It was immediate former Attorney General Githu Muigai who said in a newspaper interview that at the end of the day, when the music stops, when the curtains fall, you have to go home and be yourself; a father, a husband, a brother, a villager coming to bury the dead with the other villagers.
And so, it was for city lawyer Robert Chesang, except that he came home in a casket, his father, Mzee Chesang Kiptala, in lonesome grief under a tree outside his mud-walled house in a humble home reeking of poverty and neglect in Kalabata village in Baringo County.
Chesang was evidently a man of means – a lawyer married to a magistrate and owner of a plush home in Machakos County. Why, Kenyans wondered on social media, would such a man abandon his aged father, without even the barest of comforts?
The slain city lawyer’s case is no exception. Thousands of sick, hungry, elderly men and women are languishing in poverty in villages, yet their sons and daughters live large in cities.
According to the 2109 census results, people aged 65 and above constitute about 2.7 per cent of Kenya’s total population.
Charles Mwangi has been living in abject poverty despite his children living and working in the city. He is a troubled man who depends on casual jobs and well-wishers in the village to put food on the table. Now in his 70s, Mwangi, old and frail, says he is disappointed with his children because he can’t recall the last time they paid him a visit.
“My children have deserted me. I can’t remember the last time they visited me on Christmas. I struggled to raise them, but when they became adults they forgot about me. I didn’t even have savings because I wanted them to have a good life. Look at me. I wear tattered clothes, yet I have children who work in the city,” the old man told this writer.
He, however, says that though they have deserted him, he bears no grudge and they have his blessings.
“Even though it hurts, I still love them. Young people should love their parents because it’s a command from God. There are children who don’t even call their parents to find out how they are faring,” he says.
Moses Mutua, a sociologist, says some people neglect ageing parents because they are ashamed of them and don’t want to be seen with them.
“There are people who are ashamed of their parents because they are illiterate. They don’t want to be associated with them so they end up not going to the villages. Many parents are suffering and I blame the children for this. I wonder how someone can sleep in peace not knowing whether their mother or father has eaten. Why would you be ashamed of someone who brought you into this world? It’s your obligation to make sure your parents are living a comfortable life,” says Mutua, adding that visits should not be restricted to festive seasons and that siblings should pool resources to pay for their parents’ NHIF medical cover.
The sociologist also blames bad spouses and peer pressure, saying there are those who are influenced not to build homes in their parents’ homesteads. Instead, they buy expensive homes they can barely afford in the city, leaving nary a coin to spend on their old folks back home.
“I think people should be encouraged to build homes in shags because they are not going to be buried in town,” he says.
However, Mutua notes that some parents are to blame for their tribulations because they are too demanding, and this scares off children who may be struggling financially. Some children also stay away from their villages of birth because they fear that their parents will interfere with their marriages which is often the norm when they are married to someone from a different community.