She was 26 years old when her spouse, Peter Oyuka, left her behind – in the dark, lonely and forgotten.
She is now 73 years old, and Oyuka wants her back. She’s ready to go back, but after thinking carefully about the possible repercussions of that decision.
“Even though he abandoned me and our three children, he was the husband of my youth. I still have feelings for him,” an infirm Elmina Mutole tells The Standard while seated on a decrepit armchair inside her mud-walled house in Naluchira Village, Malava Sub-County in Kakamega County.
She was abandoned while standing tall, walking gracefully and with a near-permanent smile on her smooth-skinned face. She’s now slouching, has wrinkles and limited energy to go about her daily tasks.
The love story of Mutole and Oyuka started on December 12, 1963, when the two met at a funeral in Malava.
“I was 15 years old then. I loved him instantly, and the following day, he asked to marry me. He was 26 years old at the time,” a nostalgic Mutole said.
Oyuka, described by Mutole as a “no-time-waster”, paid Sh2,000 as bride price, and gave two cows to Mutole’s parents for her hand in marriage.
Their marriage was love-imbued, and had all the indicators of a long-lasting union, until 1974 when Oyuka went MIA – without a word on where he was going, or when he’d be back.
At the time, Mutole was already a mother of three, 11 years into the union.
“Life became unbearable. I couldn’t comfortably feed my three children. Left with no other choice, I returned to my parents’ home,” she said.
“After four years of being housed by my father, a suitor sought my hand in marriage. His name was Amakobe Okoti. I married him, and got two children with him. Sadly, he died slightly over ten years ago,” said Mutole.
In 2002, she returned to her first matrimonial home, Makale Village in Malava Sub-County, to visit her three children, whom she’d left behind.
Her first husband, Peter Oyuka, got wind of her visit, and travelled to Kakamega to meet her.
“He asked me to get back with him, but I refused. I told him that I had found a new partner, who loved me so much.
“He pleaded, promising to take me to Tanzania, where he was working at the time. I stood my ground, and reminded him that I was happily married, and that I’d lost interest in him.”
She’s now widowed, sickly and elderly. Asked whether she’d consider reuniting with Oyuka, Mutole said: “I would first tell him sorry for returning home while sickly. He abandoned me when I was young, and needed a man in my life – to love, pamper and take care of my bodily needs.
“Making matters worse, he completely cut off communication with me. Today, he’s returned, saying he wants me back. I’m now sickly, old and have a blurry vision. If I have to get back with him, which I’m not ruling out, I have to really think through it.”
She says it was one of her youthful daughters (from the second marriage), who informed her that Oyuka had been quoted in a section of the media saying he wanted to reunite with her.
“I was taking lunch on Thursday, when my daughter said that she had read about my ex-husband’s plea. I felt bad, when she informed me that my former spouse had returned home while ailing. I loved him, and despite what happened, I still harbour feelings for him.
“For three days now, I’ve been unable to eat properly, knowing that the man I once loved is not in good health. We shared many good moments, and it pains me that he is unwell. His weaknesses notwithstanding, Peter was a loving and caring man.”
Mutole’s daughter, Martha Salano, told The Standard she doesn’t mind if her mother reunites with Oyuka.
“She has the right to choose who she wants to be with. When she and Oyuka met, we weren’t there. We don’t know what they share, and so, we shouldn’t stand in their way,” said Salano, adding: “My mother deserves to be loved, just like any other woman. And, how she reacted to news of Oyuka’s poor health tells you that she’s still in love with him.”
Unlike 35-year-old Salano, Mutole’s daughter-in-law, Jacqueline Mudanya, said she’d oppose any reunion attempts between Mutole and Oyuka.
“We’re capable of looking after her. A man cannot abandon you for 47 years, return and walk into your life like nothing happened,” said Mudanya.
Oyuka was married to two women, when he left home in 1974. The Standard is tracing the second wife, who had two children with the 84-year-old man.
Peter Oyuka returns home
On Tuesday, September 21, Peter Oyuka was disappointed after discovering that his two wives, whom he had left behind 47 years ago, remarried.
Oyuka left his Makale Village home in Malava, Kakamega County in 1974, and returned after nearly five decades, with only few residents able to recognise him.
In the 1970s, he said, he was leaving the village for the urban centre in search of a well-paying job to look after his two wives and five children.
He made brief returns to Kakamega in 1983, 1992, 1996 and 2002, but did not visit home.
His wives, companionless and lonely, decided to remarry shortly after Oyuka deserted them in 1974.
“I wish my wives were here today to welcome me home,” he said on Tuesday, shifting his expression from delight to regret, almost instantly.
One of Oyuka’s daughters-in-law had, actually, mistaken him for a trespasser.
Rituals were performed to welcome home the prodigal son. A white goat was sacrificed to appease the ancestors.
Aged 37 in 1974, Oyuka left Kakamega for an undisclosed urban centre to look for a well-paying job. He did not tell his wives where he was going to, or when he would return.
His return home would be triggered by a Facebook post by a Good Samaritan in Oloitoktok, Kajiado County, who was asking for leads to Oyuka’s relatives.
“I have been in Nairobi, Oloitoktok and Tanzania a better part of the 47 years,” Oyuka told The Standard.
The octogenarian said he’d been engaging in construction work for a living.
“I worked for an Indian businessman in Nairobi, before being transferred to Tanzania, where I spent 13 years,” the occasionally nonplussed Oyuka said.
While in the neighbouring country, Oyuka fell in love with a female Tanzanian national, with whom he got a child.
“After I returned to Kenya years ago, my Tanzanian lover stopped communicating with me, and is yet to allow me to meet our son,” he said.
Oyuka is “heartbroken” after learning that his wives in Kenya remarried after his disappearance.
Oyuka said he found a new home in Oloitoktok, Kajiado County after his return to Kenya.
“I do onion farming in Oloitoktok. While in Tanzania, I learnt that there was a high demand for onions, yet supply was limited.”
The father of five said he sold the onions in bulk to both Kenyan and Tanzanian traders.
Oyuka said he has been sickly, of late, leading to depletion of his money.
“I was desperate to return home. So, I got in touch with a member of Luhya People in Oloitoktok Facebook page, who promised to send a public alert about my whereabouts. It was through the alert, that one of my sons, Aggrey Osanji, found me,” he said, adding: “How he did that, I don’t know.”
Osanji, who is now 53 years old, says his father abandoned him and his mother when he was six years old.
“My mother fled her matrimonial home, leaving me under the care of my paternal grandmother,” said Osanji, adding that he briefly met his dad when he returned to Kakamega in 1983.
After chancing upon the Facebook alert about his father’s whereabouts, Osanji sent his number to the author of the post, and was able to trace his father to Oloitoktok.
The 53-year-old travelled to Oloitoktok on Sunday, September 19 to bring his father home.
“I thank my family for accepting me back. I wish my two wives well in their marriages. However, I’d like them to know that I’m still alive and that they should create time and visit me.”