Home Life and Style Relationships RED LIGHTS, Green Lights for Diaspora Marriages

RED LIGHTS, Green Lights for Diaspora Marriages

By Omwa Ombara


A KENYAN MAN living in the US allegedly abandoned his wife Susan Kamau and his three children in Kenya after tricking them to a holiday recently. Since then, marriages and relationships between Kenyans in the US are under microscopic scrutiny than ever before.

Nasty comments have been flowing in like a gushing river, mostly from the men.  Women activists and  KWITU (Kenyan Women in The Diaspora) have come out strongly to support sisters in distress and raised funds for Susan to return to the US. KWITU raised US$14,000 in 72 hours. Meanwhile Kenyan men and women online, hijacked the story and became expert online legal counsels. Some even professed to know the story better than the couple. What came out clearly in the discussions was that Kenyan women are “hard-headed arrogant materialistic fools” while Kenyan men are “jealous, promiscuous, lazy, uncivilized control freaks.”

This story has evoked bitterness typical of some diaspora men in the US who cannot seem to hold their families together.  The grim portrayal of these dysfunctional relationships is one that has been unfolding in the media for years. After trying out relationships with Kenyan based women in the US and failing miserably, some Kenyan men have been in a mass drive to import fresh, indigenous women from rural Kenya to maintain control as household heads. Yet, this project is not making headways either. The fact is that Kenyan men who abandon their wives and children back home often try to pretend they are single or divorced. There is no polygamy here. You must produce a copy of your divorce certificate. Women who ask for this important piece of paper are termed “hot headed.”

“I met an elderly man, (69 years), here and he proposed to marry me,” Gloria Wanambisi, 43, who works as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a home for the mentally challenged told TUJIPANGE in an interview. “He said he divorced his wife 30 years ago and he has never heard from her. When he got very sick and someone had to sign consent forms, the hospital called his wife in Kenya. Although he appeared too sick to talk to me, when the nurse put the phone on his ear and he heard the wife’s voice, he became very alert and well. I left the hospital without looking back.”

The imported women are proving to mutate into American women faster than the click of a tongue.

Some women change their accents as soon as they get on the plane and refuse to do what is required of a good Kenyan wife; cook, clean and wash dishes, do the family laundry, hand over the salary, get a few disciplinary kicks and slaps, submit to conjugal rights on demand and ask no questions when the man strolls home at 2am smelling of cheap illicit things. In America, whether you are a CEO of a man or not you have to clean after you, do laundry and dishes and embrace equal partnership. The rights of a woman are highly protected in the constitution; it is important that Kenyan men read women like Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dolley Madison to name a few so they know what’s on their plate. These women were very specific about women suffrage.


“This country (America) was made for women! Women are the ones reigning,” Says *Johana Gituku, 50, (not his real name) as he relaxes at a couch at a friend *Odhiambo Otok’s ‘s house in West Chester, Delaware County. He sips his ninth can of Ice-Light Pilsner and shakes his head in frustration.

Gituku knocked outside his friend’s window at 5am this Saturday morning after his wife threw him out of the house after an argument over his working hours. He has been doing this every other day and his friend is beginning to get irritated. As with many American families, Gituku works at night while his wife works in the day.

Mrs. Philomena Gituku* is a Registered Nurse at a leading National Hospital in Upper Darby. She has not always been this good looking, powerful woman with a long blonde weave. When Gituku went home for her after working in the US for US$7.25 an hour, he had eaten Sukuma wiki and ugali for three years to save for their re-union. She was back home in Naivasha with their three children selling fresh cabbages, eggs, tomato and chicken to travelers along the Nairobi – Nakuru Highway.

But once she got here and adopted American ways, she changed. “She is no longer the woman I married. Truthfully, I really don’t know her. She has transformed from day into night. She is evil.” Gituku said.

Gituku is frustrated.  His wife has called the police on him several times over minor arguments like flashing the toilet and not spreading the bed. He claims she lied to the police that he beat her and now he is in bad books and could be deported home any time. He mostly blames other Kenyan women for influencing his wife and turning her against him.

“They go drinking beer and shopping at the mall and gossip about Kenyan men. They speak too much English. We Kenyan men are an endangered species here in America. I’d rather be home!” Gituku laments.

This is a challenge to many families. Besides suspicion that a partner maybe involved in illicit relations with night peers, couples don’t really get quality time together to bond, plan their future and have a good family laugh.

America is no joke when it comes to paying bills and a significant group of Kenyans work two or three jobs a day to make ends meet. While many Kenyans dream of a better life through green card or other means in the US, the dream is short-lived as culture shock sets in and money becomes the driver that controls relationship gears.

While it is not the culture in Kenya to meet your husband at the door on your way out, here that is the painful reality. Money dictates relationships in all dimensions.

The Kenyan independent Diaspora woman is no easy game or gem. She has money, drives her own car, goes on vacation and wants to call the shots. Let’s take nursing career, for example. This Kenyan mama is a Register Nurse. She earns $42.75 an hour (which is Kshs4, 275). If she works a minimum of ten hours she earns $427.50 (Kshs42,725) a day. Multiply this by 30 days and this wife takes home a neat Kshs1,281,750 before taxes if she does not work overtime. And overtime is the name of the game.

Now, this is not the woman you expect to be the great housewife and mother of nose running children a Kenyan man would want.  

Yet not every Diaspora couple lives in misery. Some marriages have flagged the green light and such families are very productive and prosperous.

Read more about this in Part 2 of this story.


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