Dear  be/loved peeps…..

 How do we harvest the resources we have to share with our communities, across time and spaces? How do we harness the powah! of the all those intersections of our diversity to mobilise continental Afrikans and those in the diaspora in re-constitutional-i- sing our political and social systems to sustain not only all Afrikan people’s liberation, but all our living relatives?

[like real tox we all know many gifted en loving folks in our communities that are hungry to gain more balance, grounding en wellbeing while serving the frontlines in their hoods, many of us have be/come familiar with weariness en ‘thick’ skins, with living ‘cheque’ to ‘check’, en sacrificing ‘personal’ time for collective sowing, planting en harvesting bounties that shrink en swell according to imperialist currencies and the commitment of warriors….truthIS  there’s always a crisis in the horizon..day before yesterday it was the prime minister spewing hatred in a call to arrest gays and lesbians, and those hours of panic en fear, a few weeks ago it was the (slow) burning of witches, every day it’s the po’ and indigenus people’s struggle]

[http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/Kenyanews/Arrest-gays,-Kenyan-PM-orders-10670.html]

Real tox: who en where are the ones who are willing to harvest the powah! of our love for Afrika(ns) to rebuild sustaining and sustainable united villages, cities en states of Afreeka that hold us ALL safely? are the questions too massive to reason en organise through, outside of OUR  social movements? or are they too specific? what is the appropriate scale to work through on a small-ish blog on the world wide web? what are the right questions to galvanise each other to seek ourselves out and support our family en comrades mo?

in the (t)here en then en now, in solidarity with LGBTTIQ folks in Kenya, what creative sustained resistance and renewal can we magically craft and organise in response to the increasing backlash to Queer/trans communities in East Afrika?

Like that public call of hate for mo’ state-sanctioned homophobia, and quite explicitly for mass allegiance to our persecution…. that kinda shit gets people killed, and Dear Raila, he knows that very well, so today, en tomorrow en the moons en years after, it would be amazing and much needed to hear more voices calling for mo’ than a public retraction, en organise with more bodies to advocate for and serve queer/trans communties all over Afrika

coz this shit is Raila’s hateful call and Bahati’s Bill , Burundi and Rwanda, Nigeria and South Afrika, Ayiti and Jamaica,  it’s about 53 African nations (that technically really should be states) denying observer status to the Coalition of African Lesbians and upholding coloniser’s/foreign laws so shamelessly….

the bigger point is, dis solidarity ofcourse is much more than media campaigns or pointing fingers, it’s bout working collectively on sustaining ourselves en our growing movements, en harvesting all the wealth we do have…..hadithi kama

African women’s decade: strategic opportunities http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/69053

Ayiti: reclaiming sovereignty http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/69025

Western Sahara: the forgotten conflict

The Western Sahara conflict with Morocco is one of those almost forgotten conflicts. It is one that is an unbelievable 35 years old – and still the Moroccan government remains intransigent. A Moroccan About a World around him reports on recent uprising in one of the camps in Laayoune the main city in occupied Western Sahara. Prior to this King Mohammed VI had accused Algeria of human rights violations against Saharawis in Tindouf camps ignoring his country’s central part in why they are there in the first place.

‘The violence was triggered when a battalion-size security force descended on the camp in the early hours of Monday in an attempt to raze it and disperse its residents using tear gas and water cannons. The protests seeped into Laayoune and resulted in substantial material damage and loss of life as a group of the camp’s residents that an official Ministry of Interior statement described as wanted criminals and subversive agents clashed with the security forces. Black smoke bellowed over the city and debris littered its arteries. The number of people injured and killed could not yet be confirmed. According to the BBC, about seventy people have been injured and over ten have died.’…..read more @ http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/69060

na pia…..

What powah! does reclaiming indigenus knowledge en spirituality have for harvesting all those intersections of our diversity?

….not against flesh en blood

 Sister Outsider

check dis….

Mr Odinga on Sunday said that police should arrest anyone found engaging in such behaviours and take appropriate legal action against them.

“We will not tolerate such behaviours in the country. The constitution is very clear on this issue and men or women found engaging in homosexuality will not be spared,” Mr Odinga said.

Listen to Raila

“Any man found engaging in sexual activities with another man should be arrested. Even women found engaging in sexual activities will be arrested,” the premier warned.

Speaking at a public rally at the Kamukunji grounds in his Nairobi’s Kibera constituency on Sunday afternoon, the Prime Minister cited the recent population census results which put the ratio of men to women equal and wondered why people should engage in homosexuality.

“This [homosexual] kind of behaviours will not be tolerated in this country. Men or women found engaging in those acts deserve to be arrested and will be arrested,” he told the crowd.

He said leaders who were propagating rumours of same sex marriages in Kenya during campaigns for the new Constitution had failed miserably because Kenyans did not buy their propaganda.

“Those were lies from leaders who wanted to confuse Kenyans to reject the new law; the Constitution is very clear on that matter. It does not state anywhere that same sex marriage is legal in Kenya,” he added.

The Bill of Rights under chapter four of the new Constitution states that: “Every adult has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex, based on the free consent of the parties.”

A move by Uganda to introduce a Bill calling for long jail terms or death penalty in some cases of homosexuality received international condemnation, with US President Barack Obama describing it as “odious”.

He said: “But surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it is here in the United States or… more extremely, in odious laws that are being proposed more recently in Uganda.”
But notwithstanding Obama’s remarks, homosexual acts are now illegal in Uganda and attracts jail terms of up to 14 years in prison.

Read more: http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/Kenyanews/Arrest-gays,-Kenyan-PM-orders-10670.html#ixzz16pge8BvV

[and that is the story of how Raila tried to score cheap points, and took another brutal blow to his leadership, going to show yet again, what he sealed in ink when he accepted his position as prime minister, that he is not the rightful leader of our beloved country Kenya, maybe the other Agwambo, but dis one here o…..he dun make too much war o, it’s time for him to go O, no? in the spirit of….]

Ubuntu

many possibilities……

by michael hureaux perez

We must build a militant grassroots movement rooted in the working majority that is completely independent from the political organizations dominated by the big business classes.”

 

How good it is to know that if the world were burning to a crisp, the owners of society would let us know before we were completely toasted. First the oil spill from the late Deepwater Horizon was spewing out at a thousand gallons a day, then it was five thousand gallons a day, and today it is quietly admitted that it may be upwards of a hundred thousand gallons a day. Not that I’m shocked, you understand, I expect nothing from the ruling class of this country after Hurricane Katrina was used to purge better than a thousand black people from the planet five years ago.

What does intrigue me, however, is the banality of corporate thugs like British Petroleum, who announce such news with the demeanor of a waiter letting you know the short order cook burned your toast. As for the so-called democratic government of the United States, which should be arresting these criminals at this moment, we are treated to yet another display of Obama’s stentorian skills.

Un(/)fortunately, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

  

http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/eshu%E2%80%99s-blues-make-them-drink-it 

 The current ruling class of the United States of America is the most corrupt, bloated and incompetent group of gangsters to oversee this country since its founding. Their public face may be sleeker and wary of its “carbon footprint,” they may drink green tea and jog with their kids seated in ergonomically correct strollers through city parks, but they are as venal – nay, they are more venal than the top hatted, cigar puffing fat cats that were lampooned in the socialist press a century ago.

The robber barons of that era at least had enough social consciousness to know that public libraries and public hospitals were a needful thing. The current generation of new age merit class capitalists daily configure new strategies for selling off the public sector, lock, stock and barrel.

Market efficiency will take care of all, na?

 

So welcome to the new efficiency under the predator drone-guarded skies. The new generation of market gurus couldn’t foresee the depth of the banking crisis, they couldn’t foresee the endless nature of their atrocities in the Near East, they couldn’t foresee the disaster that has befallen the Gulf of Mexico. (Gaza, Johannesburg, Mtwapa, Ayiti…….)

Amazing, isn’t it, how people who were allegedly elevated through the magic of the marketplace can’t see a speeding train when they’re standing in front of it? The truth is that our new ruling elite do not care what happens to the economy or the ecology so long as their investment portfolios are yielding high dividends.

 

Certainly the charismatic they put in the White House this last go round wasn’t about to cop to how bad the mess in the Gulf of Mexico is until just a few days ago.

Obama’s response was his usual pursing of the lips, “cluck, cluck, cluck,” and a stentorian reminder to the hup-ho that from now on, they’ll have to play nice. Who needs manatees or pelicans anyway?

