Stripping, sniggering and ‘moving on’

A few days ago as we approached the celebration of the late Prof Wangari Maathai’s 73rd birthday on April 1,  in the region Prof Wangari Maathai called home, a woman was stripped naked at a Nyeri bus terminus for being “indecently dressed”. Something inside her died that day. How stripping her made her “decent” defiles, defies and defeats all logic.

This is extremely painful, made worse by how one media house reported this event. How far will we carry this culture of intolerance of others, riding on a perceived power high? What right do these ignorant cretins have to dictate what others should or should not wear? What culture, creed or constituency condones – nay expects rather than condemns – such crude bestiality? What can such behaviour be other than public bullying by idle and shameless sick and petty minds that feed on vapid voyeurism riding on so-called ‘community moral values’? Who defines and prescribes these ‘values’ that these vandals take upon themselves to enforce?

Wanjiku wa Wanderi ponders on Facebook:

“The men justify that the woman was indecently dressed thus why they undressed her. So what’s their excuse for inserting dirty claws/fingers, sticks and dirt into her womanhood? Isn’t this akin to raping her in public?

Someone needs to tame these savages.”

Over to you, Ms Priscilla Nyokabi, Nyeri County Women’s Representative in the Senate, and lawyer focussing on human rights, and to Ms Esther Murugi, Nyeri Town MP. On this matter, as leaders, your unequivocal voices need to be heard  loud, stong and clear to bring a stop to this perennial savaging of women. And why not President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta as well at a time when the nation is all ears when you speak? This is happening in one of your strongholds not ‘weakholds’ and your word there, as anywhere, would carry much weight. But even more so in your strongholds, where your word will ring and reverberate, penetrating even the thickest head. Speak, Sir, speak!

Wandia Njoya posts on Facebook:

“Once again, Nyeri is doing the rounds in the news for flawed gender relations. This time, a woman was a victim of violence, not a man. For the last two years, I have said again and again that how we conceive gender relations is how we conceive power. I have made a lot of noise saying that Kenya’s problem is a model of hyper ethnicized masculinity in which manhood is exploitative, disrespectful, obsessed with property, with the foreskin being cut and with what women are wearing. If you are a man who thinks that women should be stripped in public, or that women should be beaten, or that a woman’s life should be controlled by a fellow human being simply because he is male, you’re the same man who lets politicians strip you in public by lying to you, stealing from you and dictating whom you should vote, whom you should rape and whom you should love or hate. Kenyans need to repent and get saved from this dehumanization and start fighting what really is destroying us: selfishness, mis-education, exploitation, economic inequality and an inferiority complex that makes us confuse colonial Victorian bravado with African culture. I am aware that this particular machismo is peculiar to Central Kenya, but our country has an embarassingly rich cultural diversity of Kenyan machismos that prevent us from having a truly free Kenyan men and women who love God and one another. Let’s emancipate ourselves from mental slavery and walk the true road of love and revolution together.”


To exarcerbate what those uncouth savages did in Nyeri, two KTN journalists, Eric Njoka and Betty Kyalo, made light of this grave incident on live TV, after which they ‘apologised’ thus on Twitter:

  • Betty Kyalo @BettyKyalo: “Hey we do apologize for the distasteful intro for the Nyeri woman. Human is to error. It was a barbaric act indeed. Good day” [the tweet is since inaccessible]
  • Eric Njoka @eriknjoka: “Apologies: #NOtostrippingofWomen may have come out as distasteful but No one was laughing at the lady, it was the scripting @BettyKyalo

Earlier on Eric Njoka’s response (in pure political parlance given the press’ new partner) was for those with grievances to ‘move on’.

In response to this tweet from Sophie Ngugi @sophien “#NOtostrippingofwomen it was rather disturbing to see @BettyKyalo and @eriknjoka make this a laughing matter! @njokihatari”, Eric Njoka tweeted: “To laugh or not to laugh, if it was hilarious we are not ROBoTs to ignore , move ON @sophien: @njokihatari  @BettyKyalo  @NjeriOkono”

Move on? MOVE ON???!!!! So, what are we to make of the apology that followed and its sincerity? And did/will the two of them and their media house apologise on the same public airwaves on which they so trivialised the dastardly deed, or have they ‘moved on’? Is it not those who do not like the manner a woman is dressed the ones that they should tell in no uncertain terms to ‘move on’? And to wordlessly avert their eyes if the way a woman is dressed offends them?

