REALITY CHECK

How to tame young Kenyan men

Marriage sobers up care-free men who would assault police officers

In Summary

• I participated in a conspiracy to bring my drunken and unruly cousin down to earth

Illustration of a drunk man
Illustration of a drunk man
Image: PIXABAY

The recent incident of a young man assaulting a police officer left a foul taste on many a tongue in Kenya. Society must exercise caution in allowing young men to have unchecked episodes of anger. 

When a young man is caught by the media fighting a lawkeeper in broad daylight, it is not merely an isolated incident of individual misconduct; it is a symptom of something deeply awry within the fabric of society itself. This behaviour is odd and alarming for several reasons.

First, such confrontations indicate a breakdown in the basic respect for authority and the rule of law. Lawkeepers, whether police officers or community leaders, represent the societal framework that maintains order and safety.

When young men openly challenge and physically confront these figures, it signals a rejection of the very structures that ensure communal harmony and security.

Secondly, these incidents reflect a failure in the socialisation process. Young men who resort to violence in public spaces have often not been equipped with the necessary skills to manage their anger and resolve conflicts peacefully. This deficiency is a collective failure of families, educational systems and community institutions responsible for imparting values of self-control, empathy and respect for others.

The propensity for violent outbursts undermines the moral fabric of society. It fosters a culture where aggression is normalised and conflicts are resolved through brute force rather than dialogue and understanding. This can have a cascading effect, leading to an increase in violent crimes, domestic abuse and other forms of societal dysfunction.

From a rational perspective, young men who engage in such behaviours jeopardise their futures. Legal repercussions, such as imprisonment or a criminal record, can severely limit their opportunities for education, employment and personal growth. This not only affects the individuals involved but also imposes a social and economic burden on the community.

Addressing the root causes of runaway anger and instilling effective anger management strategies in young men is crucial. By doing so, society can prevent such destructive episodes and promote a culture of respect, understanding and peaceful coexistence. 

The following real-life testimony from our village in Western Kenya underscores the importance of these lessons and illustrates the transformative power of traditional wisdom in cultivating responsible masculinity.

***

When Alpha, who's full name is Alphaxard Sanjamolu, a distant cousin of mine and an agemate, became too much, the conspiracy commenced. He had been warned twice on the road and in public. The chief was the first. He stopped the bike of my cousin by standing right before it.

"Grandson of my agemate Maruti Makokha, abandon your bohemian life, or you will be taught by the world now that your parents (read, mother) are incompetent."

The listener shouted unprintable Luhya words and sentences at the GoK pointsman on the ground in Tongaren until the man in uniform was swallowed by distance and a corner. My cousin even clicked. "Shenzi." He dared to call the law.

The next warning came from his father. He stood at the junction between the path to his homestead of huts and the gate to our local posho mill. Village women of diverse ages were present.

"My son, mend your ways or face the music." My cousin faced the direction of music whenever and wherever it played but stuck to his cannabis and changaa overdrive missions. His operation to destroy his liver and pistol continued wide and far, wifelessly. I tried to talk sense into his head. He boxed me in broad daylight next to a cheap chapel, I tell you.

When matters came to a head, the conspiracy became widespread, and the entire sub-village was in the know. I took my seat in the conspiracy complete with my wallet.

So one day, my cousin came home at last past midnight. He hollered anti-government slogans solo on the deserted village routes. His voice manfully echoed the ridges. A woman cursed him as a child woke with a frenzy. My cousin asked her to come out and fight him.

When he got home, having been escorted by homeless village mongrels, he found a flame flickering in his hut. He asked in fumes of inebriation whether his eyes were also drunk. A village buxom held his staggering Kagamean height and called him, "Omwami, welcome home."

My cousin, always shy around women when very near them or they near him, stammered. She steadied him into his hut. He was half sober. He asked no one in particular: "Must thieves these days come in woman form? Must they want to die in his hut?"

He fetched his machete from under his bedbugs. His bed was home already to a new sheet and a lesso. He was now fully sober. Next to his makeshift bed made of lusoola twigs was a wig and a juala full of female outfits. He was now post-sober.

He emerged from the tomb of his hut, chanting old war songs in archaic Lubukusu. He did an elaborate maneuver of the shoulder and knees as he sharpened the silver machete in the chilly night air. "Woman, today you die!"

Action! See, as he swung the tool of war towards the woman, she ducked and went for his torso. Down! The machete flew, cut into the door and stuck. Sharp.

My cousin tried to get up. The Amazon tackled him toughly. My cousin summoned his sinewy muscles. Our lineage is strong. The woman coiled him like an anaconda. From the Lantana camara shrubs, two elders, three militia, and I, his relatives, watched in utter silence, the violent epic hand-to-hand duel. My cousin was now ultra sober. They fought directly on the ground. It shook! Direct and stout. They rolled. Vice and vice. Iron and iron. Son of Mount Elgon vs daughter of River Nzoia. Lekha!

Soon, they rolled into the now dark hut. A militia sprang up and charged at the shivering hut. The commotion inside shook half of Bungoma county. Walahi. The youth padlocked the door from outside.

Thirty hours later, when we and half the village went to open the padlock, we found the two bruised relatives smiling at each other. My cousin was topless with a mound of ugali and a sparse omena/dagaa stew. My newest shemeji shyly sat in a ruffled lesso tied under the armpits, seated on a yellow 10-litre jerrican. The hut smelled of smoke. The hearth looked fresh with ash.

This is how the village villain Alpha, my cousin and agemate, deep inside a village on the slippery slopes of misty Mount Elgon, ended up with seven children and two grandchildren today. The eldest is nearing completion of his degree at Kibabii University. 

His once notorious father, a Class 6 dropout, mended his ways by force via children, via a woman. I participated in the conspiracy to sober him up to the realities of the world beyond sherehe-ndio-sheria, sherehe-starehe-raha-mustarehe, party-after-party and a careless mentality.

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