Love, as defined today, is a foreign idea to the African men and their cultures across continents, Writes Hillary Masai
Among most African societies men needed not to have been emotionally attracted to a girl in order to marry her.
In the olden day, such union was often arranged by parents. Then, men related to women or girls only in marriage for the sole purpose of procreation.
Polygamy was the order of the day. A first wife was actively involved in the marriage of other women to her husband. She had a leadership role together with the husband in a polygamous arrangement.
Emotion(s) or love, if you like, was pushed to the back banner. Even where it incidentally developed, it was frowned upon.
Such a man who openly exhibited too much attachment to the wife/wives was ridiculed.
Sayings and traditions vehemently discouraged any form of open love expression. I remember:
‘Iriip tuukuk, metiip koorko’ – care for your cattle, but no a wife.
‘Buunyoondeetaap ko’ – the enemy (wife) in the house.
‘Itinye buupeit kuu koorko’ – you’re jealous like a woman.
‘Meebar chii kubo koorko’ – don’t kill a man because of a woman.
‘Yoo keenyorte chii chesheng’uung iyaame sooket’ – if you find a man in bed with your wife demand a fine of a cow, etc.
These rules effectively helped men deal with the emotional complexity loosely called love.
Men did not invest, albeit, heavily on such demeaned emotions. There were few or no cases of love related to violence/killing.
Exit the old good traditions, and in came Western culture, education, religion, and technology.
The romantic novels, movies (read blue movies), soap operas, internet, the art of seduction and consent.
Men started begging, persuading, appealing and literary going on their knees for women love and or marriage.
In the modern order men constantly declare undying love to sometimes half-hearted women.
Competition for beautiful women has intensified. Men go to any length to win the hearts of the women they admire.
In extreme circumstances, they sell land and other properties to outwit each other. Lavish dates, in posh hotels by the seaside, jewelry, expensive clothes, cars, and suburban mansions are top on the prize lists.
The art of wooing is a potential heartbreaking venture which gets ugly at times. Coupled with immorality, cheating, abandonment or separation; men have been pushed to the wall.
They become emotionally vulnerable. They have no fallback plan or a societal justification to deal with the situation or move on. No, just as they declare in lovey dovy Phares, it is ‘mimi ni wako milele’.
The result is suicides, killing, poisoning, depression, ulcers, insanity, heart attacks, name all.
Our children (boys) need those rules. Little premium should be placed on ‘love’.
We must debunk it with sayings that will remind our youngsters that it is an emotion whose intensity wanes, that one party can quit, that life goes on, that you can love another person who reciprocates and that you shouldn’t die for it.
The Writer is Sub-County Administrator, Bungoma County.