Ask For Help Before Digging Your Own Grave

Amidst all the drama and explosions, that characterized the better part of last week news out of Nairobi and Mombasa, you might have missed this piece of bizarre news. Out in the counties, in Trans Nzoia, a man dug his own grave and tried to bury himself alive in a little village called Tivani.

The man who was only identified as a tout in the news broadcast was captured standing in freshly dug grave. He was lanky with a scrawny frame, baggy trousers fastened crudely around his waist and was bare-chested. The reporter kept calling him a young man but he looked like had aged overnight to easily pass for a stressed out alcoholic in his fifties. Residents stated that he dug the grave overnight and was found in the morning laboring to bury himself alive. The cause this great distress was ‘marital problems’ which in this country is a euphemism for troublesome spouse.

Fortunately, the offending wife got a chance to share her side of her story. She expressed resignation. She had tried everything in her power to lift a brother up, cover the sorry excuse he was for man to no avail. The man had simply dropped his responsibilities and stopped caring about the consequences. His wife had turned into his mother and she had gotten tired of saving her spineless man. Fortunate for him, he had compassionate neighbors and the services of elders and pastors. In some parts of this country, he would have been probably labeled a social misfit and flogged back to his senses. Or buried.

The story illustrates a brand of thoughtlessness that is quite prevalent in the country. It is generally accepted that the potential for male idiocy knows no bounds.

There was a famous trending story about a decade ago of a Kenyan male who tried to milk an elephant. Cases of randy men going rogue and assaulting farm animals do feature in this realm. Suicide incidents as result of heart break after a football game are predominantly composed of male victims. We frequently see university students going wild at the slightest provocation.  Or political hirelings courting death for causes they have no understanding of.

Men tend to act in this manner when dealing with acute anxiety. They go paranoid with the dread that something beyond their control will cause harm, rendering them helpless in their roles as protectors. Paranoia over one’s economic position, the overbearing influence of politics on personal lives, a growing distrust for immigrant communities and crackling religious tension can give way to recklessness. It is easier to surrender to escapism and exist in a suspended fantasy than deal with the waking reality.

A culture of individualism is also eroding our coping mechanism.  Whenever there are limited outlets to exhale outside of a drinking den, small marital issues that would have been easily resolved by counsel, escalate into irreconcilable differences and lead to desperate action. Once communication channel between partners is blocked, mistrust grows. The susceptibility for distrust increases and the conversation moves from, “I don’t understand him” to “he does not listen” and eventually, “he despises me”. Something eventually gives and the fall out never augurs well for the children caught in the squabble.

Women cope better with stress because they reach out and share pain. There is a lesson in the grave incident. Men should learn that there is no shame in asking for help when you are drowning.


Oyunga Pala is a Kenyan writer, curator and editor. This blog examines the texture of everyday Kenyan and African life and the challenges of modernity and disillusion. The writings commonly feature the struggle of the Kenyan male to maintain integrity in contemporary society.


  1. The
    cause this great distress was ‘marital problems’
    which in this country is a euphemism for
    troublesome spouse….well put sir

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