Obama’s daily concessions to the ruling gangsters have become the stuff of legend. Even people who never thought he was about much are perpetually astounded at what an opportunist and bloodstained piece of work he’s actually become. He is, in essence, the sort of black politician that all too many white folks – and unfortunately, a great many black people – have come to love and cherish as the best of all possible worlds under the current social order. He’s so obviously disgusting that many of us have grown tired of the topic. He’s just a symptom of our eighteenth century geniuses, Panglosses talking endlessly about their best of all possible worlds.

Our new age Panglosses have basically declared that what we have leading us in this country is the best that anyone can possibly do under the current arrangement. Unfortunately, if this daily grenade range is the best they have to offer, then I can only chime in with the terrible Leon Trotsky, when he observed seventy years ago that if global warfare and the common ruin of nature and humanity were required for the capitalist system to thrive, it’s time it perished.

A triad of transnational behemoths with the appellations Transocean, British Petroleum, and Halliburton have birthed an environmental catastrophe that will in turn imperil the hardwon economic gains of working class people in the deep southern United States for generations. The spill in the Gulf poses a menace to the economies of people of the Caribbean basin: Mexico, the Central American nations, the north of South America. The people who are responsible for this mess are vicious, and we must prepare to make them answer for their crimes against the planet and its peoples.

Obama’s daily concessions to the ruling gangsters have become the stuff of legend.”

So once again: There has been enough “skinnin’ and grinnin’,” and enough group deception around the actual intentions of the so-called “democratic” party. As usual, even as rivers of oil daily threaten not only the crabbing and shrimping industries that have fed our peoples along the Gulf Coast for generations – and not only as such irreplaceable creatures as the brown pelican, the blue fin tuna, and the manatee are threatened with extinction – the “democratic” party leadership stands with its hands in its pockets, and continues to mildly suggest that that the actions currently being undertaken by British Petroleum may not be adequate. Never forget: our ruling class knows that an unspeakable atrocity is palatable when it’s trotted out and played in minor chords.

Our peoples in this country must be made to understand that the destruction of a maritime industry that has kept the Southeastern states in the U.S. relatively solvent for generations and the slow immolation of an entire aquatic ecosystem is a crime against all of nature and all of humanity.

  

We have to stop fooling ourselves. There is a class war going on against our peoples and against the natural world, a calculated gamble that is being pursued by the ruling classes of this country.

If we are to survive, we are going to have to see this game, and raise the stakes………….

The eternal question is: who’s got the plan? There are lots of planners, there are lots of ideas in contention. At the very least, each respective strategy we adopt must retain as its watchword the complete independence of the political organizations of the wage earning majority from the political organizations dominated by the big business classes.

But I would like to modestly suggest that we begin by conducting a militant defense of the public sector of the economy through whatever grassroots community and labor organizations at our disposal – once again, with the notable exception of the “democratic” party, which is not an organization that belongs to the wage earning majority, nor will it ever be. Let’s get clear on that. A lot of us are going to go weak in the knees when the “democrats” break out with their usual “the monsters are coming!” show two years from now when the GOP rolls out creeps like Mitch Romney and Sarah Palin. Let’s declare their agenda irrelevant and organize differently. Let’s build upon what we do as a militantly independent grassroots movement.

The ‘democratic’ party leadership stands with its hands in its pockets, and continues to mildly suggest that that the actions currently being undertaken by British Petroleum may not be adequate.”

Obviously the only ideas that are excluded are racist, classist, sexist, homophobic, shapist, or anything else the capitalist system has come up with to get us to kill each other. No more false unities with people who clearly hate us. Let the polarization that actually exists be open, and let it declare itself openly under the rubric of a political organization rooted in the wage earning majority. There are beginning efforts like this happening in Pennsylvania and North Carolina right now, and there can be no doubt that this will be a long arduous road. All the same, we must get started.

We have to build a grassroots political movement that bases itself upon the energies of the wage earning majority, one that conducts a militant defense of the public sector in this economy. The ruling elite don’t want us to have any political power. Not any. Defend our unions, defend our community organizations, build, defend and expand the public sector of the economy.

The terrible Che Guevara used to say that to accomplish much, one must lose everything.

But be very clear: there are things we have no business losing, and the natural world is foremost among  them. We live in a moment when the ruling class of the most technologically advanced country on the planet is willing to flush all of nature down the toilet in order to preserve its imperatives. We cannot allow that. If all I’m talking about here is what amounts to an existential choice for most of us, maybe that’s going to have to be enough to get some people going. The choice is one of being or nothingness.

As for the fools who are destroying the Gulf of Mexico, who believe as the fool Ayn Rand used to argue, that pollution is good for the global economy – make them drink it.

 BAR columnist michael hureaux perez is a writer, musician and teacher who lives in southwest Seattle, Washington. He is a longtime contributor to small and alternative presses around the country and performs his work frequently.

 Email(s) to: tricksterbirdboy@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

Hadithi? Hadithi? Nipe mji…..nilienda isiolo na kampala, kiambu na malindi, nilirudi nyumbani, for the truth about stories is, they’re all we know, and (where) our heart is,

Leo ni leo….kweli si….

(re) introducing the q[/t] werd: a video diary

It ain’t no mystery that we (been) preparing for dis’ (not-so) new film & video projects: nekkyd & the Q[/T] werd. 

season 1 features 32[+4]stories en the magic is in  retelling of OUR stories

some of the [extra] ordinary people featured [en behind the scenes] include: anitafrika dub theatre, blackness yes! and blockorama, bombastic kasha, bunge la mwananchi, bredrin and dadas in solidarity, colour me dragg, [is] the crux, deb singh, Elijah Masinde, elimu sanifu, faith Nolan, funkasia, the funketeers, gender education and advocacy project, house of munro, Ishtar, kalmplex, nikki mawanda, nneke dumele, red lips. cages for black girls, swagger, tajudeen abdul raheem, victor mukasa, en the Yoruba house project

A love letter to rafikis, [aka.] bredrin and dadas in solidarity.

 

b is for blackness yes! and blockorama

 I give thanks for yesterday, today and tomorrow. I give thanks for the gathering for the memorial of the death of Elijah Masinde, and our deepening connection with egun en those yet to be born.

Bless our ancestors, bredrin and dadas in solidarity en pikney. I pray that you forgive my sins, those that I do and don’t know about. I pray for my family, friends, enemies, and that I may not have any enemies…..Guide us to our right [full] destinies.

I pray for health and prosperity not only for myself but for others. Bless those who heal and look after themselves AND others, en (gran) mama earth.  

Ase. Ase…..

 I invite you to listen to dis’ poem and consider dis quote found (again) in a post on http://www.blacklooks.org/

“The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became
blood like that of a dead man; and every living thing in the sea died.”
Revelation 16:3

 

Sankofa! Our ancestors are not gone, we stand on their shoulders, (as) they live deep in (around en under) us.

so consider then dis’ (pre) Obituary of Simiyu Barasa

Written by Himself

 Focus [on Afrika]: Kenya view 

When you find yourself talking with several guests of the morbid situation of your country during the wedding of one of your friends, you quickly realize there is something wrong with your country. When your National broadcasters show men being dragged out of public service vehicles and hacked to death by a mob of young men who do not even hide their faces from the police a few metres away, and such scenes are repeated more than the advertisements and commercials, then your country is doomed. When you hear that people are chased from their homes into a church for belonging to a particular tribe, and then followed into the church where women and children are locked inside and then burnt alive, my friends, you are no longer in a country, you are living inside hell on earth.

The Swahili (oh, that language that was supposed to unite us and now has been rendered impotent in its intended super-glue powers) – the Swahili say that when you see your friend being shaved with a razor, start wetting your hair in preparation for your shave too.

I do not intend to go gently into that dark beyond without saying a word of goodbye. Friends, (and those who consider me an enemy because of my tribe or lack of it), being of sane mind and in charge of my mental faculties, I bid you goodbye. I chose to write you an obituary, which you should read as a love letter to my country that has died in that critical moment when its dreams were giving birth to a beautiful bouncing future.

I know not the hour of my death, for no one knows the hour of their death in this country anymore. That man on Naivasha, who was dragged from the car and his speech as he answered questions betrayed him as belonging to a tribe the highway blockers were hunting down, he did not know his death. I have seen myself trying to run from the mob the way he desperately tried, machetes raining on his back, and yet he ran on, three desperate steps, before his body disintegrated into huge chunks of human flesh and fell down. Upon which they cubed him. I too, my friend, am about to face the same death. My tongue, when I try to speak, shall definitely betray me as a targeted tribesman when the mob does come to me. For I do not belong to any tribe.

