A particularly gruesome domestic abuse case is rocking Kenya, where a man is believed to have hacked off his wife’s hands after they couldn’t have children, although he was evidently the one who was infertile. Jackline Mwende, 27, says she was counseled by her pastor to try to save her marriage, despite escalating abuse.
Mwende lives in Machakos, southeast of Nairobi, and told the Los Angeles Times that her husband Stephen Ngila slashed her face and cut off her hands with a machete in late July.
“I saw him, and he told me: ‘Today is your last day,’” she told the paper. “I never thought something like this would happen to me.”
Mwende told the Daily Nation, a Kenyan paper, that Ngila, 34, began to drink heavily and abuse her after three years of marriage, but that their pastor urged her to stay and “fight” to save the relationship. One of their issues was having failed to have children; Mwende says a hospital in Nairobi told the couple in 2014 that she was fertile, but her husband was unable to bear children.
“He found out that he had a problem,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “So the doctor advised him to attend the clinic, but he never went. Every time I reminded him to attend the clinic, he would dismiss it. He would say, ‘I will see if I will get time to go,’ then he would never go.”
The pastor, Patrick Kioko, told the paper that when the couple couldn’t reconcile, he held a church “hearing” and the two agreed to live separately:
Pastor Kioko added: “But we noticed the man was determined to leave. So it was agreed that they live in peace in their separate homes and ask the courts to dissolve the marriage. Because, as a church, we don’t end marriages.”
Instead, Mwende’s family told CNN, Ngila found her the night of July 23 and attacked her with the machete, an attack which besides taking her hands and deeply scarring her face also rendered her deaf in one ear.
Pastor Kioko pronounced himself shocked by the whole thing, saying he’d hoped to bring the couple together for another shot at reconciliation:
He said the church was planning to bring them together but then the attack happened.
“We were shocked how it turned out even after all the effort we put in. Anger is dangerous in a union and this is something we all should learn from.”
Ngila was arrested the day after the attack, when he showed up at the hospital where Mwende was being treated.
The case has become a national symbol of the continued problem of domestic abuse, even as Ngila’s family insists that Mwende is at fault, for having had “loose morals.” They’ve variously suggested that she had numerous lovers, one of whom maybe attacked her, or that it was a “business deal” gone bad (she ran a small stall in a local market). Ngila’s sister insists he was with her the night of the attack. He was denied bond on August 10.
The case has prompted an unusually strong response from the local government, who have offered her a monthly stipend, free medical care and help obtaining prosthetic arms.