Cyber bullying linked to woman’s suicide in Nairobi
A single leaf of paper was enough to carry her photo and a summarised story of her short life for the mourners who attended her burial on Thursday.
On the front of the page was her photo and some text. “Brenda Akinyi Maone Waru; Sunrise: October 24, 1987, Sunset: May 13, 2017.”
She was lowered to the grave in a milk-white casket. Down went a woman who scored straight As in her KCSE and earned admission in the University of Nairobi’s School of Medicine in 2007. Down went a 29-year-old who was known for her ubiquitous online presence on various platforms.
Ms Akinyi committed suicide near the Kabete Police Station on the night of Friday May 12 by throwing herself on oncoming traffic on Waiyaki Way.
It was past midnight and she was with her three-year-old daughter and a house help. She had taken them out of the house, saying she wanted to take them for an outing, and they trekked along the highway.
The house help told relatives that Ms Akinyi almost jumped with the child but was restrained by a motorcyclist. Then in the blink of an eye, she plunged into the road. Three cars were on the way and the result of the impact was as deadly as she had intended. Off went the lights of Dani, as she was popularly known.
A police officer attached to the Kabete Police Station on Saturday said that the matter was being handled as a traffic accident and referred us to Mr Rashid Hubale Mohammed, the Dagoretti OCPD, for further comment. Mr Mohammed did not respond to our calls and messages.
In her eulogy, the death is indicated simply as “through a road accident [in] Nairobi”.
The Sunday Nation has found out that many factors contributed to Ms Akinyi’s drastic action, and one of them was being bullied online.
A Facebook group called “Buyer Beware – Kenya (ORIGINAL)”, which has over 87,000 members, has this week been in the eye of a storm because she was allegedly bullied online by some members of the group after posting about the defilement of her three-year-old daughter.
“There were people in the group who, when they heard that the child had been raped by her (Ms Akinyi’s) friend, they started talking ill, others ridiculing her and all. Rather than console her, they spoke badly to her. They frustrated her,” Ms Akinyi’s uncle James Okello said.
Ms Akinyi’s family lives in Tanzania, where she was buried after being transported from Kenya.
A second born in a family of six children, she had resolved to live in Nairobi despite her parents migrating to the neighbouring country and settling on bought land after the clashes that followed the 2007 General Election, according to Mr Okello, who is a brother of Ms Akinyi’s mother.
Ms Brenda Nyakerario, a friend of Ms Akinyi, said the late — who sat her KCSE at Moi Girls High School in Eldoret — had dropped out of university for a number of reasons.
“She was living with her kid and her worker,” said Mr Okello.
After a man preyed on her daughter, Ms Akinyi sought the help of police in investigating the matter of the defilement but an officer who was assigned the case asked to sleep with her and she gave in “because she was desperate” according to Mr Okello.
He added that she secretly recorded the officer during the event, where he promised to help her. But after sleeping with her, the officer disappeared, aggravating her stress.
“The person who made the matter worse was the policeman. He did something very bad,” Mr Okello said.
Desperate for help, Ms Akinyi posted the matter on the Facebook group, hoping to get advice on how to go about the situation.
But it appears she only got more tormented.
“Brenda has been going through a lot and she was always online and depression was eating into her for lack of help,” said Ms Nyakerario. “They bashed and ridiculed her and she felt the world was against her.”
Some of her friends who are members of the group, who spoke to the Sunday Nation on condition of anonymity for fear of being bullied, said that in the week leading to her death, some members of the group had stepped up attacks against Ms Akinyi, with their line of argument being that she was faking the defilement story.
We contacted Ms Mildred Owiso, an administrator of the group, to respond to claims that she participated in the bullying and that she let other members do it. Ms Owiso denied the allegations, saying that she in fact helped Ms Akinyi obtain help.
“I sent her professional contacts, which I later learnt she never followed with. I am sure I did the best within my capacity as an administrator,” she said.
The circumstances under which Ms Akinyi left the group are not clear, with some saying that she was removed while Ms Owiso insists that she left on her own accord.
It was after she left and kept getting information of her being mentioned in bad light in the group that she felt really bitter, according to Ms Nyakerario.
But the administrator of the page was defensive: “As for ‘allowing’ people to torment her in her absence, that’s so lame. This is social media people will speculate and you can’t stop them and if anything I am yet to see any of your allegations.”
Even when reports of her death emerged, not all members of the group left it unchallenged and due to that, Mrs Damaris Too who was one of the people who were the first to visit City Mortuary to confirm the news about Ms Akinyi’s death, has written demand letters to two of the members for making snide remarks. She plans to sue them for libel.