Where three isn’t a crowd…
Posted Saturday, May 5 2012 at 18:00
- South African President Jacob Zuma can get away with marrying several women, but not upmarket middle-aged men in Nairobi. Just how to modern polygamists survive and thrive?
“If I am yet to properly manage your mother 40 years (later), how do you think you will make it at your age, with today’s challenges?”This was the response Geoffrey Kariuki’s father made when he learnt that he (Kariuki) had a second wife.
Kariuki is 38 years old, a businessman in the beer industry in Nairobi, and holder of a degree holder in Food Science. He first got married in 2002 to Susanna, a career teacher at a private school in Nairobi.
Susanna became his wife under Kikuyu customary law, with traditional rites taking place at her home in Gatundu.
Seven years later in 2009, he decided to take another wife, Abigael. According to Kariuki, he found it “inadequate” to have one wife.
Although he does not fully elaborate on the ‘inadequacy’ of his monogamous arrangement, Kariuki opted to officially get a second wife in what he calls “broad day light. I did not want a mistress. I still love my first wife. I had to pay dowry for the second wife,” says Kariuki.
"I have two children with Susanna and one with Abby. I will need another child with Abby later.”
Susanna lives in Kileleshwa. She says she has a cordial relationship with Abigael, who works at a local micro-finance institution.
Although Kariuki declined to have his picture taken together with his wives, he freely summoned each of them separately for this interview at his second home in Hurlingham.
“For the sake of their privacy and jobs, let us leave their images out,” he pleaded.
You would imagine that having two wives is a preserve of the older, traditionalist politician or the village medicine man whose only show of being a man is to have a string of women and several children to his name.
South African president and Zulu traditionalist Jacob Zuma recently married his sixth wife, Bongi Ngema, at his home in Kwa Zulu-Natal.
The wedding has ignited debate about African men and polygamy, with certain quarters terming the president’s behaviour as “archaic.”
In Kenya, however, it is no longer fashionable to have more than one wife. To wit, a few years ago, President Mwai Kibaki categorically stated he had “only one wife.”
The statement served as a warning to whoever would want to insinuate that he had more than one wife. The bigger message was that he was a family man and that “family men have only one wife.”
Some young, modern Kenyans have gone against the grain, though. Re-known comedian Walter Mong’are aka Nyambane (who initially agreed to this interview but was unavailable due to overseas travel) has publicly declared that he has two wives.
The second wife, Linda Muthama, a musician, recently had a child by him. In an earlier interview, Linda said she was well aware of the situation long before she moved in and that she had “a warm relationship” with her co-wife.
When Kariuki, who is another such example, speaks about his wives and the way each responds to any query about the other, it becomes clear that modern-day polygamy is alive – and workable.
Forget the mistress or the mpango wakando phenomenon; it is two women accepting their co-wife status.