A woman and her husband in Bura, Tana River County narrowly escaped death on Saturday after their daughter poisoned drinking water in their house.
The suspect took matters into her own hands after learning that her mother had sided with her stepfather in a defilement case she had petitioned elders about.
According to girl’s uncle, she had accused her stepfather of repeatedly defiling her from the time she was 13 years old and threatening her with death if she ever revealed it to anyone.
The uncle told the Nation that at one time, she fled home to live with him, but never revealed why she had run away from her parents.
“She was always quiet and wanted to sit alone most of the times. She rarely spoke with her cousins and they never asked her about her personal issues,” he said.
After being away with her uncle for six months, the girl’s mother pleaded with her only child to return home.
In her petition, the girl told elders that her mother helped her procure an abortion at a dispensary in Madogo in 2018 after she revealed to her that her step-father was responsible.
She said her mother later quarrelled with her husband who left and stayed away for the better part of the year, only to resurface towards the end of 2019.
In February this year, the man went back to his old habits, sneaking in on her at night and defiling her, the girl narrated.
“She told the elders that her mother then was very sick and had been admitted to Bura Hospital, so when she was defiled, she went to live with one of her friends where she confessed her ordeal,” her uncle recounted.
When her mother returned, the girl went back home and reported the matter to her and promised to take action.
Petition to elders
But on realising that her mother was delaying in taking action, she asked a friend to help her write a petition to the elders which was put down in her local language, giving the whole account of her misery.
Her parents were informed of the case that was now before the elders and were asked to appear to give their side of the story.
To the girl’s dismay, her mother testified against her.
She refuted claims raised by her daughter over the abuse meted upon her by the man, painting the girl as undisciplined, vengeful and ever militant, while praising her husband as humble, supportive and wise.
According to Said Barisa, an elder in the council, the girl failed to prove her accusations against her stepfather and did not have any witnesses except her boyfriend whom she had earlier confessed her ordeal to. The elders said he could not be relied upon.
Mr Barisa also noted that the mother accused her daughter of promiscuity, arguing that she previously had another boyfriend.
Further, she told the elders that her daughter had dropped out of school and had refused to return until the stepfather left the home.
Case hard to prove
“It was difficult for us to prove rape in this case. We sought traditional expertise but it failed to prove rape. We went for hospital expertise but it could not prove any rape,” said the elder.
The elders then dismissed the case on grounds of the mother’s testimony.
The girl was angered by the elders’ decision as she felt betrayed by her mother.
She rushed home, where she allegedly poisoned the water used for drinking, took her clothes and left, leaving behind a note.
On returning home, her parents noticed her belongings were missing but were not alarmed alarm as that had happened before.
But things turned sour for them in the evening when they started feeling unwell.
The woman was groaning on the floor while the man had collapsed in the bathroom.
Saved in time
An elder, who had missed the day’s proceedings, went to check on the family and found the couple writhing in pain. He raised the alarm.
“I first called one of the elders who also is our well-known herbalist. He is the one who administered first aid before we rushed them to a private hospital in Madogo where they are recuperating,” said Mr Rahma Dabaso.
According to Mr Dabaso, the herbalist revealed that the person who poisoned the water had used a concoction used traditionally by farmers to hunt down buffalos and hippos.
Without his intervention, the couple had less than 10 minutes to live.
Mr Dabaso noted that the poison would have made their bodies so dry that in the ten minutes that there would be no odour.
“It is a very dangerous one, those bodies would turned into soil wherever they were in less than a month if nobody had come to this place early enough,” he said.
The girl fled the area and has not been seen since the poisoning incident.
“Let us meet where God will settle our score and prove our innocence for absolute vindication,” she wrote in the note she left behind.
Her uncle said they have started a search for her in efforts to settle the matter and have her return to school.
Defilement and rape cases in Tana River have been on the rise, with justice for victims remaining largely elusive.
So far, more than 2,000 girls aged below 18 are believed to be pregnant, with traditions and religion standing in the way of justice.
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