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Published:November 22nd, 2006 03:48 EST
Fighting For freedom, Controversy, and Wambui Otieno Mbugua

Fighting For freedom, Controversy, and Wambui Otieno Mbugua

By Juliet Maruru


In Kenya, it is common for women to lose their property and land upon the death of their husband, becoming in turn the property of their spouse`s family. Consigned to the sidelines of society, the new widow in some tribes is even forced to undergo a cleansing ritual, which consists of having s(e)x with a stranger or even a family member. Wambui refused to become a victim of this culture.
Seventeen years after her first husband`s death, Wambui married Peter Mbugua, a man 40 years her junior. Once again the Kenyan public roared in dismay at Wambui`s actions.

In a country where young girls some even in their pre-teens are married off to men old enough to be their grandfathers, Wambui had stirred mixed reactions by marrying Mbugua. Before the day was over there was debate about women`s rights and their role in society.
The next day, newspapers splashed pictures of the newly-weds dressed in matching beige outfits across their front pages and national broadcasters led their news bulletins with the wedding.
"It`s a revolution because it doesn`t happen in Africa," Wambui said of her marriage to Mbugua, a laborer. Not only is the couple separated by four decades in age, but also Mbugua was not even born when Otieno was carving a place for herself in modern Kenyan history as a Mau Mau freedom fighter and political activist.

Mr. Mbugua`s mother, 53-year-old Florence Nyambura, was so angry that she has refused to recognise Wambui as her daughter-in-law. Three days later, Florence died. The couple said the death was caused by complications related to the 53-year-old`s high blood pressure. However, that did not prevent rumors that it was due to her unhappiness about their marriage and speculation that her sudden passing had placed a curse on the union.

Wambui`s children also boycotted the ceremony, saying that their mother would live to regret the day she married a "boy" who is 42 years her junior. They have described the marriage as a disgrace to the family. However, for 67-year-old widow and prominent politician, Wambui Otieno, "love is what matters, love is blind."

It has been three years since Wambui defied culture and wed Mbugua. Appearing in an interview on KTN LELO a few days ago, the couple confirmed that they are still together and very happy.