My sister, Rozi, called me yesterday trembling with fear. She lives in Western Kenya, on the Eldoret/Kakamega border. They had taken a patient to Moi Referral Hospital Eldoret. On their way back, the ambulance was stopped by youths bearing all forms of crude weapons. They demanded to know which tribes everyone in the ambulance belonged to. The driver was of the local tribe, so he was told to step aside. As the others showed their National Identity cards, my sister realized that all around them were corpses of human beings freshly chopped to death. Her turn came and she said she was Luhya. They told her to speak in Luhya, but my Sister doesn’t know Luhya. “I really can’t speak it because my mother is a Taita!” she pleaded. She had to desperately show a photocopy of my mother’s National Identity card which she had in her purse, a photocopy my mother had given to her the previous week to use as a referee for the bank account she was switching to. That photocopy saved my sister. The only language my sister can speak, apart from English and the National Swahili, is Gikuyu. The tribe the youths were targeting.

My friend, I know no tribe. I only know languages. My mother is Taita, my Father is Luhya, and we were raised in Kiambu among the Gikuyu. It has never been important in our family to know which tribe we should belong to, my sisters and brothers have names from both sides of our parents communities. In this chaos, if the hunters of fellow humans were to find us in our house, would they really believe we are brothers and sisters from our names?

If I say am Luhya, the Gikuyu with whom I have lived and now am engaged to one of their daughters would kill me as they have gone on a mission to revenge the deaths of their kinsmen in Western Kenya. If I flee to my parent’s home in Luhyaland, the neighbours will barbecue me alive for I can’t speak their language and of course my mom is from a foreign tribe. Not to forget that the guy who sold us that piece of land where my mom and Dad saved so hard to buy is known to come and insist on grazing his cow on our compound claiming “my cows used to feed here, buying the land doesn’t mean I don’t own it!”

Now in this Nairobi where I stay, I am wary of my neighbours. The guy opposite my flat is a Luo with whom we argued amicably during the pre-election period on which party we supported. Maybe now, given that friendly neighbours have been the ones killing each other, he might remember our political chats over my litres of coffee and come chop me up?

That is why friends, I have decided to write this obituary. I know not my tribe, I have only known myself as Kenyan, and others as fellow Kenyans. In these times, belonging or not belonging means not being dead or being seriously dead. What chances does a person like me have?

My friends have their tribes mates to protect them. The cosmopolitan Nairobi has now been balkanized with residential estates being exclusive reserves of certain tribes. Complete with murderous gangs imported from up-country to protect their own. Mungiki for the Gikuyu, Chingororo for the Gusii, and the Baghdad Boys and Taliban for the Luo. Where, pray I, is the estate Balkanised for those of us of mixed heritage who know not their war cry of their tribal warriors? The only two tribes I can run to don’t have such armies. And claiming my Dad’s Luhya identity, and a Bukusu at that, is problematic in itself. The Gikuyus are hunting them down claiming they voted ODM together with the Luos, and the Luos are hunting them down too claiming they voted for Kibaki together with the Gikuyus. So such is my fate for my father belonging to this tribe that voted 50-50!

My friends, I have prepared myself for my death. I don’t know how it will be, but since as a Film and TV drama person I believe in rehearsals, I have rehearsed all possible scenarios so that when my moment comes, it won’t be so hard to take it. Chekhov’s method acting manuals are no longer needed. I just turn the TV on during news time or read the papers, and from the several images of people who have been killed in various ways, I choose one to dream and perfect that night. I have dreamt of being locked into a church or building with several others and torched alive. I have smelt the petrol fumes as its being splattered through the window onto our bodies and then round the building. I have seen the flash of the matchstick being lit, and smelled my flesh burning to ashes.

I have rehearsed how I will smile when I am dragged out of a public vehicle and hacked to pieces by the marauding youths who pop up in our numerous roads. I want to die smiling bravely, but just like the guys I see on Al Jazeera and other International TV channels, the moment I get to that part where a red eyed bearded man pokes his head into the bus and shouts “everyone wave your ID cards in the air!” I wet myself and start screaming for mercy, instantly easing their work of identifying foreigners for the blades to work on.

I have rehearsed how best to gasp when a barbed arrow strikes my chest. Or a club smashes my brain out of my skull. Or a spiked plank of wood is driven through my mouth. I have died so many times, my friends, that now I must be immune to the real death when it comes.

I used to laugh at tourists buying maps of Nairobi. I bought one recently. It is stuck in the wall of my bedroom where small pencil marks indicate all the escape routes I will try to walk in to get out of town once the mayhem knocks on my door. Unfortunately, to the west are roadblocks where my Luhya name will mean instant death. If I go Mombasa Road I might run into a roadblock where Kamba’s and all coast people are being cubed. To the North I can’t even dare. To the south I might pass, coz I can speak Gikuyu, but my name would be my passport to the grave yard. That map, my friend, directed me to writing this obituary.

Maybe if I was a famous poet I would go down in history alongside Chris Okigbo, the Nigerian poet who went to Biafra seeking to actualize his poetry but found bullets instead. My friends abroad are asking me if I am safe. Maybe if I had been bright of mind like they were I would have faked a bank account statement immediately I cleared my o-levels and fled to the United States to wash toilets in between my degree courses, but no. When they told me America is the land of dreams, I swore to them I am an Africanist, a believer in the African dream. When they filled scholarship forms to get away from this dark continent, I laughed at them. Now my faith in my country has faded faster than the newness of the new(s) year.

So, friends, some of us never really thought that our tribe was that important. Simply because we were from the tribes that make up Kenya. Some of us have lived in every province of this once great nation and learnt the local languages, drank the local brews, danced the local songs-so well that the locals even gave us the names of their tribes to fondly call us by. I have been called Kamau, Mwanganyi, Wambua, and even Bayelsa in Nigeria. (I should have known, when Dudun told me that Bayelsa is the troublesome state of Nigeria where the Delta is, that it was a premonition of the war in my country.)

I have nowhere to go. No tribe to run to. No tribesmen to protect me. Except the grave. Which is what my fellow country men are intent on sending all those who don’t belong to their tribe. Goodbye, friends.. Seeing that all fast food restaurants have a notice ‘pay in advance’, let me take the cue and say Goodbye in advance. When you see a pulp of human flesh in the tarmac with youths dancing round it waving their bloody matchetes, look closely. That ear might be mine. That grinning upper lip might be mine. I loved you, my fellow countrymen. I loved without thinking of your parental lineage. I loved Kenya. But look what this country has done to me: sodomised my sense of humanity and pride. 

Jan. 30th   2008, Nairobi

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKK3D0H9fWo]

Blogger’s note: In memory  and honour of Elijah Masinde’s anniversary, we dedicate these stories to (deepening our connection with) our ancestors, bredrin, dadas en pikney.

The Bukusu are one of the seventeen Kenyan sub-tribes of the Luhya (Bantu group of) East Africa.

Calling themselves ‘BaBukusu’, they are the largest single ethnic unit among the Luhya nation, making up about 17% of the whole Luhya population.

The other Luhya groups in Kenya are ABaTiriki, Maragoli, ABaNyore, ABaKhayo, ABaMateka, ABaNyala, ABaSamia, ABiSukha, AbiTakho, ABaShisa, ABaMarachi, ABaTsotso, ABaKabarasi, ABaTachoni, ABaWanga and ABaMarama.

Origins
The Bukusu myths of origin state that the first man, Mwambu (The discoverer or inventor), was made from mud by Wele Khakaba at a place called Mumbo (which translates to ‘West’). God then created a wife for Mwambu, a woman called Sela.

Mwambu and his descendants moved out of Mumbo and settled on the foothills of Mount Elgon, from where their descendants grew to form the current Bukusu population.

Other traditional stories relate of a place of origin called Misri, from Mizraim (Hebrew for Egypt).

Anthropologists believe that the Bukusu did not become a distinct grouping apart from the rest of the Luhya population until, at the very earliest, the late 18th Century.

They moved into Central Uganda as part of a much larger group of people, many forming the eastern extension of the great Bantu migration out of central Africa.

(See Origins of the Luhya.)

Settlement
Together with other Luhya groups, the Bukusu are thought to have first settled around the foothills of Mount Elgon. This area was already inhabited by Kalenjin warrior tribes, and the Bukusu and their neighbours had to build fortified villages to ward off the attacks of these tribes.

