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Increasing levels of violent deaths threaten Kenya’s social fabric

According to the Economic Survey 2018, there has been a steady rise in the number of murders over the last three years. /COURTESY

“Man held over wife’s killing, terrorist attack leaves scores dead, teenager commits suicide, daughter held over elderly father’s death…”

These are sample news headlines that have dominated the media barely two months into the year have may have set a new national record, sparking off debate in offices, homes, social media and social places about the state of Kenyan society.

The grotesque levels of violence, lawlessness and serial killings may not have pricked the country’s conscience but have definitely shifted focus on womenfolk who are apparently the main casualties.

Safety options are gradually shrinking. Ominously, the danger is lurking everywhere…in homes, streets, workplaces; and the list grows with the victims cutting across all ages and gender.

Are people now, more than before, quick to resort to monstrous levels of violence in fixing love triangles, business deals that have gone sour, intrafamily vendetta or business rivalry?

According to the Economic Survey 2018, there has been a steady rise in the number of murders over the last three years.

Official data reveals the number of suicides reported in Kenya rose by 58 per cent between 2008 and 2017 to reach 421.

The latest incident involved a primary school boy who took his own life days after dropping out of school.

A crime report in the 2018 Economic Survey shows there were 2,774 murder incidents in 2017 as compared to 2,751 in 2016, 2,648 in 2015, 2,649 in 2014 and 2,878 in 2013.

Though no explanation is offered for the murders or the gender of those involved, cases involving relationships have been on the rise.

In December last year, a man whom relatives described as quiet and reserved, shocked family and friends after he killed his wife and three children after a disagreement over money.

In yet another incident, a Mombasa man killed his two children in unexplained circumstances, while courts are awash with matters where suspects are accused of paying millions of shillings to hit men aimed at eliminating their spouses.

According to the 2018 Economic Survey, some 13,609 cases of assault were recorded in 2017 as compared to 14,558 of 2016 and 14,529 of 2015 and 791 cases of affray were reported in 2017 as compared to 892 of 2016 and 493 of 2015.

During the period under review, there were 784 cases of rape, 3,487 cases of defilement, 287 cases of incest, 107 sodomy, 26 bestialities and 245 of indecent assault.

Reverend Joseph Thiong’o of ACK Cathedral Nakuru blames the spiralling trend of violence to moral decay in modern families.

He singled out infidelity and feuds over matrimonial properties as the greatest triggers of domestic violence.

The reverend says many families in contemporary society are marred by greed, mutual suspicions, drug and substance abuse and unresolved issues.

Thiong’o faults the current generation which he says has neglected religious teachings hence eroding their morals.

Most young people he laments are currently seeking solace in drugs and alcohol abuse and in response, they fight and end up killing each other.

“These are basically moral issues and we all have a part to play to make our families work. If you are married, be faithful to your partner and teach your children the same. People should also learn to manage their anger. It’s best to let your unfaithful partner go rather than kill them. There is a need to encourage families to communicate openly, seek counselling services and resolve issues to avoid build-up of negative emotions.

“We are witnessing significant others killing their spouses and children at the flimsiest excuse, while it is not uncommon for sons and daughters to conspire and eliminate their parents because of money or property. The trend is now assuming crisis levels where newly born infants are strangled by mothers and dumped in pit latrines,” observed the prelate.

The older generation, he says, had the benefit of a solid foundation of proper family models propped up by intricately knit and effective structures that have been eroded by modernity.

“Youth are defying counsel of respected elders rushing into relationships without having the patience to study their partners. Within a very short period, they get married. When they start settling down, the differences they have, dawn on them. In the early days, one’s background and mannerism were checked before a serious relationship commenced,” he says.

“We also do not care to know who the friends of our children are or who they hang out with and only get shocked when stuff happens.”

Ezekiel Mutheu, a parent and resident of Kaloleni estate, said high societal expectations and present hard economic times are exerting undue strain on families.

Most of the cases he has witnessed in his neighbourhood stem from alcoholism and drug abuse which he says has made some parents abdicate their responsibilities.

Fr Peterson Thumi said the increasingly high levels of domestic violence and murders are an ominous sign of a society struggling to cope with too many challenges.

He says that the government and the church must take a proactive role to rescue society from further moral decadence by initiating intense psycho-social support systems that will help people cope with the changes of life.

“Kenya’s national moral fabric is in tatters. We no longer promote values like we used to before. Vices like killing innocent people, suicide and rape have unfortunately become the new norms. As Kenyans we have a responsibility to ensure that there are protection and safety for our people especially women,” Fr Thumi added.

30-year-old Edith Wangeci who walked out of an abusive relationship, advises women to be extra vigilant with subtle indicators of violence.

“It usually starts with what one may dismiss as small issues such as tantrums, arrogance or uncontrollable fits of anger. Watch out for such telltale signs and take remedial measures before the situation escalates to catastrophic levels,” she said.

Wangeci says nasty remarks and discrimination further alienates the victim from society. To avert suicide, she suggests that families should be open and seek counselling if they sense a disconnect in relationships.

Criminal Division Judge Lady Justice Roselyn Korir observes that domestic violence continues to be a problem in Kenya today, as evidenced by the increasing number of reported cases and murder cases ending in law courts.

“It’s time relevant institutions of government, non-state actors, community and religious organizations, among others, took up the challenge and urgently devised interventions aimed at stemming the unlawful loss of life in families through domestic violence,” the judge said.