Stress blamed for deaths of Kenyans living in America


Kenyans living in the United States have been in the headlines lately, albeit for the wrong reasons.

Barely a week passes without news of a Kenyan who has either been murdered, committed suicide or involved in the killing of a fellow Kenyan. In the last two months, at least 10 Kenyans have either died or been involved in bizarre incidents resulting in other people’s deaths.

In most cases, the victims have been members of their family – mainly women or children.

On Tuesday last week, the body of a Kenyan man was found hanging from a tree at Lafayette Park in Jersey City, New Jersey. The dead man was later identified as Mr Jeffrey Kilibwa who was a resident of the city. A woman walking in the park had called the police upon seeing a man’s body dangling from a tree . Police have ruled out foul play saying the Kenyan man, whose age we could not establish immediately, committed suicide.

Not too long ago, police in the same state were called by neighbours who heard a commotion in a house belonging to a 43-year-old Kenyan who had struck his wife, Bilha Omare, in the head with a golf club following an argument. Upon realising the wife was not dead, Mr Justus Ogendi Kebabe took an electrical cord and strangled her until she was no more.

He then drugged two of his children, 12-year-old Kinley Ogendi and 9-year-old Ivyn Ogendi and killed them while one struggled and begged him to stop. Kinley was drowned in a bathtub and Ivyn was suffocated with a pillow. Before he was sentenced to serve 72 years in jail, Mr Kebabe confessed to a judge that he had committed the murders because he suspected that his wife was cheating on him.

Recently, police in Indiana shot dead a Kenyan man after he stabbed to death his six-year-old daughter and wounded his wife. The St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit said the man, identified as Edward Maina Mundia, was shot and killed as he viciously continued to stab six year old Shirley Mundia, even after the police ordered him to stop.

The little girl was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead while the mother continues to receive treatment.

Only last week, Ian Muriu, 33, shot dead his mother-in-law before turning the gun on himself in Barrow County in the state of Georgia.
In the same week, a 21-year-old Kenyan man died from injuries inflicted in a beating by several assailants in the US city of Indianapolis, Indiana.

The local media reported that 21-year-old Felix Davy Achoch, a student at Ivy Tech Community College, was involved in an altercation inside Club Vision in Indianapolis. The fight then spilled to the parking lot where the Kenyan was assaulted by several people, according to a US based online publication,

The killing left Mr Achoch’s family devastated. “You would not think something like this happens in America,” said his brother, Foster Achoch. “Nobody should die like this.”

And early this week, a 32-year-old Kenyan man died after being shot in mysterious circumstances in Dallas, Texas. Dallas County authorities said police were called to McCallum Boulevard following the shooting. They arrived to find Mr Elisha Ogolla, a Mechanical Engineering student at a local university, lying in a parking lot with multiple gunshot wounds. Following the incident, local police are offering a reward of $5,000 to anyone with information which may lead to the capture of the suspect.

Although reports of Kenyans committing suicide and killing members of their families is nothing new, this latest spate is raising eyebrows even among the authorities in the United States.

“We find it bizarre that most homicide cases reported among the immigrant communities are involving Kenyans who are numerically outnumbered by many other nationals,” said Detective Chris Wells of Homicide Division at Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI).
Experts say many factors are contributing to the escalation of the wave of killings.

Dr Joseph Wamutitu, a US based psychotherapist recently told the Nation that stress among Kenyan men is a key element.

“Few people talk about this but life in the US can be very stressful especially for immigrants who come from totally different background in Africa,” he said.

Dr Wamutitu said that women find it easier to adjust to life abroad compared to men. He points out that the United States is a very individualistic self-centred society and this has had an adverse effect on the Kenyan man as we know him.

He observes that due to the hectic lifestyle in Western countries, Kenyan men have no social support systems. “They mostly keep to themselves, bottling up a whole lot of things. When they cannot hold it any more, they explode. The results vary, but in most cases, they are devastating.”

His sentiments are echoed by Dr Jennie Odhiambo, a psychologist who works in a mental hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. “In many ways the society here favours women more than men. More often than not, our Kenyan brothers feel intimidated by the fact that they do not have total control of their wives as was the case with some of them back home. Within no time, the centre cannot hold and the results are disastrous.”

She adds that many Kenyans do not trust one another. “It’s very rare to see a Kenyan man opening up on personal issues because there is little or no trust among his compatriots here,” says Dr Odhiambo.

But the immediate former Kenyan ambassador to the US, Elkanah Odembo advises Kenyans to be well prepared before they relocate.

“Most young people come here with little or no knowledge of how tough life can get. They rely on misleading information gathered from the internet and TV. The reality on the ground can be humbling,” he told the Nation.


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