The first fortified villages were built at a place called Silikwa (sometimes called Sirikwa). Following repeated attacks and unfavourable weather conditions, folklore has it, a council was held at Silikwa and it was resolved to migrate south and east, where spies are said to have reported large, unsettled lands. However, a section of the population was reluctant to move and stayed behind when the main tribe moved.

Those who stayed behind are said to have become the Ugandan BaMasaaba tribe. Those who left moved into what is now Bungoma district of Kenya, to become the ancestors of the current Bukusu people.

Currently, the Bukusu mainly inhabit Bungoma district of Western Province, which is bordered by Kakamega District to the east, Busia District to the south, Mount Elgon to the north and Uganda to the west.

A large number of the Bukusu are also found in the Kitale area of Kenya’s Rift Valley province, as well as in Lugari-Malava district.

The BaMasaaba of Uganda are very closely related to the Bukusu, with many shared customs and a common dialect of the Luhya language.

Previously, the Bukusu were referred to as the ‘Kitosh’ by the neighbouring Kalenjin community, a name they despised. The reasons for this are not very clear: in some Kalenjin dialects, “Kitosh” means “people of the earth”. This could have been a reference to the agricultural Bukusu, or to the fact that they lived on the lower foothills of Mount Elgon. Following vigorous campaigns by community elders, the name Kitosh was eventually substituted with Bukusu in the mid 1950s.
A replica of a Bukusu hut at the Sarova White Sands Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya.

Traditional life
The Bukusu lived in fortified villages, and did not have a structure of central authority. The highest authority was the village headman, called Omukasa, who was usually elected by the men of the village. There were also healers and prophets who acquired great status because of their knowledge of tribal tradition, medicines, and religion. Elijah Masinde, a resistance leader and traditional medicineman, was revered as a healer in the early 1980s.

Family
Bukusu family structure was traditionally modelled on the generic Luhya family structure. Families were usually polygamous, with the first wife accorded a special status among her co-wives……….
Children inherited the clan of their father, and were not allowed to marry spouses from either their own clan, or their mother’s clan. The first son of the first wife was usually the main heir to his father, and he had a special name denoting this status: Simakulu.

At birth, children were usually named after grandparents or famous people, or after the weather. Male and female names were different: male names frequently began with ‘W’, while female names usually began with ‘N’. Thus, for example, a boy born during a famine would be named ‘Wanjala’, while a girl would be named ‘Nanjala’. Both names share the same root word, ‘njala’, from ‘eNjala’, the Bukusu word for hunger.

Initiation
The Bukusu practised (and still practise) male circumcision. It is thought that they adopted the practice from contact with the Kalenjin at Mount Elgon. Others argue, however, that the presence of the practice in the other Luhya tribes indicates an earlier adoption, before the Bukusu settled at Mount Elgon. In ceremonies that were spaced about two years apart, young boys of a particular age (usually about 15 years of age) would, on getting the go-ahead from their parents, invite relatives and friends to their initiation.

The initiation was a public event, witnessed by all. Going through the operation without showing any sign of pain was (and still is) thought to be an indicator of bravery. Once circumcised, an initiate became a member of an age-group. There are twelve age-groups, forming a cyclical system, with each age-group lasting for 8 years. Once the last age-group has been reached, the first is restarted, and so on. For example, the “Bachuma” age-group lasted from 1980 to 1986: every Bukusu circumcised within this period (that is, in 1980, 1982, 1984, and 1986) belongs to that age-group. In 1988, the “Basawe” age group began, and lasted until 1994.

Female circumcision was widely practiced among the Bukusu, until government campaigns put an end to the practice in the 1980s. However, some clans still continue the practice in secret. [depending on where you look at it from, it could also be that the practice died a few generations ago]

This is especially the case around Mount Elgon, where the neighbouring Kalenjin tribes also practice a form of female circumcision. [fafanua.]

Although circumcision was universal among the Bukusu, the form of the ceremony varied according to the clan. In particular, the festivities and ceremonies accompanying the final stage of initiation, when the now-healed initiates came out of seclusion to rejoin their families as ‘men’, were specific to clans, and have been handed down largely intact to the present day.

Marriage
Young men got married at about the age of 18-20, while girls got married at about the age of 16. There were two types of first-time marriage: arranged marriages and enforced eloping. If a young man came from a well-to-do family, he would ask his sisters to find a girl for him to marry. The ability of a potential wife to cook well, bear children and work in the fields were the main attractions in a girl. Once a girl was identified, an emissary was sent to her parents to ask for her hand. The girl had no say whatsoever in the whole matter: bride price would be discussed, and then once it was paid she would be sent off to live with her new husband. This form of marriage is still common in traditional households today.

In some cases, however, the young man would be from a poor family and could not afford to pay the likely bride-price. Traditional society allowed such young men to abduct the girls they intended to marry. (The girl had to present an opportunity to be ‘abducted’, so her cooperation was essential!) The couple would then leave their home to live with a far-off relative for a while, until the young man acquired enough wealth to pay the original bride price, as well as a fine, to the parents of the girl. This practice has since died out.

The Bukusu highly approve of intermarriages between themselves and BaMasaaba. This is because they have quite a number of similarities in their codes of conduct, marriage customs, circumcision traditions and even folklore. Among the most famous of Bukusu marriage customs is the immense respect accorded one’s in-laws. A lady, for example, treats her father-in-law with a lot of deference and respect, and they are not allowed to make physical contact in any way. The same is true of a man and his mother-in-law……

Cattle were very important: they were the main means of exchange, alongside cowrie shells (chisimbi). Most values, from the beauty of a girl to the price of a field of land, were expressed in terms of head of cattle. Possessing cattle wealth and prosperous agriculture, the Bukusu were sometimes not only admired but also envied by neighboring communities.

Occasionally intermarriages used to take place between them and the other communities. It was common practice for Kalenjin neighbors to give Bukusu their sons to look after their herds of cattle. In times of famine, which are said to have been frequent amongst their Kalenjin neighbors, the latter used to even sell their children to Bukusu. Bukusu also used to send their own young boys to grow up with Kalenjin or Maasai families, in some cases for espionage purposes.

Death
Being sedentary pastoralists, they had time to care for their sick and bury their dead. A sick person was looked after till he recuperated or died. When a person died, he was buried in a grave with a warrior’s weapons if he was an elder. Several functions were performed during and after the funeral ceremony. Ordinarily, burial pits ranged from 3-4 feet in depth, much shallower than today’s. Sometimes wild animals like hyenas exhumed corpses from graves and ate them. Should such an incident occur, people looked for the presumed skull of the desecrated body, and when they found it, they hung it in a leafy tree.

When the family of the deceased migrated, they brewed beer (kamalwa ke khuukhalanga) for the ceremony of transferring the skull with them to the new home or settlement. An old woman was entrusted with the responsibility of conveying the skull to the new site. Burial of the dead was thus, to say the least, ingrained in the Bukusu traditions.

Economic activities
Bukusu accounts indicate that both agricultural and pastoral economies have been practiced by the tribe for as long can be remembered. This is authenticated by the vast amount of knowledge they have about farming practices, rich pastoral vocabulary and the broad variety of legends connected with pastoral life. Today, they farm mainly maize for subsistence and sugar cane as a cash crop in the Bungoma area, as well as wheat in the Kitale area. Cattle and sheep are universally kept, cattle mainly for milk, and sheep for meat and ceremonial functions (when a sheep usually has to be offered to elders for sacrifice). Larger or polygamous families will usually have a team of oxen for ploughing and hauliage within the home. Chicken, a traditional delicacy, are nowadays reared on small to medium scales for commercial egg production.

Politics
The Bukusu currently form one of the main support bases of the governing coalition in Kenya, through the Ford-Kenya political party. Previously, they were mainly associated with opposition to the Kalenjin-dominated reign of former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Notable Personalities
Among the more notable Bukusu personalities past and present:

Maina wa Nalukale, a seer who was reputed to have foretold the coming of the British colonialists
Elijah Masinde, resistance and religious leader
Michael Wamalwa Kijana, former vice president of Kenya
Masinde Muliro, former minister and opposition leader
Musikari Kombo, current leader of Ford Kenya

References
Ayot, Henry Okello (1977) History Texts of the Lake Region of East Africa. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau.
Barker, Eric E. (1975) The Short History of Nyanza. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Literature Bureau.
Makila, F. E. (1978) An Outline History of Babukusu of Western Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau.
Were, Gideon S. (1967) A History of the Abaluyia of Western Kenya: c. 1500-1930. Nairobi, Kenya: East African Publishing House.

© The Wikipedia

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Elija Masinde (also spelt Elijah Masinde) was a traditional leader of the Bukusu people of western Kenya.

