Four dead, seven admitted after dowry feast tragedy
Peter Githui and his fiancé Eunice Njeri were last Thursday looking forward to a lavish wedding in coming months after hosting a grand dowry paying ceremony at Rodama village on the border of Nyeri and Laikipia counties.
On the D-Day everything went according to plan. Song and dance rent the air as the bridegroom and his entourage which had come from Othaya, Nyeri county was ushered into the compound.
The party that had come to pay dowry arrived at 6 pm and after feasting, the dowry negotiations started. But their joy was cut short after negotiators started complaining of stomach upsets.
The joyful ululations that signalled acceptance of the two lovebirds’ wish to get married were interrupted by groans of pain after villagers, who had feasted at the event developed severe stomachache, vomiting and dizziness. So far four people, including the bridegroom’s mother Hannah Wanjiru have died over suspected food poisoning.
“By Friday morning, the bride’s mother and three other villagers had succumbed while the groom is still admitted in critical condition at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH),” said a resident.
So far 67 people, among them Mugunda Member of County Assembly Joseph Nderitu, who attended the ceremony were taken to the hospital for emergency treatment and discharged.
By Saturday, several other people, especially from Rodama village, who were at the fete started complaining of vomiting and diarrhoea. It was not until Caroline Waibochi, a villager succumbed that the entire village was sent into panic mode.
The group that had attended the rite known as ruracio in Kikuyu language was mobilised to visit the nearest health facility for check-up. When People Daily visited the village, medics were busy attending to villagers.
Sixty of the villagers who turned up at the Karemeno Dispensary were treated and discharged while seven others were admitted. Githui’s fiancé Njeri was among those who were treated and discharged though efforts to reach her yesterday were futile.
Speaking at Karemeno dispensary where he had sought treatment, Githui’s father-in-law David Mwangi Githaiga, 60, said the party that had come to pay dowry had travelled from Othaya, Solio settlement and Nairobi, where Githui resides.
Mwangi said on Friday they received information that the bride’s mother, Hannah Wanjiru had been taken ill and later died while receiving treatment at Nyeri Referral Hospital. Villagers who spoke to the People Daily suspected that the food prepared by some caterers from Nairobi’s Gikomba market may have been contaminated.
They are now blaming the caterers, of serving them with bad food, saying they have had similar ceremonies in the village but none has ever been taken ill.
“We suspect that those in charge of cooking and serving may have served contaminated food. We do not have water shortage in this area, which could have been the genesis of the problem,” said Peter Mwangi, a village elder.
Kieni West District officer, Samuel Kariuki confirmed death of the four, saying that the seven who were admitted are now in a stable condition.
Nyeri Director of Medical Services Nelson Mureu, however, said they suspected the deaths were caused by food poisoning and not cholera saying that they have established that all the food consumed at the occasion was sourced from Nairobi and were liaising with their counterparts in the city to carry out a detailed probe.