Jackline Nzilani denies framing husband Julius Wambua in rape case
For a person caught up in a national storm, Jackline Nzilani looks unusually relaxed and welcoming.
She wears the demeanour of someone at peace with herself, despite the raging controversy in which she is accused of having framed her ex-husband, Julius Wambua, and causing him to spend a decade in jail.
Clad in a red jacket, white top, a scarf and braided hair, the diminutive, dark-skinned mother of five leads us to where she currently lives in Nairobi without hesitation.
“I’m not afraid of anything as I’ve no regrets over what happened to him [Wambua]. I’m ready to face the court and testify as I swear I never coached Mwende [her daughter] to lie,” states Ms Nzilani, 46, as she settles down for the interview.
She is repeatedly interrupted by her three-year-old son, whom she had with her current husband.
The boy wants to be served tea, and is oblivious of all the media interest that the story of her mother’s past has attracted.
Ms Nzilani is accused of having coached her daughter to lie in court that her ex-husband had sexually abused her.
Mr Wambua walked to freedom last Thursday after Dorcas Mwende, the daughter in question, recanted her testimony.
Quick with words and speaking in Kiswahili with a heavy tinge of the Kamba accent, Ms Nzilani is emotionless and with no sign of guilt; for her, life continues as usual.
Yesterday she recounted to the Nation her troubled marriage with Mr Wambua, and the alleged sexual abuse as easily as if everything happened yesterday.
She says she has no regrets over Mr Wambua’s imprisonment, but regrets the feeling of “betrayal” by her two daughters; Mwikali and Mwende.
Currently working as a house help, she recalls how a call from her second-born child, Musyoki, alerted her to the confession by Mwende.
Her son would bring her the newspaper, which she still has, of the confession by her daughter, which, she states, could have been as a result of her refusal to allow Mwende to drop out of school to get married.
“We were living close to each other. Mwikali and Mwende were living together after she had broken up with her first husband. That is where the plan was hatched and it only hit me when I started getting calls from Citizen TV,” she recounts.
However, Ms Nzilani avers that despite the release of Mr Wambua, there is no love lost between the two as she does not want to set her eyes on him again.
“I’ve no apologies to make or forgiveness to ask for as I stand by my testimony that he raped Mwende. I never visited him in jail and I’m not ready to mend things between us. I’ve moved on with my life,” she states.
Part of her pain, she says, stems from the fact that their marriage was a bed of thorns where she was constantly abused by her then husband, Mr Wambua.
She recalls that what started as love at first sight in 1992 quickly turned sour as domestic abuse took a toll on the relationship that took 16 years before it came to an end in 2008.
Ms Nzilani paints Mr Wambua as an insecure and abusive man, and a control freak who would monitor her every movement, turning her into a punching bag wherever his insecurities set in.
Painting him as a pathological liar, she disagrees with the decision of the High Court to release Wambua from Kamiti Maximum Prison, where he was serving a life sentence.
“The court should not have set him free without consulting me. I’m ready to return to Kithimani (law courts) to stand by my earlier testimony. I’m not hiding from anyone,” she said yesterday.
The marriage, according to her, was not one to wish on any one as she would be beaten even without any wrongdoing and would not be allowed to interact freely even with her neighbours and had to ask for permission to go to church.
She denies ever selling the family land, claiming, it’s Mr Wambua who sold it after getting married to another woman.
“We started off with nothing after he was chased from his uncle’s home. We would sleep in neighbours’ houses as we had nowhere to go to. I put up with all the abuse, but what broke our marriage was the day he repeatedly threatened to kill me using a machete. That was the end. I left, never to look back.”
Once in Nairobi, Ms Nzilani joined the Akorino sect after quitting the New Apostolic Church where she worshipped while in the countryside.
When Ms Mwende recanted her testimony, she accused her mother of engineering the incest case. Ms Nzilani, working in cahoots with other relatives, coached her to frame the father. The mother, however, dismisses the allegation as baseless.
“I did not coach Mwende to frame her father. We banked entirely on a medical report done by a medic in a private hospital in Nairobi,” said Ms Nzilani.
The court heard that Ms Nzilani fabricated the case to settle scores with Mr Wambua in the wake of their marital woes.
High Court judge George Odunga said he had been persuaded by the new evidence. He ruled that Mr Wambua had suffered a mistrial and directed the case be tried afresh.
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) says he has not decided on whether Mr Wambua will be retried afresh as ordered by Justice Odunga.
“The DPP needs to go through the proceedings of the petition plus the judgment in its entirety and thereafter make a decision whether to order a retrial or not as directed by the judge,” a lawyer for the DPP identified as Ms Felista Njeru told the court at Kithimani on Monday.
The magistrate gave the DPP a month to make a decision. He allowed the accused “to remain on the cash bail that was imposed by the High Court pending the decision of the DPP,” said Ms Eva Wambugu, the senior resident magistrate at Kithimani Law Courts.
The case will be mentioned on January 25.