Early life
Born around 1910 – 1912 in Bungoma district, Masinde started out as a footballer, going on to play for Kenya against Uganda in 1930. By the early 1940s, he had risen to the rank of a junior elder within his community in Kimilili area, and became increasingly anti-colonial. In 1944, he led a number of localised defiance campaigns against the colonial authorities, and was imprisoned as a result.

Dini Ya Musambwa
While in jail, Masinde claimed to have been given divine interpretation of the Old Testament of the Bible, and proclaimed that a “Black Jesus” would come to liberate the people of Kenya from colonial oppression. When he was released, he formed a sect called “Dini Ya Musambwa” (Bukusu for “following of spirit[s] of the ancestors”), and gained huge followings in western Kenya.

Detention, old age, and death
Upon Kenya’s independence, Masinde was detained by the government of Jomo Kenyatta for almost 15 years. He had been accused of formenting religious hatred. He was released by the government of Daniel Arap Moi in 1978, and lived quietly in his native Kimilili area until his death in 1987.

It is reported that, before his death, Masinde pointed out to his family the spot where he wanted to be buried – he wanted a huge sycamore tree uprooted to make way for his grave. The family decided to bury him elsewhere, though, but were thwarted when a spot they chose for his grave turned out to be a hidden grave. They took this to be an omen and proceeded to bury him in the spot where the sycamore tree had been.

References
*Makila, F. E. (1978) An Outline History of Babukusu of Western Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Literature Bureau.
*Alembi, Ezekiel. (2000) Elijah Masinde: Rebel with a cause”. Nairobi, Kenya: Sasa Sema Publications Ltd.
http://experts.about.com/e/e/el/Elija_Masinde.htm

 

BLOGGER’S NOTE:

this post is a(nother) preview of the Q/t werd: a (real/raw en) mystic, organic, us-people driven caravan of  pan-afrikan myths, legends en our (kinda) super/s/heroes….we’re celebrating and (re) mapping the intersections of our diversity with werd! Sound! (en di) Powah! (of love)

These are some stories we know, that (not only) I heard (en read) many times before, from many different (kinda) folks,

you can do anything that you want with these hadithi, share them with others, cry about it, get angry or forget it, but don’t say you’d have lived your life differently if only you’d heard this story, now you know….

[We warn you, we have not only just begun! 😉 ]

http://www.kenyaimagine.com/Social-Issues/Literature-Blood-and-Doves.htmlLiterature, Blood and Doves
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
 As the media went into a frenzy celebrating the ‘5th Anniversary of the Iraq War’, my friend Jackie via chat asked why they were saying this like it was a happy event, like a wedding anniversary or something.We quickly came to the Kenyan situation and said next year we shall probably have our first Anniversary frenzy celebrating the post Election violence that was ethnically motivated and marked our descent into hell. Some people will actually be celebrating killing of others like it is a happy Birthday celebration. My friend aptly summarized it – “it will be warm and syrupy and Julie Gichuru will preside over the televised version on a talk show.”

But what lessons does it teach us, we practitioners and consumers of literature? It teaches us that from the roots, the development, and the eruption of the violence, literature (like other Kenyan institutions) was misused to fuel the ethnic violence. (‘Literature’ is here used loosely to mean the written, the spoken, and – as recently redefined by technology – the blogged, the SMSd, the graffitied, the rapped, the sung, the videoed.)  Literature in all the variety of its forms was abused to propagate negative tribalism and ethnocentric hatred of others, as well as misused by its practitioners, (lecturers, students, readers, editors of literary columns and internet bloggers,) to mis-interpret what are otherwise noble folktales, as well as to disparage fellow literary icons simply because they were from the ‘other tribe’. There was also the noble opposite, especially in the aftermath of the outbreak of violence, when writers and practitioners of literature used literary works and personalities in an attempt to address the violence, hatred and propaganda being bandied about by agents of ethnic hatred hiding under the veil of democracy.

The process of slanting the ideological and thematic strands in stories for political expediency was similar to the Nazi effort of the early 1930’s when the NSDAP sponsored the research and publication of folklore that had Nordic-Germanic symbols and themes of German supremacy, which they then used to galvanize the peasantry, and the population at large, in the belief that they were a pure master race. Alfred Rosenberg’s Kulturgemeinde issued in its two main journals, Kunst and Volc and Volskum and Heimadt, folktales with that intent. German Literature professors, especially in folklore, were pressured to align their research findings with the National Socialist Weltanschauung. An innocent story like Little Red Riding Hood, in the Grimm brothers’ Children and Household Tales (1812), was, for instance, turned by the propagandists of the Third Reich into a symbol of the German people, saved from the evil Jewish wolf. In this way, Adolf Hitler spread his hate against Jews, homosexuals, clergymen, gypsies, mentally challenged people, and all those not of (what was thought to be) pure German blood. In Rwanda, hate publications, stories and folktales were similarly mis-interpreted to propagate Hutu and Tutsi animosity.

Likewise in Kenya, from smoky rural huts to the Kenyan web. In one of the hate mails that circulated in the Rift Valley and on the internet, a section of the Nandi invoked the legend of Koitalel Arap Samoei, a brave son of the Nandi community, and one of the great freedom-fighters, who valiantly led the (unfortunately, seldom credited) longest resistance against the British colonialists, until he was tricked and killed by Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, after which the community divided once again. His heroism is one of the defining hallmarks of Kenyan nationhood: he proudly and honourably resisted imperialism and the oppression of a people by another. On the internet, as on the ground, however, the exploits of Koitalel were used to inspire the Nandi to rise up against the Gikuyu who had ‘occupied their land’; the Gikuyu it was alleged, were latter-day imperialists. It claimed the re-birth of Koitalel through Hon. Ruto, who shares the name Samoei name with him, urging the community to rally behind the reborn Orkoiyot. The brothers of the Nandi were urged to raise arms against the Gikuyu, ostensibly because whereas Kibaki was a Gikuyu and unreachable, they could get to his tribemates. The rest is history.

Similarly, a section of the Gikuyu, since the sunset years of the Moi regime, have rallied round the myth of Mugo wa Kibiru, a great soothsayer in Gikuyu land, who visioned the coming of the white man and urged his people to prepare to oppose the raider. The Gikuyus also invoked another legend, Dedan Kimathi Waciuri, widely seen as a symbol of the courageous struggle for Independence. With these two, united by the clandestine religio-socio-political Mau Mau movement that led the anti-British rebellion in Gikuyuland, a few young men claimed visitation by Mugo wa Kibiru, in which they were exhorted to lead the community against oppression by the Moi regime and his Kalenjin tribemates.

In the guise of returning Gikuyus to their pure cultural practices, the group widened and grew, eventually morphing into the well-organized Mungiki gang. When it was clear, according to the 2007 polls, that Mwai Kibaki was trailing Raila Odinga, and that, even among Gikuyu peasants, he was not a favourite due to the perceived favouring of his elitist moneyed friends, elements within the Gikuyu hireachy invoked tribal unity using the image of Dedan Kimathi: ‘we fought for Kenya’s Independence while they lazed around the lake’, there is no way ‘we the circumcised can be led by the uncircumcised’, it was said. Loose talk of ‘Kenya is ours’ was heard.

From Kenyatta’s speeches, where he is supposed to have told told MPs opposing his seemingly tribalistic governance that “My people drink milk in the morning, your people in the afternoon” to imply that former had a right to the cream of Kenya’s resources, such proverbs, and metaphors were used to spite other communities. Modern metaphors were dragged into the fray, equating the murderous mission with Christian evangelism. In an interview with Dennis Itumbi of AfricaNews, posted on kalenjin.net, a Mungiki leader (who studied at Kangaru and Mangu high schools, did a BA in Philosophy with a bias in (Religious) logic at the University of Nairobi and a Masters Degree at St. Paul’s Theological College in Limuru specializing in African Theology), a Mr Mathenge aka Mnyama, says Mungiki is “political and religious. Look when Jesus came on earth he said he was the King of the Jews. That is political. Then he said he has come to restore salvation. That is religious and that is our mission. You don’t even need to ask that question. Remember the recent meeting in Michuki’s office. Why were these politicians meeting?”  The rest is history.