The video description posted by KTN read thus, produced verbatim word-for-word without any alterations whatsoever: (other than – apparently – by KTN itself. See note below script marked with an asterisk)*

“Drama ensued at the nyeri bus termini when a crowd descended upon a lady they claimed was indecently dressed. The angry mob undressed the lady saying that the short dress top she had worn reflected badly on the women of nyeri.the lady who was not given a chance to defend herself was stripped and left in her birthday suit as her inner garments were kicked and thrown about by angry men. The women who were equally scorned warned mothers against letting their daughters leave the house without approving their dressing. A good samaritan who witnessed the saga saved her embarassment by giving the lady a long dress as an alternative approved by the men.”

[*Addition after this post was written: The synopsis above is what currently appears on KTN’s YouTube account.  See original script, courtesy of Wambui Mwangi, at the bottom of this post] 

Have we made a silent pact for such testosterone-powered gratuitous violence on women to also be part and parcel of our ugly post-election ‘celebration and revelry’ package? Did we not witness the same ugly, shameful and shaming incidents in Naivasha following the 2007 elections, when marauding Mungiki mobs roamed the town stripping women wearing trousers and miniskirts, for no other reason other than that they were the power and the terror of that moment in time and so could get away with it with the impunity and disregard for law that has sadly come to characterise Kenya for those under the patronage of a power baron?

The Nyeri goons’ faces were captured on video. These vermin should be traced, apprehended and speedily punished to the fullest possible extent of the law. They must be brought to book for what they have done. Because they have violated the Supreme Law of our land – the constitutional right to self-expression in a manner that does not infringe on the rights and freedoms of others.

If you don’t like what you see, look away, shut up, and – indeed – move on.

And if you wish to join those opposed to this barbarism, a Facebook group awaits.


PS: What was redacted from KTN’s original script, courtesy of Wambui Mwangi:

In the adjusted text, these words were removed: “Traders and other passers-by had a free movie to watch as they gathered to witness as the drama was unfolding…Women and mothers were warned not to let their daughters walk out of the house without their approval. What a lesson!” Like most of the world’s corporate media, Kenyan news-media anticipates and transmits to a dominant male gaze. The on-air anchors displayed an unattractive admixture of prurience veiled by spurious professionalism. The framing of this incident suggests, also, that a submissive female public—the everywhere-threatened subject of violence—is not so much anticipated as in the process of construction. This incident is not likely to be the last in Kenya; nor has the public lesson been lost.

Excerpt from the post Silence is a Woman by Wambui Mwangi


About Njeri Okono

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7 Responses to Stripping, sniggering and ‘moving on’

  1. Pingback: Governor speaks on stripping: All sizzle and no steak? And other leaders? | Njeri Okono

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  4. Njonjo Mue says:

    Njeri, we are a sick, sick, society. That’s why the two news anchors can afford to foolishly giggle at this tragedy and be shocked that so many are deeply shocked and upset at their cavalier attitude towards this story. We are also a country of forgetting and moving on. As long as I am not on the receiving end of an injustice, it is just a joke to laugh at and move on to more important things.

    • Njeri Okono says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Njonjo. Leaning to the wisdom of our forebears who gifted us with the distillation of their sayings that we may learn, Karĩ itara gathekaga kari riiko (Gĩkũyũ, which translates roughly to: “The green firewood drying above the hearth always laughs at the dry firewood burning on the hearth”). Kiswahili and English equivalents: Leo mimi, kesho wewe, If it afflicts one, it can afflict all. Injustice anywhere, to anyone, should bother us all.

  5. These actions, like scrambling towards an overturned petrol tanker, or a public service vehicle to loot whatever it carried, just shows what low decadence we’ve attained as a society. The same way we approach our elections, ‘without thinking’, following euphoria, so we elect criminals and then start complaining when they rape the nation in broad daylight, and yes, the press plays accolades for them and amplifies the clarion call ‘to move on’.

    • Njeri Okono says:

      True, Pursita. On the one hand, there are the voyeuristic barbarians who perpetrate these violations on women and go unpunished with our ingrained culture of impunity and lawlessness, then, on the other hand, are those equally voyeuristic small minds that take ringside seats to apparently enjoy the free drama and do nothing to save the victims. On so many indices including the ones you cite above, we have indeed sunk to the bottom, and then, having reached the bottom, we are now digging to attain yet lower lows.

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