The video in which Deputy President Ruto’s pilot is seen assaulting a female police officer is extremely disturbing. The Australian national, Alistair Patrick Llewelyn, is seen and heard shoving and cursing the much smaller Corporal Mercy Wandera before a large crowd of onlookers.
What made this white, foreign man bold enough to slap an African woman—a law officer, no less—in her own country, and in front of a crowd of witnesses? This catapulted my mind to our history, specifically, the Mau Mau Liberation movement and what happened, particularly, to the Kikuyu people. As Caroline Elkins describes in her Nobel Prize winning book, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya, when the Kikuyu people organized to demand their stolen land and freedom, the British responded with draconian force, confining “nearly the entire Kikuyu population of one-and-a half-million” in camps or “villages ringed with barbed wire” and portraying them as “sub-human savages.”
Throughout history, women and children have been spoils of wars. Men have always known that the best show of power or way to humiliate his enemy is by raping and/or killing his women.
During the Mau Mau uprising, the colonial brutes, who mostly comprised of the least educated and lowest of human verbiage (some of them Australians), did not only rape our women, but, reportedly, shoved broken glass and cayenne pepper into their private parts. They also tortured and castrated men, sometimes to extract information from suspected Mau Mau sympathizers.
It’s against this background that I’m outraged—and baffled—by the lack of action by specifically, men in the video, who didn’t feel moved to act. Only one man managed to bleat like a sheep being slaughtered, “Hautampiga (you won’t hit her).”
The whole thing had me wondering if the behavior is just a reflection of Kenya’s general attitude towards women. After all, who can forget the recent spate of news reports in which some hooligans stripped women in public, claiming they were dressed “indecently”?
Or molested, or, raped, in matatus, in full view of passengers who didn’t raise a finger to help!
Things I once thought happened only in America, like men disfiguring their wives’ or lovers’ faces with acid (America), or petrol (Kenya) and lighting a match, are now commonplace in our country.
If the recent news are anything to go by, then some Kenyan men think nothing of slashing or stabbing their wives’ in the face—or murdering them. Unfortunately, some women aren’t innocent, either, when it comes to violence, and, short of killing, it appears they are doing everything else males are doing, including cutting off their spouses’ members!
Could our collective behavior have, subconsciously, rendered inertia to those people who watched a woman being assaulted and did nothing? Did they feel that they had no leg to stand on when we, as a society, continue to perpetrate violence against one another? How else to explain this passivity where folks are seemingly intimidated by a lone white man as though they’re living in the era of “Ndiyo Bwana,” “Ndiyo mem’sab”?
Oh, and those impressionable children and youth who witnessed the whole thing! What message does all this send to them?
One measure of a progressive society is how it treats her women, and, Kenya, you’ve failed. But you can begin redeeming yourself by 1) teaching both male and female children, at home and in school, to resolve issues through communication. When my children were young, I’d tell them that using violence to solve problems exhibits lack of vocabulary, and, hence, intelligence. 2) Lead by example. Don’t hiss, spit at and hit your spouse then turn around and tell your child not to do what you’re doing. Children are like sponges, absorbing everything around them as though by osmosis.
The latest news is that the man who showed utter disrespect for our laws and women has been duly remanded in police custody. Some people have called for Llewelyns’ deportation. I will leave that to the courts. It’s clear that the man broke the law. The evidence is there, showing him as the aggressor. Even when Officer Wandera tried to walk away, Llewelyn pursued, man-handled and cursed her.
Too often, the Captain Alistair Patrick Llewelyns and Thomas Cholmondeleys (Lord Delamere’s grandson, who beat a case in which he shot and killed a peasant) of this world think they can get away with murder, and, sometimes, they do. However, Kenya must demonstrate its willingness not only to apply the law across the board, but protect its citizenry, especially, women. To this end, justice must prevail for that Officer Wandera, not just for her sake alone, but all women. We must send a clear message that says no man—local or foreign—should disrespect or lay a hand on our mothers, daughters or sisters.
By Waithira Mbuthia-Protano
New Rochelle, New York.