Among the Luhya, particularly the Bukusu, one of their freedom fighters and legendary icons, Elijah Masinde, was invoked. The Bukusus, in an apparent bid to make them ignore the dangling of one of their own, Musikari Kombo, by Kibaki as a possible future president once Kibaki had served his full term, were reminded of a prophecy uttered by Elijah Masinde to the effect that ‘The throne would only come to Bukusu land through the path of the lake’ i.e., only Raila, being from the Lake region, had the duty to serve as Kenya’s president and pave the path to a Luhya once he retired, a fact hammered in by Raila’s choice of Mudavadi, a Luhya, as his running mate. What followed was major battle, with the differing political groups trying to outdo each other in the ‘best interpretation of the Elijah Masinde prophecy’, a resuscitation of Bukusu folktales urging caution against the Barwa (Nandi enemies), the Mango myth of Circumcision as well as Maina Wa Nalukale’s tales of Bukusu supremacy over the Luhya nation. It all culminated in a tussle of comic proportions when each group visited the grave of the legend to pay homage, donating blankets and other goodies in efforts to appease his spirit and counter the other groups appeasing efforts as a sacrilageous soiling of his name. All this for a man who, until last year, was largely forgotten in Kenya’s history outside Bukusuland.

Instead of literary scholars laying bare the selfish manipulations of these folktales and icons for political gain, they jumped onto the bandwagon, dropping their PhD  degrees and pamphlets of scholarly research to prove the rightness of whichever group they supported. Professors of literature attacked each other’s credibility on the basis of their tribe of origin. A major casualty, of course, was all those amazing works that were being done on the Mau Mau history. Suddenly, Mau Mau was collateral damage in the war for and against Kibaki. It was no good talking about it in serious forums. It was just a Gikuyu peasant war that had nothing to do with Kenyan History. No, it was the best example of we Gikuyu fighting the white man and now you want to say we can’t rule this land we shed blood for, so please write it and garnish it with sentiments of how grateful Kenya has to be to our tribe. Literary critics led the interpretation of literary works to discredit opposing tribes. An example is one review that was an unfortunate attack on an 80-year old peasant man who had slaved for over 28 years handwriting his memoirs about his life in detention, Kizuizini (Detention life), a Swahili book which I personally edited and researched at the National Archives to verify its credibility. (I am not Gikuyu so had no tribal allegiance). Despite it being a rich source of information about our history, one self-appointed ‘leading’ critic termed it ‘fiction’ saying that since the old man had a line which he said ‘we fought the white man because he had taken our land, and we wanted it back since it was given to us from the days of Gikuyu and Mumbi, our forefathers’ and since he later goes on to regret that ‘what we had fought for in Kenya, we never really got it, since those who supported the colonialists went on to grab land while many were left landless’. A noble book was dismissed as Gikuyu propaganda without proper consideration, simply because it was written by a Gikuyu; truly a case of a book caught in a war not of its own making.

It was also fashionable to dismiss Ngugi Wa Thiong’o as just another beneficiary of Gikuyu elevation. Years ago, when I was still a young brain, easily influenced by his egalitarian Marxism, a post-graduate student of high repute in the Institution I was at lashed out at Ngugi during a Black American Month symposium, stating that he was to blame for inventing the Mungiki Sect through The River Between; it had propagated the return of certain Gikuyu customs. I wrote a bitter defence in The Standard’s Literary Forum, arguing that those who founded Mungiki probably hadn’t even read the novel, and anyone who had read the novel could see that nowhere did it advocate beheading of people as a Gikuyu cultural norm. The defence sparked a barrage of hate replies and counter-replies which degenerated into tribal name-calling, after which the editor slammed shut the debate. Fast forward: Ngugi returned to Kenya after his self imposed exile; many read it as the beginning of a wider scheme of Gikuyu glorification, forgetting the return of Ali Mazrui and other fire-brands who had been demonized by the Moi Government. When the unfortunate attack on Ngugi and his wife happened, numerous emails circulated celebrating the fact with sneers of ‘The Gikuyu hyenas, look how they even eat one of their own.’ When the post-election violence broke in December, Ngugi’s remarks that some scenarios were similar to what he had written in his block-buster novel, The Wizard of The Crow , were angrily sneered at. It did not help when Ngugi wrote a pre-lection commentary concerning his impression of Kibaki, based on the three occasions they had met. The first rejoinder to that article was an attack on Ngugi claiming that he had proven that he did not think any president fit to lead Kenya unless he were Gikuyu. That article was circulated largely to discredit Ngugi as a Gikuyu apologist.

Even the new generation of writers were not averse to attacking each other on tribal bases. Some publishing houses were accused of being slanted towards publishing people from their owner’s tribal region and neglecting others in total disregard of the merit of their works. Whether that is true or not is debatable, but what is true is that the perceptions  that such and such a publishing house publishes only such and such tribes were there.

Literature had squarely entered the fray of tribalism, becoming as divided as all the other institutions which had been looked upon to deliver us from this evil: The Kenya Electoral Commission, the Judiciary, The Press, and the Church. You read or misread literature and, especially folklore, according to your tribal spectacles.

There was intense rejuvenation of folk tales that portrayed the Kalenjin and the Nandi as fit only to herd cattle. The famous story in which a cow was given to a Luo, a Gikuyu and a Kalenjin, did its rounds. The Gikuyu, it is claimed, zero grazed it, pampered it by planting and cutting napier grass for it, and it gave the best quantity of milk (to say Kibaki’s economic boon). The Kalenjin grazed it all over the land till he eroded the soil, and the cow gave a meager quantity of milk (a comment on the 24 years of Moi rule and the harsh economic times in his sunset years). The Luo, it was said, was too lazy to graze a cow day in and day out, so let it wander as he sat in his hut, knowing that whenever he needed food, he could walk to the lake, fish, eat, sleep and then go fish again when he felt hungry. This, you can guess, was spread by Gikuyu people. It was countered with numerous stories in print and oral narratives of stories with the motif of Gikuyu as genetically disposed towards thievery, and when the election dispute arose, the cry was ‘kill all the Gikuyu since they are nothing but thieves’.

Not to be outdone, the Gikuyu, particularly the Ameru, re-ignited myths of their migration to the Mt. Kenya region from Axum in Ethiopia, with links to the Queen of Sheba; thus they claimed to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. The more educated linked the Meru, particularly the Athuci, to this claim of Jewish descent. In bars, it was said that the Biblical Eden was located in the land divided by a flowing river (the Chania in this case); and that Mt. Kenya was the seat of God, who had bestowed Kibaki with the power to lead as only the Gikuyu could reign over the rest of the country.  You could not galvanise a people around their pride as the pure more strongly than this. Unless you are Hitler of course.

The folklore taught to the circumcised among the Bantu and especially among the Gikuyu were brought to the fore, encouraging distrust of other tribes as lazy. Numerous moderate Gikuyus, on trying to caution their hardliner friends about the irregularities marring the elections were taunted: ‘are you not circumcised? So why fear antagonizing a kihii (the uncircumcised)?” In the post election violence, Gikuyu youth hunted down Luos in Kibera, and Naivasha, forcefully circumcising them before either beating them or killing them. Reports from Independent bodies delving into the root causes of the violence have documented the same from the Nandi community: young circumcised youths were taught folklore during their cultural lessons, slanted to provoke them into attacking the Gikuyu in the Rift Valley, now that they were warriors. In turn, stories, proverbs and writings have cropped up which encourage what I can term the ‘Jewinisation’ of the Gikuyu: a feeling of persecution and ‘we are the hated because of being entrepreneurs’ which,  surprisingly, is getting encouragement from the learned and wealthy of the community. From hawkers to middle class homes, the Gikuyu feel besieged, and believe that they are being witch-hunted for working hard and prospering. With the Gospel of prosperity taught in evangelical churches, they have sought refuge in Christian stories of those persecuted by jealous people, and hence found solace by conceiving of themselves as an unfairly-persecuted minority, like the Jews. It resonates with the teaching of the bible; some religious people go further and rely on the Biblical hatred between the Jews and the Gentiles to justify hating the other tribe. Several blogs hosted by Gikuyu attest to this, one of the most prominent being one titled ‘Who are the Gikuyu? The Jews of Kenya‘. In Rwandesque terms, Kenyan communities claimed supremacy over others using their communal narratives, and urging the decimation of others as weeds, stains, and other negative terms. Proverbs were given tribal meanings to otherise. Communities were labeled madoadoa, stains that needed to be removed, in avenues as public as FM stations.

