REALITY CHECK

How love turns into lethal hate

Nation is reeling from spate of violent killings in romantic relationships, begging the question why?

In Summary

• From homicides to murder-suicides, emotions are boiling over around the country 

Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

“I know." That's how Lincoln Ng’iendo is said to have responded to his girlfriend Elizabeth Nthei’s dying words. Presumably, he was looking into her eyes as she gasped, "Babe, umeniua!"

This was the testimony presented in court during Lincoln’s murder trial in July. The murder took place in October 2020. According to the testimony, Lincoln allegedly stabbed his girlfriend in the neck with a kitchen knife during what was described as a fight.

Kenyans have been enthralled in recent times by tales of violent killings in romantic relationships. The most commonly cited reasons behind the spate of murders and suicides include allegations of cheating, couples falling into economic hardships and flawed personalities.

As this disturbing trend of violence unfolds across the country, questions arise as to how people who were once madly in love ended up hating their partners to the extent of killing them. The violence exposed in the stories is frightening in its intensity.

Still on the Lincoln case, the court heard that after Elizabeth bled to death, the defendant hired a car and took the body from their residence in Nairobi to a deserted location in Ruiru. There, the body was set on fire.

There are many other disturbing cases of lovers ending up dead in circumstances police attribute to domestic quarrels.

Early this August, Kiambu-based businessman Jonathan Mukundi Gachunga and his wife Philomena Njeri were found dead in their living room. Police suspect the businessman shot his wife then turned the gun on himself.

Last April, a GSU police officer and his traffic police wife were also found dead in their living room in Nairobi. Following investigations, Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai said the GSU officer, Hudson Wakise, shot and killed his wife, Pauline Wakasa, before shooting himself.

In January, a man was arrested for the gruesome death of a woman in Nairobi’s Mwiki area. The woman was killed in her house, the body tied onto her bed and set alight. Neighbours discovered the woman’s body as they tried putting out what they thought was an accidental fire.

In May, former high school principal Jane Muthoni was convicted for the 2016 killing of her husband, Solomon Mbuthi. The court heard that Muthoni hired assassins because she suspected him of having an extra-marital affair.

ECONOMY, PERSONALITY BLAMED

These four cases are just a sample of many other similar cases reported across Kenya this year. Observers believe a lot of it has to do with financial pressure amidst the hard economic times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, personality differences and lack of conflict management skills may also be to blame.

“Poor communication, mistrust and outright infidelity,” says Gray Kassich, an information systems administrator in Nairobi. “The failure to know the triggers of someone prior to staying together does compound issues, and the fact that most couples don’t want to share their struggles with another supporting couple makes them see situations as hopeless and violence becomes an escape.” He adds that meddling by in-laws in a marriage can worsen marital conflict.

“From the cases I have seen, most of the people who kill their partners later say they did it in a moment of anger or they blame evil spirits for their actions,” says Wacera Waweru, a Nairobi-based accountant. Wacera says cases of murder among couples could be due to mental illness, possessiveness and marital infidelity.

Gospel singer Mercy Masika believes that marriages, especially those of millennials, are crumbling because of a lack of wisdom among couples. "You can be so much in love and still divorce. People need to take time and study what marriage is before they enter into one. It's not about love but wisdom, knowledge and understanding," she said in an interview published in the Star.

"It is not what we see on nice social media pictures. With most of them [couples], you're not sure if they're happy or not. Vitu kwa ground ni different. If you enter marriage without a revelation, it doesn't work."

An abusive person can be from any tribe, race, religion, social background and education level. If you are constantly scared about your partner’s emotional outbursts or violent behaviour, the UN recommends that you seek help from trusted persons or institutions in your community.

The National Crime Research Centre, a public body formed to research the causes of crime in Kenya and its prevention, reports that crime is a consequence of multiple factors. It cites personal choices, unemployment, poverty, drugs and stress.

Meanwhile, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu has urged the media to refrain from seeming to justify violence committed against women. “When the media reports possible reasons for the murder such as love triangle, deal gone sour, etc., the media is inadvertently justifying the murders and in effect reducing the national outrage of these murders,” Ngilu posted on Twitter.