How gender violence breaks a home: Baringo family case study

Granny Rhoda Chepkeitany, 57, outside her temporary house with the three young orphans left behind by her slain daughter, Judith Chesang, in Biretwonin, Baringo county, on November 29. /JOESPH KANGOGO
Granny Rhoda Chepkeitany, 57, outside her temporary house with the three young orphans left behind by her slain daughter, Judith Chesang, in Biretwonin, Baringo county, on November 29. /JOESPH KANGOGO

Rhoda Chepkeitany, 57, battles diabetes amid poverty. But that does not deter the Baringo North resident from taking care of her three orphaned grandchildren.

Chepkeitany assumed the hard task of parenthood at her home in the sleepy Biretwonin village after her daughter Judith Chesang, 24, was killed by her husband Laban Kamuren, 31, on October 1.

"Three days later, angry residents mobilised, pursued and lynched Laban. The couple both perished and were buried," Chepkeitany said.

The incident happened amid numerous cases of domestic violence in the country, which have seen families broken and women and men killed in cold blood by their spouses.

The sick granny was left with no option but to care for the orphaned children: two boys and one girl aged between two and nine years.

HACKED TO DEATH

Judith's sister Nancy Chesang said on the fateful day, they were harvesting millet at the family farm with two other women before the 10am incident.

"Her husband came armed with a wooden stick and ordered us out of the farm, saying, 'Everything must end here today'," Chesang said.

The husband said he had had enough of Judith, before slapping, kicking and hitting her on the head several times.

"I screamed while I watched helplessly as she collapsed and became unconscious. The other women had already fled away," Chesang said.

She was injured by a stone thrown on her, while trying to help lift her battered sister. Laban, who had dashed to the house, returned with a sharp panga, which he struck on Judith's neck and head, killing her on the spot.

Judith's sister Nancy Chesang, 24, speaks to the media in their home in Biretwonin on November 29. /JOSEPH KANGOGO

Upon realising he had committed murder, Laban fled.

"Three days later, the angry residents got hold of him in his hideout. They stoned and shot him with poisoned arrows to death," Chesang said.

She said she is yet to come to terms with the loss of her sister, adding that the orphaned children were left in the hands of their ageing mother.

"I am appealing to the government, friends and well-wishers to intervene with humanitarian help to raise the kids," she said, adding that their late father was a habitual drunkard while their mother was the sole bread winner.

DOMESTIC DISPUTE

Sibilo chief Joseph Chemitei avoided the media. But the assistant chief Agnes Keitany said she reported the matter to the police immediately after receiving a call from Judith's brother Mathew Chesang.

She believes the deadly attack may have resulted from an unresolved domestic dispute between them.

"The couple separated a month ago and the woman decided to go and live with her parents in the neighbourhood," Keitany said.

She said the two were buried in adjacent graves in a family farm away from their home after consultation and agreement by the Tugen elders.

The assistant chief said the children looked stressed since their parents departed. "They experience weight loss, untidiness, repeat the same clothes and appear unhappy," she said.

Baringo police boss Chemongis Ndiema declined to comment on the matter.

“I think the case in court. If anything, consult with the CID or first seek authority from my big bosses in Nairobi before I give you any information pertaining to this,” Ndiema said.

He said his major work currently is dealing with the armed bandits and cattle rustlers from the neighbouring Tiaty subcounty, not minor family disputes.

ANGER IN THE AIR

When the Star visited the sick granny, Chepkeitany, on November 29, she was seated outside her mud-walled hut, surrounded by her seemingly angry grandchildren.

The fireplace consisted of four soothed dark stones inside the temporary and shaky house. It was literally empty, a clear indication they had no hope of taking lunch.

"The last meal was millet flour porridge, which we took this morning. We experience food shortage, so we have to survive on strictly two meals daily, breakfast and supper," Chepkeitany said.

Her major worry was where she would get the milk to feed the baby girl left by her mother while still breastfeeding.

“I don’t have any cow or goat to milk and money to buy milk, but I also don’t want to watch my grandchildren become malnourished,” she said.

The granny also has no money to buy the children clothes or schooling materials.

She said her diabetes, which started 20 years ago, seems to be getting worse every day. Poverty prevented her from accessing proper medication, so she survives only on simple drugs like pain killers.

"My swollen and paining body does not allow me to do either basic or hard activities like farming or trekking long distance to cater for my grandchildren,” she said.

She said apart from food scarcity, she cracks her head about how she could assure her grandchildren of better education when schools open in January next year.

"The nearest school is Biretwonin Primary School 8km away. They will have to bear with the distance if by then they will have not gotten any alternative or sponsor," Keitany said.

She appealed to the government to intervene and help her grandchildren get better life and education.