But fortunately most people decided to use literature in its various forms to propagate peace and provoke a re-evaluation of the whole Kenyan conflict, as well as what avenues there were to address the animosity that was fast claiming lives. The Concerned Kenyan Writers email group brought together arguably the best Kenyan writers in a dialogue of sorts, which quickly grew into a major forum for international media and literary people looking for a more authentic, alternative source of information that wasn’t censored by the commercial factors that hampered the mainstream media. Writers like Binyavanga Wainaina, Yvonne Awuor, Billy Kahora, Stanley Gazemba, Muthoni Garland, Rasnah Warah, Parselelo Kantai and others wrote fiction and non fiction articles that they posted on the site and were circulated worldwide. International writers played their part in narrating the Kenyan experience, mostly because it resonated with their own countries. Gappah Pettinah from Zimbabwe, Uganda’s Doreen Baingana and Kalundi Serrumaga are notable examples.

In December, before election day, Story Moja, a literary body in Nairobi, organized Kenya’s first Reading Festival; a story-telling competition was held. Most of the narratives referred to the General election that was around the corner, warning against the dire consequences of tribal politics as if prophesying the violence to come. The winning narrative, almost uncannily, was about kitchen tools that engaged in animosity and fought each other in their quest for supremacy, leading to a blaze in the kitchen. It ended with a plea for Kenyans not to be like the kitchen tools. But apparently some didn’t heed it. On the theatre scene, plays like Lwanda Magere which ‘pimped’ the legend of Lwanda Magere – the invincible Luo warrior who was invincible until he leaked the secret to a girl that only spearing his shadow could hurt him – were done with a modern political angle and toured the countryside. Youth from the Dandora slums organized by Patrick Shomba made a short film titled Ghetto President and aired it there.

After the violence erupted, writers gathered at the Sunday Salon to read stories of hope and love; all the admission money collected was donated to the Kenya Red Cross to buy food and clothing for the internally displaced. Similarly, a play was shown at the National Theater the proceeds of which were donated to charity. Many more events took place countrywide.

Despite the fact that literature was used to spread hate, it is not to be blamed. It is those who misused it who are to blame, in the same way that those who used the positive power of literature to ease the conflict are to be praised. One does not ban all water bodies simply because someone drowned in a river. With special reference to folktales, it is not that they are forms for hatred, but rather that people misused them.

At the end of World War II, Allied commanders banned the publication of the Grimm tales in Germany in the belief that they had contributed to Nazi savagery. Some even called for the banning of folktales and similar literary styles, but reason eventually prevailed: it was not the tales, but the manipulators who were the problem.  It is a fact that most of the folktales and narratives in our communities extolled peace and understanding. Even those that were slanted and mis-interpreted by the warmongers to spread hate are about the virtues of Koitalel Arap Samoei, Dedan Kimathi, and Lwanda Magere, who actually had virtues we all need to emulate: prominently, self-sacrifice for the communal good. Our folktales did not advocate killing of innocent women and children, and they did not advocate killing innocent people in a room set ablaze for the sake of revenge. But like everything at this insane moment in our country, truth was lost.  Literature, like a gun, depends on the hands it is in.

________________________________________

Simiyu Barasa is a film maker (Toto Millionaire), and a member of the Concerned Kenyan Writers collective.

yesterday (en today), in typical ‘alice in wonderland’ fashion,

 I re/connected with 6 (+some) afrikans that I met randomly in my travels ‘downtown’, around my ‘old’ hood(s)…. [4 dadas, (a gran) mama/s, en a brotha from Uganda].

all with werds of love, peace en conflict(s), en (the struggle for)  unity, no mention of the world ‘cup’ in our reasonings…

lakini, hii hadithi ni ya akina dada na mama wa afrika so why shouldn’t we (be) question(ing) the ‘musical’ controversy of (sasha fierce vs.) shakira vs. Freshly ground vs. K’naan as the official mascots for what has become an epic gathering of (the world) masses? (my two cents, why not pull another ‘Michael Jackson’ act &  have ‘all the stars’ perform together?)

 

Why shouldn’t we also be questioning our allegiance to ‘popular’ consumer culture that does little to alleviate the status (quo) of the masses (other than provide a soundtrack for escapism)? 

If we put as much energy in(to) revitalising the Organisation for African Unity, as we did into arts, sports, war (en) our education, then we could [read as: would] reasonably attain the U.S of Afrika within a decade, EN  have all the entertainment we want to occupy ourselves with, au siyo?

Why wait for (vision) 2030? we already know (more than) the basics of where we’re coming from, (more than) enough symbols to inspire a(n. Anti-imperialist) pan afrikan renaissance……

 [read the crux of the “Q” werd as ‘others’: according to anti-capitalists, it’s capitalism,  orthodox ‘mainstream’ feminists may posit it as white supremacist.partriarchal.imperialism…others still, like black nationalists, have conjured ‘back to Africa’ movements and afrikan feminists should technically invoke Mama Afrika herself…. the bigger point is, the crux of this hadithi all depends on where you’re at….hadithi? hadithi? Nipe mji….]

 “…A Pan African movement is therefore an indispensable prerequisite to the struggle for a second liberation. However, as we already noted, the African bourgeoise class which inherited the colonial nation-state has proved a complete failure in terms of genuine development. It merely sees its mission as that of maintaining and preserving the inherited system and therefore the status quo. That is what Economic Recovery Programmes (ERP)  really mean. That is also the objective of Structural Adjustment Programs: to rehabilitate the colonial structures. That is why (Frantz) Fanon noted that the phase of this class ‘in the history of under-developed countries is a completelly useless phase’. After it has destroyed itself  ‘by its own contradictions, it will be seen that nothing new has happened since independence was proclaimed, and that everything must be started again from scratch’ (1963, p.142). It therefore means that if the Pan African movement is to spearhead the struggle for the Second Liberation, it has to be rooted in a different social strata, the strata of the popular masses who bear the burden of SAPs, re-colonization and deepening under-development. Therefore in the words of Walter Rodney in his contribution at the 6th Pan African Congress: ‘The Unity of Africa requires the unity of progressive groups, organisations and institutions rather than being merely the preserve of states’ (1976, p.34). Let the people take over if African unity is to be genuine and permanent…..[from Conditions for Africa at Home by Chango Machyo w’Obanda

These ideas are not new, I heard (read as) learnt them from many Pan-Africanists en anti-imperialists of diverse brands. Preaching love and doing the best that we can to practise the change we see with/in en around us….

we KNOW when we’re on the right path, in the right place, at the right time, when everything happens jus’ so, en there is peace with in/side.(en) Out.

Our communities and collective well being that so many agitate, dream, theorise en organise about are all that we have…so what does having everything with/in to bring the change we need mean, if not everything, kitendawili?

Tega! betta late than neva!

hadithi? (hadithi?)

give me a song of freedom, kama nyimbo cia dini ya msambwa, ifa, mau mau,

(na) nipe mji……

Blogger’s note: hadithi? hadithi? Nipe mji? Nilirudi nyumbani, coz home is where the heart is, en I was blessed to learn (more) from babas (of Afrika) that spoke (big) love en truth, like Amilcar Cabral, Baba Tajudeen, Cheikh Anta Diop, Dedan Kimathi, El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Elijah Masinde, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Ngugi wa Thiong’o,…there are many kings (in the Q werd)….this post is from one of them……..

a non-fictional short story by Onyango Oloo

http://demokrasia-kenya.blogspot.com/2010/04/yes-from-apathetic-facebook-20.html 

 Claire M is a beautiful, ebony complexioned, twenty-something petit-bourgeois British accented Kenyan employee of a certain tech firm who commutes daily between her middle class neighbourhood in Nairobi’s east end and her posh upscale office in the capital city’s west end.

She is also a very good friend of mine.

Vivacious should be her middle name, so effervescent is Claire’s good natured spirit.

We met purely by happenstance about two and a half fortnights ago.

There she was, slightly after ten in the pm, sitting next to me on the Number 33 matatu on a Furahiday, Embakasi bound.

A spontaneous conversation sprung up in a matter of minutes and within days we were certified Facebook friends who turned out to be residing within mere hectares and baby wails of each other.

A few days ago, I hooked up with her and one of her girl friends for an evening after work beer sip upstairs at the Verandah, across the street from the Stanley-the old Cameo cinema for old Nairobi hands.

In the course of our random chat, she casually mentioned that she had seen my status update on Facebook urging Kenyans to vote Yes come the Referendum on the proposed new constitution.

“I am NOT voting and YOU can’t make ME!” she declared with an air of finality which startled me, being totally unexpected.

I didn’t even know she had seen my earnest online constitutional exhortation in the first place.

“Remember the last time in 2007, I woke up very early in the morning and voted for Raila and look what happened! We Kenyans started killing each other! Over WHAT? I am NOT voting for ANYONE! And you can’t FORCE me!”

