Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi
Stretching out on her bed after a shower one Friday afternoon, Faith Wambui glanced up at the top of the wardrobe to get a coat to wear for the cold evening. Suddenly, a flash of something gleaming in one corner of the closet caught her eye.
What Faith discovered next marked the beginning of months of deceit and suspicion that ultimately destroyed her relationship, and ended a two-year love life with her jealous boyfriend.
“Sometimes I would forgive a little jealousy,” says Faith, 33. “He was working away a lot. He would call me to check up on where I was and who I was with. He would sometimes tell his friends to check on me,” she adds.
Not even once did she ever think her boyfriend would go to that extent. “Then I saw this thing in the camera disguised as a small speaker in my bedroom. I check it out and there inside was a tiny, black box with a lens on the front. It looked like a miniature camera,” says Faith.
Faith, a fashion designer, confronted David, 35, with the evidence. After denying all knowledge at first, finally he confessed. He had installed the device to keep tabs on her.
“He confessed he was scared I’d see other men while he was away on business,” she recalls. She adds: “David was the only man for me. I had never cheated on him,” she says.
Increasingly, many urban households in Kenya, especially those that have children for one reason or another have installed cameras in their houses. They were not popular in the country until a video of a Ugandan nanny caught beating a toddler went viral five years ago. Soon after another case was reported in Nairobi with many others, including one of a help who was caught breastfeeding her employer’s baby.
However, it turns out suspicious spouses are turning to it either allay their fears of infidelity, or catch their partners out when they’re getting up to no good. Pius Juma, who has been selling surveillance cameras online through his online shop, Cach Cam, says his target clients at first were mother’s groups on social media only to realise that even single and married people with no children wanted them too. “A huge growth in people are buying this equipment because of suspicions about their partner,” says Juma.
Help or destroy marriage
The cameras come in different sizes and designs with prices ranging from Sh6,000 to Sh20,000. Their average size is that of an adult thumb. Some do not require connection to the Internet and once installed, one can monitor events live from their mobile phone or a computer irrespective of location.
All you need is a sim card with a cellular data plan to go with the camera. They use either a Power over Ethernet (POE) technology or a cellular technology or even a wired Ethernet cables to record the footages and to transmit them for monitoring.
The other options look like a digital clock or a light bulb. They use a memory card that is removed to view the footage. This footage can only take around 10 to 12 hours while the web one has advanced features that enable it to record footage for up to seven days.
Dr Geoffrey Wango, a psychologist at the University of Nairobi, says the equipment can kill or cure. If someone goes over the top spying on a partner, it can destroy a relationship, but at the same time, it may get to the bottom of the problem and offer some kind of resolution.
Some spouses hire spies or use friends and relatives to secretly snoop on their partners. Some hack on their partners emails or open separate pseudo accounts to conceal their identity then befriend and chat their spouses in social media.
Others install secret cameras in the house, office and recorders in the car. “I would, however, say it is not the way to resolve a relationship problem. If someone is being insincere with you, they’ll duck and dive and convince you that you are paranoid,” he offers.
Dr Wango says a cheat will never admit what they are up to. “In fact, if they want to continue with their deception, accusing them will encourage them to become even more secretive. You have to present them with hard evidence,” he concludes.