A Quick Divorce

By Muhango Innocent Amani

Shalula lives with his wife Namwango and their five children in Kabati, a small village in South Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is a teacher at a private secondary school in a nearby village. Every weekday morning, he goes to school by bicycle. He leaves home at 6:30 a.m. and gets there at 7. Class starts at 7:45. He comes home in the afternoon. In addition to teaching, Shalula works in the fields in the afternoons and during the holidays to generate a supplementary income. In the rainy season, which lasts for seven or eight months, he grows three types of plants: cassava, maize, and sweet potatoes. He harvests the potatoes and maize after three or four months and the cassava after one year. He sells the vegetables at the market.

Namwango was a faithful, respectful woman who loved her husband and five children, and she did more than just the housework. She also worked in the fields, planting cassava. When she came back from the fields, she cooked for the entire family, and after dinner she washed the children before they went to bed. Before Namwango got pregnant with their sixth child, Shalula impregnated another woman, Mugezi, who lived in the same village. Mugezi was a single mother of two. Her husband had died in a car accident five years after they married. Mugezi did not have an income apart from selling tomatoes and onions. The pregnancy remained secret for a long time, and Shalula did not want the secret to get out because he knew it might lead to the breakup of his marriage. He even asked Mugezi to keep the baby a secret and promised to surreptitiously take care of her family.

Not long after, Namwango got pregnant. She did not know about the other pregnancy,  but when Mugezi gave birth to a baby girl, she found out. In her eighth month of pregnancy, Namwango started to suffer from a mysterious disease. When she went to deliver her child, she gave birth to a dead baby boy. Even after this tragedy, she continued to suffer from the mysterious disease. The five children began to suffer from it as well. Shalula gave them medicine, even though he knew it wouldn’t help because he was the cause of the family’s ill health.

Several members of the community came to visit the family. Mulika, one of the visitors, suspected the husband of unfaithfulness after seeing Namwango and the children. In the local culture, it was believed that family members suffer from a particular disease when the husband is unfaithful. One of the symptoms is a rash that causes fever. Mulika asked Namwango, “Have you asked your husband if he was seeing any women of the street?” She replied that she had and that her husband had denied it. Supported by Mulika and the other people there, Namwango asked her husband again, and this time he admitted that he had been unfaithful and apologized. Then some of the community members, including Mulika, went to get a traditional healer to cure Namwango and the children. The healer treated them using traditional medicine from the forest. Fortunately, the patients recovered after three weeks.

Namwango decided to divorce Shalula because of his unfaithfulness as soon as he confessed. And she did not change her mind, even though Shalula apologized. When she was fully recovered, she submitted a petition for divorce to the court. The divorce process was not easy, and it lasted for seven months. By the time it was finalized, Shalula and Namwango were no longer living together. She had moved back in with her parents.

10 August, 2023