My name is Clemence Kizelah. Etched deep in my memory is a dark history of my broken marriage. I can still picture the image of my ex-husband Swaleh.
It was love at first sight when I first met him at Pirates Beach in Mombasa during my birthday party in November 2004. I had just finished opening a birthday gift when I saw Swaleh standing a few metres away from me.
I would later learn that the gift had come from him. He was well-built, good-looking and had cute, big eyes.
“This man is going to be my husband” I quipped. I can still reminisce how fast my heart beat at that moment. I went home at Bakarani in Kisauni where I lived with my mother and lied that I had received a job transfer and would soon be working away from home. But in reality, this was only a, ploy to be close to Swaleh.
About a month later, I moved in with him at his house at Barisheba in Kisauni and we started living as husband and wife.
Without doubt, I had fallen head over heels for Swaleh. He was my man and my soul mate, so I thought.
I was convinced that nothing could ever put us asunder, not even our different religion affiliations. You see, he was a Muslim and I was a Christian.
END OF FAIRYTALE
My fairy tale came to an end when I fell pregnant. Swaleh started staying out late without offering plausible reasons.
Sometimes he would fail to come home at all and only return the following day. He would burst into a fit of rage whenever I asked him why he had failed to come home or where he’d been.
This aggravated and he started staying out for days. At times, he’d show up for only two days in a month.
These two days were worse than the days he stayed away. We would engage in heated arguments as I pushed him to become responsible, especially seeing that we were soon going to become parents. But he would rain kicks and blows on me.
Despite the beatings, I still loved him and I hoped that he would come back to his senses and remember the magic of love that had brought us together. I hoped that when our baby arrived, he would love me all over again.
But I was wrong. The beatings increased as I inched closer to delivery. I remember one month before I gave birth to my son, Swaleh beat me up to near-death. I was admitted to Sayyida Fatma Hospital at Mlaleo in Kisauni where I underwent blood transfusion. Fortunately, the doctors managed to save my pregnancy.
Once I was discharged from the hospital, I returned home to an unapologetic husband. A few weeks later, on June 8, 2005, I went into labour while at home.
Shockingly, Swaleh refused to take me to hospital. He mythically claimed that my blood would be taken and sold for ritual use against him.
It took lengthy intervention of a neighbour to convince him to take me to hospital. By then, my water had broken. Fortunately, I arrived at the hospital in the nick of time and delivered my first born son, Kelvin.
The birth of my son heralded a new phase of conflict between my husband and I. On one hand, he wanted his son to be raised as a Muslim while my religious conviction was Christianity. That he was determined to push his religious inclination down my throat did not make things any easier to bear.
I remember in September 2005 when a member of his mosque told him that I was secretly going against his faith. He was so furious that in the middle of beating me, he grabbed our child by the shawls I had wrapped him with and flung him to the wall. At that time, he was three months old and only survived by the grace of God. This snapped me from the illusion that Swaleh would ever change. I realised that not only was my life in danger, but my child’s as well. In any case, my marriage was already broken beyond repair.
I will forever remain grateful to my neighbours who formed a prayer circle for me. They had been advising me to walk out of my marriage and save my life and my child’s. While I had taken their advice lightly, now I had reached the end of my tether and was asking God for a window to run away from Swaleh. This came in October 2005. I walked in the house and found him fast asleep. I grabbed a few coins on the table, took my baby and walked out. I kept walking away, first slowly then briskly, from the house, outside the plot, and finally outside the estate. There was no turning back. I run away to my mother’s house in Bakarani. She welcomed me back with open arms. A week later, Swaleh came to our home and took our son away. Two weeks later, I traced the baby at his sister’s place, where I learned that he had sold him for Sh60,000. Initially, his sister, who had lost his baby earlier on, refused to hand my son back demanding that I first pay the Sh60,000 fee she’d paid for him. It was only when I threatened to sue that she gave me back my baby. Since then, Swaleh never came after us. It has now been 12 years. As I look back, I realise the mistakes I made, but at 36 years, I am a wiser woman, mother to three sons, entrepreneur and a gospel singer. Above all, I’m grateful to God that I survived to tell my story.