Maslaha: Where goats and cash are used to pay for rape

Sunday March 4 2018

RAPE

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i speaks at Catholic Integrated Primary School in Wajir County on February 27, 2018. He said rape suspects must be prosecuted. PHOTO | BRUHAN MAKONG | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By STELLA CHERONO
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Two goats and Sh4,500 is what was paid to the parents of Fariah Ahmed (not her real name), after she was raped by three men, one of whom was her former school mate.

The man, who was three classes ahead of Fariah in primary school, and who was the only one she identified among the three, was never arrested and on the day of this interview, he and his victim attended a meeting at the Wajir Baraza Park separately.

“There he is. He keeps making fun of me and I fear he may rape me again. I am sure he has done that to many others,” Fariah says of the man she claims is a matatu operator.

HOODWINKED

The rape, she says, took place on January 16, when the man tricked her into getting into his vehicle and drove to a one-roomed house in a Wajir backstreet where he assaulted her together with the other two people from 3pm to 11pm.

They accosted her as she crossed the road moments after she left MTC hostels and headed towards AIC Wajir to pick her younger sister from a friend’s house.

“He was in a car with two other men. He is usually the driver but on this day, he was sitting at the back left and someone else was on the co-driver’s seat.

"They stopped, he rolled down the window and asked me to get into the car because he needed to talk to me about an important matter concerning my elder brother," Fariah says.

“I was hesitant to get into the car but after he insisted, telling me that he would drop me and that I would regret not ever giving him the chance to tell me the story that would save my brother.”

CONTRACEPTIVE

While in the car, he asked the driver to head towards Wajir Town, where the three forced her into a house and raped as they ridiculed her.

“They threatened to stab me if I screamed and since it was already getting late and I had not picked my sister, I thought begging them to let me go was the only thing to do,” she adds.

They finally released Fariah at 11pm, offering to give her a lift but she declined, saying she would take a tuk-tuk. The first suspect wanted to give her Sh100 for fare "but I also declined".

“I was in pain and did not trust them. They did not even use protection during the rape and I didn't know what to do,” she says.

Fariah took a tuk-tuk home and narrated the ordeal to her mother. Infuriated, her mother decided to go to the man’s home and confront him and his parents despite the darkness.

“She came back when I was already asleep. The next day, my mother, uncles and members of our extended family held a meeting with the man’s family and agreed that they pay Sh5,000 and two goats. They also said that if I got pregnant, they would make him marry me,” she says.

COMMUNAL JUSTICE

The Sh500 Fariah’s mother owed the man’s family was deducted from the fine. He was also to pay two goats or Sh6,000 to her family.

“I feel like I am in a cage because of what I went through. They did not even consider that I had to go for treatment. I also bought emergency contraceptive pills after a friend advised me to,” she says.

Fariah’s ordeal is becoming common in Wajir. Another girl the Nation spoke to by phone said her family received Sh6,000 from her rapist’s relatives in 2014.

The two girls say their assailants should have been prosecuted, but some parents say the communal justice system commonly known as “maslaha” (common good) is a fair and easy way of solving disputes.

“If you go to court, the case will take years. Families also tend to hold grudges, usually leading to feuds and this is not good for the community,” Mr Ibrahim Musa, an elder, said.

He however believes that the community’s conflict resolution system is being misused.

GANG-RAPE

Following the rape of a 15-year-old girl by three men in Habaswein Sub-County last week, local leaders, including Wajir Woman Representative Fatuma Gedi and Governor Mohamed Abdi, condemned maslaha, saying the system is contributing to the rise in rape cases.

“Maslaha is making rape and other serious crimes look normal. We will not allow it,” Mr Abdi said.

The leaders publicly condemned the system after it emerged that the families of the accused were already contemplating solving the crime out of court.

PROSECUTE

Leheley chief Mohammed Omar and his Wajir East counterpart Nuh Mohammed said they had never accepted the use of maslaha to solve rape cases.

“A while ago, we mobilised youth to help arrest a man who had confined a girl as he raped her from 9am to 11pm. Rape is not negotiable. He was arrested and charged,” Mr Omar said.

On Tuesday last week, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the government would not allow the use of maslaha to solve rape cases.

He added that any State official promoting the system would be arrested, prosecuted and dismissed.