I went to Nyeri for the first time about four years back attending my girlfriend’s ruracio (Kikuyu marriage rituals). This particular time we went in the morning and returned to Nairobi in the evening, so clearly I didn’t have enough time to see much.
Lucky for me, I got another chance to go back to Nyeri on official duty.
A few things are evident about Nyeri. The scenic landscape and the green and fertile land, a consequence of the ending rainy season as I’m informed. From these fertile lands, I could see tea, coffee, maize, beans and banana plantations. Quite productive was my conclusion.
Tuesday morning at around 9 a.m., I am standing outside this hotel where I spent my nights in Nyeri town talking to Judy, the hotel supervisor. “Look at him, he looks very decent every morning, but meet him later today, you will not believe he is the same man. He cannot even walk home, he always has a designated driver, it’s such a pity,” says Judy, describing one of her clients as he walked out of the hotel. Just so you know, I had bonded with her ever since I got to the hotel so it became easier to talk about such details.
He is not alone, this man represents the new breed of Nyeri men. As Kenyans we all know that Nyeri County, in the Central part of Kenya, has lately been in the limelight for the wrong reasons. Nyeri women continue to be accused of husband battering. I gather that most of the unmarried Nyeri women have now vowed not to get married to Nyeri men. Many believe that alcoholism is a genetically transmitted addiction present in Nyeri men.
Out of curiosity, I sought to find out more about this phenomenon.
Here lie the questions, what is the source of this alcoholism? Where does the illicit brew in Nyeri come from? Why are they prevalent in Central Kenya? Why are the men from this area most affected?
“Nyeri men have lost it, many of them are spending their fortune at the local dens. These men have become such a burden. Divorce cases and separation are on the rise,” remarked a Nyeri woman.”One of the reasons being if a woman has two babies, these alone are quite expensive to fend for, so she will not be ready to start looking after an adult baby, who by all means should have been the bread-winner,” she added angrily.
Walking around Nyeri town, it is evident that there are several hardworking and responsible men going about their daily duties but as I saw that morning, looks can be deceiving. This was positive and served as just a little proof that there still exist good men in town.
“Frustrations, lack of employment and escalating living costs are pushing men to the edge. Many flock to these local dens because of the availability of cheap alcohol. Many seek to find solace in there,” explained a Nyeri man.
Some of the women that I talked to confessed to have occasionally battered their husbands, even though they had never thought about it before the act. In most cases, it happened during a moment of anger. “None of us wants to beat our men, not at all. However, many call for the beating. A man comes home drunk from Monday to Friday. Sometimes he urinates on the bed and when the alcohol messes up his stomach, he diarrhoeas on the bed and denies it the following day. Surely, what do you do with such a man? Are these the people you are telling us not to beat? We will do so, just to teach them some manners so that they can serve as an example to the rest,” observed Njeri, a Nyeri woman, born, raised and married in Nyeri.
She confesses to have beaten her husband twice. He has since then improved especially after seeing some of the men highlighted on Kenyan Television channels.
It is clear that most of these women continue to amass frustration and stress over time. They make me understand that, a woman batters her husband when she gets to a point she can no longer handle the strain. Woe unto you, if this is the day you come home staggering. You could just be the channel to vent out the anger.
Apart from the scars that we see on our media channels, I am also informed that stories of men who have had their private parts chopped off are common. “A woman will not leave her parents home to join a man just to end up becoming a house help. She would have rather stayed at her parents,” remarked Judy. I am informed that women easily do so, when they realize that they are deprived of their conjugal rights regardless of the man being on their marital bed every other night. “It is very frustrating, so what is it for? Chop it off.” She adds.
Some of the elderly men are quick to point out that, things were different years back. Cases of husband beating were unheard of. However, they agree that women have a right to vent out their anger, only that they should do so in a decent manner.
One of the older men said that young men have lost it, maybe because many of them lack role models and father figures in their lives. He added that they are gradually increasing their alcohol intake and some of these illicit brews are quite poisonous. “Initially, we had local brew, made from maize flour and millet, which gets fermented. These were not poisonous. The alcohol that this generation is taking, is quite risky, that is why people are losing their eyesight from a glass worth 10 shillings. The chemicals used in these cheap brew are very poisonous and addictive, only God will take us out of this,” He added regretfully.
Mmm, quite interesting revelations, Nyeri people speak out. Read the second part of this on my subsequent posts.
“Alcoholism is a devastating, potentially fatal disease. The primary symptom of having it is telling everyone–including yourself–that you are not an alcoholic.” Herbert L. Gravitz