Yawa Maembe”, I tried to butt in, gently pointing out that this time around Kenyans were not voting for anyone, just for the long sought after constitution, twenty years in the making and stained with our blood, sweat and tears.

“Well, the only person I will be voting for is the Man Upstairs. And in case you didn’t know, the world is COMING TO AN END. All the signs are there.

Have you looked at

Jay-Z’s latest CD?

Or wondered why Beyoncé Giselle Knowles calls herself

Sasha Fierce these days?

How about that thing with Kanye West and Taylor Swift?

or Rihanna’s new outfit?

There you go.”

Let me hasten to add that Claire M is perfectly SANE and quite intelligent, in case you were wondering.

At this point she reached deep deep into one of those humungous mobile ward robes that women call handbags these days

and fished out a slim volume with a silky, smooth, soft, shiny glossy black cover featuring a smiling handsome African man on the cover.

The booklet was captioned He is Coming.

I think the author was referring to the world famous dreadlocked Holy Nazarene nicknamed JC, but the image was more reminiscent of one of those Nollywood hunks that litter our television screens and have taken over our DVDs these days.

“You see this?” she said, thumping mercilessly on the poor innocent book.

“It is all in HERE. Tell him Sheila!” she said, turning to her bemused best friend who had been staring, wide mouthed, as this delirious conversation unfolded amid quaffs of this or that variety of Kenyan malt product among the trio of us.

“I am not particularly religious”, I offered, meekly.

“The last time I stepped into an actual Church to formally worship was waaay back in May or June 1982”, I explained, shocking Claire M, who was not even conceived back then when

Shalamar,Ray Parker Jr, Odyssey, The Whispers, Kool and the Gang, Lakeside,

and the Gibson Brothers ruled the world’s disco floors with their curly kits, afros, box tops, bomber jackets and tight jeans-the future Retro/Old Skool gear and wear of decades to come.

Earth, Wind and Fire

“You mean you DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD???!!!”

Reluctant to start another raging, never ending Kenyan sectarian edition of the Crusades right there at the Verandah-a veritable den of iniquity if I ever saw one- I carefully skirted the religious inquisition, side-stepping a possible urban, nocturnal lynching at the hands of an irate, determined and capable potential Kenyan female executioner by reverting back to the need for a Yes vote among all Kenyans with a functioning brain.

“Well, like I said, WE are NOT voting, are WE, Sheila?” Claire M hissed defiantly, turning to her hapless bosom buddy for solidarity and assurance.

“And you can write that on that BLOG of yours! And tell the WORLD that Claire M said SO! It is NO for ME and THAT is THAT!”

“Are you SURE????!!”

I tried to verify, knowing how far around the world the Kenya Democracy Project blog travels these days.

This morning I got an update from my Neo website counter which informed me that the blog had reached 11,950 cities in 186 countries around this

Blue Marble.

“Yes! And I am waiting to read it!”

So Claire M, in sunny Nairobi, here you go.

You did insist and demand that I put your views on this blog of mine.

And I am sending you a link via my Facebook wall so you can read this on your mobile phone my Kenyan digital sister. I will also email you the URL so that you can carefully jot down the put downs and rebuttals for our next Verandah soiree.

My generation and this Twittered, Digged, RSS Word Pressed Facebooked Twenty First Century Viral Marketed Kenyan Generation of Claire, Sheila and Co. Ltd are Worlds Apart I tell you.

It is like Mercury and Uranus.

Back in the 1980s-Yes, when David Onyango Oloo was still a deceptively innocent looking, fresh faced, slim, twenty something student cum political prisoner and not this bloated twenty first century Kenyan Rip Van Freaking Winkle with sprinkles of salt on my head and chin- it was a badge of honour among the Kenyan youth to be political, to be conscious, to be democratic, to be patriotic, to be militant, to be vigilant, to be a voter.

These were the days of Daniel arap Moi and his side kicks like Okiki Amayo, Kariuki Chotara, Mulu Mutisya, Jackson Angaine, Ezekiel Bargentuny, Sharrif Nassir, Philip Leakey, Stanley Oloitiptip, Krishan Gautama and John Joseph Kamotho.

The days of one party rule.

The days of detention without trial.

The days of the one finger salute.

Not that finger you are thinking of.

The KANU one finger is what I am talking about.

The days of silence, the days of terror and the days of fear.

The days of Fuata Nyayo.

The days of KANU Tawala, Tawala.

The days of fake peace, counterfeit love and non-existent unity.

And also the days of defiant university student demonstrations and courageous lecturers’ symposia.

Not to forget fearless editorials.

The era of George Anyona and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga.

The hey days of Willy Mutunga, Al-Amin Mazrui, Micere Mugo, James Orengo and Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

The political coming age of the Njeri Kabeberis and Mwandawiro Mghangas.

Some university students declared in public kamkunjis that it was time for Kenya to be ruled by Marxist-Leninists.

Others were abducted off trains to be charged with sedition because they had dared to draft in their hand written chicken scrawl, earnest essays about the role of youth in fighting for democracy and justice in this country.

Still others were thrown down flights of stairs by angry secret police torturers for celebrating the attempted overthrow of the Moi dictatorship.

Back in those seemingly long forgotten days, Kenyan youth, Kenyan students, Kenyan post-independence patriots yearned passionately to kick the status quo’s hind quarters swiftly, repeatedly and viciously.

Back in those yesteryears, Kenyan students and youth spoke out loudly in protest when spooky sycophantic fascist neo-colonial comprador politicians led by our current septuagenarian head of state wanted to declare Kenya a de jure one party dictatorship.

And back then, there were no cell phones, leave alone the internet, forget email accounts, scratch Messenger, ICQ, online forums, chat rooms, Facebook or Twitter.

Back in that recent technological Stone Age, when you spoke of a telephone you was either referring to an old gloomy looking black contraption which had a PADLOCK firmly attached to it or a relative of the same intimidating device trapped in an outdoor cage, looking like a forlorn statue which required you to feed it with numerous coins if you wanted to talk to anyone for a few hurried minutes- at the top of your lungs, obliviously unaware that science and technology had already carefully considered your vocally needs to communicate clearly and therefore taken care of the volume and modulation functions in that teleinstrument.

But we were MORE networked and pumped up those days-politically speaking that is.

If there had been a proposed draft constitution waiting to be passed as the country’s supreme document, Kenya’s militant and patriotic youth would have already formed kilometre long queues, snaking around entire villages-urban and rural- to vote YES, YES, YES! months before the actual referendum!

What a contrast that generation of mine is to the apathetic, blasé, cynical, bored out of their skulls, hip hopping techno Kenyan chini kwa chini ohangla wiggling genge kapukaring smoked out dazed raggamuffins of the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Ten who have more passion for Arsenal and Man U than for freedom or socialism; Kenyan youth who know more about the subliminal Satanic sub texts in Rihanna’s latest dress than which reproductive rights side to take on the raging debate about where life begins; Kenyan youth who can recite the last 98 minutes of the last episode of Lord Of The Rings or the 23rd Season of Sex in the City verbatim from their photographic memories while being totally clueless about the actual contents of the Bill of Rights in our new constitution; Kenyan youth who can tell you the exact alcohol percentage in a bottle of Kingfisher or Smirnoff Red, but totally blank out when you ask them about what percentage women of seats have been allocated in the projected Senate chamber.

Do I sound harsh, bitter, angry, judgmental?

You tell me.

Forgive me for this Cardinal Sin of having seen Better Scenes for Kenyan Youth in this very country, in this, my very own pays natal.

But frankly some of us, aging grey beards, the Kenyan youth of yesteryears, expect more, much, much more, from our younger siblings, cousins, nephews, nieces, and for some of us now delving into our fifth decade of existence, our own sons and daughters.

We expect them to reap the harvest of our blood stained youthful endeavours for a more democratic dispensation.

We expect them to be more emboldened about defending our social justice gains.

We expect them to be more conscious than us, their prehistoric predecessors.

And yes, Claire M, that is why I expect YOU to VOTE YES for the new constitution come the referendum.

And I am talking to you too, Sheila.

But first, you have to register as voters my two Kenyan sisters.

And you can do it electronically these days you know.

So Claire M, there you have it.

You did ask me to write this, didn’t you?

Onyango Oloo

Nairobi, Kenya

 blogger’s note: braap! and those are the confessions of an angry afrikan baba, I hear where he’s coming from, those are my peers he’s talking about, apathy seems to be/coming a hall mark of our generation, but if you know where to look, then you will find those youth fulfilling the mission of their times…