Sexual relationships between family members have become common in Dagoretti, assuming a semblance of normalcy that threatens the moral fibre of Kenyan society.
Fathers are having consensual sex with their daughters. Brothers and sisters willingly go to bed with each other. Meanwhile, mothers are using their feminity to seduce their own sons as part of daily life in Dagoretti. Located just west of the city of Nairobi, the Dagoretti area is showing acute characteristics of a population ravaged by poverty, crime, high population growth and the collapse of traditional taboos due to urbanization.
Across the world, incest is associated with broken homes, worsened by alcoholism, drug abuse, joblessness and abuse spanning several generations. In Dagoretti most homesteads appear to suffer from these vices all at the same time, hence the incest phenomenon.
“When people in Dagoretti discover that the girl next door is having sex with her father, nobody makes a big deal out of it because its a common occurence,” says Mwaura, a young man born and bred in the area. “If my friend tells me that he slept with his sister, I wouldn’t be surprised because this is Dago,” adds Mwaura. Dago is slang for Dagoretti.
So prevalent is the curse of incest that Dagoretti’s notoriety has spread far and wide. Many people are reluctant to marry from this area for fear of what they will discover about their partners. Societal values are upside down. Single parenthood in Dagoretti is at alarming levels, and children from such households suffer increased rates of abuse from parents or persons dating their parents.
As though that wasn’t enough, parents in Dagoretti plot how to solicit funds from foreign donors in order to educate their children. As expected, the “donors” will occasionally want to visit their beneficiaries and there’s no telling what happens during such encounters. Mwaura attributes the “sponsorship” mania to laziness among area residents. “People here don’t want to work; they would rather spend the day drinking. So they must look for churches, non-governmental organizations and foreigners to sponsor their children’s education. I know of several families where each child has a different sponsor.”
At the same time, widespread incest is worsening the scourges of alcoholism and drug abuse. Or maybe it is the other way round?
This is an incredible story narrated to the Nairobi Chronicle by a Dagoretti resident who we shall call Onesmus:
ONESMUS: “A couple of years ago, a young man in Dagoretti consumed a drug reputed to increase sexual libido. Which would be alright if the young man were married, or if he had a girlfriend. Unfortunately, he was single and living at home with his parents. On getting home and with a raging sexual appetite, the guy went berserk around the homestead, breaking things. When the mother was told what her son had taken, she decided to quench his sexual desire by sleeping with him. ‘I can’t let my son continue suffering like this, I must do something as his mother,’ the woman is quoted as saying.
Nairobi Chronicle: “That is really sick. If this woman really wanted to help her son, why didn’t she just go to the nearest pub and get a commercial sex worker?”
ONESMUS: “Well, maybe she didn’t know where or how to talk to one.”
Cases of fathers having sex with their own daughters in exchange for cash, property and jobs are very common in Dagoretti. Some men are said to force their daughters into sex by threatening not to pay school fees. The hapless girl, eager to continue with her education succumbs to the demands and eventually, the relationship becomes a normal affair. However, the phenomenon of father – daughter sex is not unique to Dagoretti as many cases continue getting reported from across Kenya.
But why is Dagoretti so afflicted with incestuous relationships compared to other parts of Nairobi? In the whole of Kenya, the only other area that comes close to Dagoretti in the recorded and observable cases of incest is Naivasha. Both areas have certain features in common.
They are semi-urban, semi-rural settlements with a multi-cultural population attracted by low-skill but low-wage labour. Many of these people grew up elsewhere but their relocation to a new, harsher environment has meant that the traditional taboos that governed their lives are no longer applicable. Add to that the effects of poverty and an oppressive work environment with no prospects for personal growth. The prevailing social and political climate in Kenya doesn’t do much to cultivate optimism either. High crime rates have made people feel vulnerable to the vagaries of fellow man.
The result is a population of people who have no feelings left for fellow human beings, not even their own family. In this bleak, Darwinian setting, money, sex and alcohol become the means to existence. Not only are they the means of livelihood, but money sex and alcohol are the ends that keep people going.
If sex is a tool and a means, then it does not matter how one gets it and with whom. It could be your next door neighbor just as much as it could be your wife or husband. It could be with your daughter, brother or uncle. It could even be with your daughter’s best friend, or your son’s fiancée. It doesn’t matter who you hurt as long as you get sex.
With this kind of moral vacuum, the future for the young people of Dagoretti is not very promising. It can be concluded with reasonable certainty that cases of incest in Dagoretti will get worse in future. Unless somebody takes the initiative to change the moral landscape of the area, the young people of Dagoretti will abuse their children just as much as they have been abused. An initiative to combat incest could be from government, it could be from religious bodies or from non-governmental organizations. Perhaps, such a programme could originate from politicians. Any initiative towards tackling the shadow of incest in Dagoretti would be welcome.
Regardless of the moral ambivalence of the residents of Dagoretti what is happening there just ain’t right.