitted at Parklands Campus of the University of Nairobi. Wamalwa and I lived in Mamlaka “A’ Hostel, Room 46, an exclusively male hostel. Women occupied “Box” and we, regularly visited but never lived there.In 1996, Eugene, a bachelor met and married one Lucy Musundi, a spinster. Under Cap. 141 of the Laws of Kenya, marriage between two women is disallowed. Marriage can only be solemnised and recognised if it is between a man and a woman. Eugene’s marriage to Lucy is valid, legit and binding for all intends and purposes. Because Lucy was a confirmed woman and Eugene was a confirmed man.So, why would Mr Ruto call Mr Wamalwa “mwanamke”?Since celebration of his marriage, the Wamalwas, either by choice or otherwise, have not had biological children. Could this, perhaps, be the reason Ruto aimed this slur at Wamalwa?It would be extremely unfortunate if that were the case. In the African context, there are conditions that afflict human beings that no other human being is allowed to make fun of. Inability to have babies ranks highest. We, in Africa, talk about such matters in hushed tones. It is not someone’s character not to have children. It’s not a choice they made. To taunt them is inconsiderate and hurtful.The Meriam Webster describes hitting below the belt as “to unfairly target and attack one’s weakness or vulnerability”. Clearly, this is what William Ruto did to Eugene Wamalwa.One could also argue that the Deputy President’s taunt is a reflection of how he views women; weak, inconsequential, not worth engaging. Readers might recall that when then Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru was under siege, Ruto described her explanation as kizungu mingi na catwalk, not knowing that he was objectifying Waiguru.And just this week, he caused another storm when he went into Ukambani and described former Cabinet Minister and Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu as ‘too old to find a husband’. His exact words? “Nani atao huyo mama mzee (who can marry that old woman?” Ngilu, for those not in the know, is a grandmother, widow and national leader.When you recall his snide dismissal of the Congolese as a ‘Ndobolo’ (dancers) who don’t own a single cow, the conclusion is one: Mr Ruto doesn’t reflect as deeply as he should about the things he says.