The three boys lay side by side, lined up from the youngest to the oldest, covered by a blanket, but with their legs exposed from the toes to slightly below the knee.
To undiscerning eyes, they looked very much like children in deep slumber, having gone to bed late after swapping stories at their home in Mabuteek village, Chepalungu, Bomet County.
But to their paternal grandmother, this was unusual. And she was not amused that they had not responded to her calls to wake up.
The sun was up and the door to the grass-thatched house was ajar.
As with a mother’s instinct, the grandmother yanked the blanket off the children and touched them to check if they were alright.
She was startled – the bodies of the usually active boys were cold. It quickly dawned on her that they were dead.
A rope lay a few inches from the children, an indication that they may have been strangled and died very painful deaths.
A piercing scream swept through the village as the old woman, overcome by shock and grief, screamed her lungs out, attracting neighbours and passersby who streamed into the homestead to the shocking scene.
A neighbour narrated that they heard the children screaming for help at around 1am that Friday, March 22, but thought that as usual, the children’s father was beating them after returning home from drinking sprees.
They later heard claims that the children had died in the hands of their father; that he killed one after the other using a rope.
Benard Kirui, 35, allegedly arranged their bodies in order of their ages – the five-year-old’s, then the eight-year-old’s and then the 12-year-old’s.
It was said that he then put a blanket over them and then tried to kill himself by hanging, but that the old rope he used cut into two as it could not support his weight. He reportedly fell from the rafters of his house and later tried to escape.
“The man attempted to commit suicide. He was arrested at Kinyoki as he headed to Amalo River where [it is believed he would have made a second attempt to take his life],” said Mr Nelson Masai, Chepalungu Sub-county Police Commander.
During the arrest, police had to keep villagers off as they bayed for Mr Kirui’s blood.
Neighbours wailed as police put the children’s bodies into their van and as they exited the compound for a journey that ended at Longisa County Referral Hospital mortuary.
The officers stopped briefly at Sigor Police Station where the suspect was being held, having been arrested three hours earlier. That was the closest Mr Kirui came to his children before they were buried.
Asked about the shocking event, neighbours termed the man’s home a “no-go zone” and said he always turned them away and was crude to those who responded to distress calls from members of his family, allegedly after beatings from him.
The round grass-thatched and mud-walled house in which the children were killed is in an isolated part of the family farm that is more than 70 acres big.
In interviews with the Nation, villagers also claimed Mr Kirui was violent and that several of his assault cases were pending at the local chief’s office.
“Several cases relating to assault have been reported against him, not only by his neighbours but also by his wife and father,” said Lelaitich Chief Robinson Rotich.
Mr Kirui is said to have drunk illicit brew at a local den till late on the day that he allegedly killed his children.
“As he took his drinks, he was his usual self. There was nothing untoward to show he was contemplating committing the dastardly act,” said Mr John Bii, a resident.
The day before their deaths, the children were taken back home by their uncles after staying a week at their maternal grandparents’ home, reportedly after being kicked out by their father.
“The suspect had beaten up his wife a week earlier and chased her away with the children following a domestic dispute,” said Ms Pauline Bii, a resident.
The boys’ mother had remained at her parents’ home, reportedly after declining to return to her husband following repeated assaults.
“The couple is survived by a young child who was away from the homestead with the mother at the time of the murder,” said Chief Rotich.
Amid the shock and anger in the village, the children were buried together at Cheboin village in Narok West on Monday, joined at the hip in death as they were in life.
Relatives and friends wailed near the tent in which three small coffins were placed at the home of the children’s maternal grandparents.
It was decided after an engagement with the families that they be buried at a location other than their parents’ home, where they were murdered.
Their mother, Sharon, was so overwhelmed with grief that she was unable to speak or hold her two-year-old daughter, the only surviving child, at the funeral.
Alice Bett, a resident, said, “The mother must get justice as she struggled to bring up children who were murdered by a person supposed to protect them.”
Mrs Carolyne Kirui, a distraught relative, said, “It was so painful to see the children’s bodies in the mortuary. For the mother who carried the children in her womb for nine months each, it was unbearable. Men must understand that marriage is not all about paying dowry. Your wife is not an object.”
Investigators have pieced together the circumstances under which the boys died, the weapons used to kill them and how Mr Kirui took off from the home after spending three hours in the house with their bodies.
In court on Monday, the father stood forlorn in the dock, in grey trousers, a pink shirt and a brown jacket. The man stared blankly at the ceiling and occasionally rested his head on his palm like one in a trance.
He could not take a plea before Bomet Resident Magistrate Praxedes Aduke as investigators, through public prosecutor Mark Barasa, sought more time to complete their work.
“We are asking for seven days within which to subject the suspect to medical tests, for investigations be completed,” stated Mr Barasa.
The application was granted by the magistrate who ordered that the suspect be held at Chebunyo Police Station.
Investigators also wanted post mortems conducted at the Longisa hospital before the start of the case.
Mr Kirui was taken back to court on Tuesday but he did not take the plea as this was pushed to Friday.
It is also on Friday that his mental state will be revealed following checks – this exam is a mandatory legal procedure in murder cases.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.