The Kingdom of Bananaland by TT

but known here as Veracious poet

A review

But first a story. Many of you know my complains about poetry. It is not that I couldn’t understand poetry, I think it was my teacher of literature who maybe did not try to make poetry interesting. It felt much harder than plays or novels. Or maybe, I was the problem it could be an attitude thing and I have not been able to cure myself of that attitude. I tell you this because it is important for this post.

I hope my friend will make the anthology available for sale soon or if he decides to be generous to make it available to all and sundry.

The Bananaland is an anthology of poems. I want to start with the epilogue

Man is indeed capable of great feats
But he is an animal, a political animal.
And all the wrestling is with himself

I find this a great ending to an anthology of poems that in the main make me quite sad. Sad because how accurately they describe the situation in Africa and sometimes the world in general.

Having said that, and this I will only say once, I understand the artist can take poetic liberties in his choice of characters and the names he or she gives them, but the choice of ape and banana ring too close to me of a history of racial disrespect, if such exists, where although all humans are great apes, the colonizer, the racist has always seen the African person as more ape than they. There was, I think, in a football match somewhere in Europe where a banana was thrown at an African player for one of the teams which was interpreted as a racial attack. To that extent and that alone, do I have a problem with the choice of apes and bananas in this great anthology, for great it truly is.

In this short anthology, of about 60 poems that can stand on their own, or can be read as a story, one truly sees the African nation state as it is currently. The nation buys weapons in the guise of protecting the citizens from external aggression but the moment there is dissent, these guns are trained on the citizens, whose taxes were used to buy them. I agree with his constant refrain that the ape is truly stupid.

He is right on the mark when he writes elections mean nothing in Bananaland. The elections, are for him, nightmares. And I agree with him. Look at us, we have gown through two farces of elections to have the same thieves in office, whose only goal, as he says is the case in Bananaland is personal enrichment. The citizens be damned.

In Bananaland, they say we have fertile soils, a big workforce but we import bananas. Kenya imports maize from Mexico. That’s not the tragedy. The tragedy is that when farmers have harvested their crop, the national cereals board, the same idiots who will be importing maize, will do almost zilch. The farmers will sell their output at throw away prices. Because they are not in the business to keep making losses, they stop growing maize, then the idiots in government turn around and tell us some percentage of the population is not food secure. You would expect that these idiots would invest in agriculture, encourage people in rural areas to till their farms, provide necessary extension services to improve production, but nah, they steal and as for our country, they steal by borrowing loans which future generations will pay.

The current regime employs fools generally. I can say this without fear of contradiction. I can also say it hates thinkers. As in Bananaland where the author says the thinker is disdained, so it is in many African countries. Moi’s regime exiled, imprisoned, tortured intellectuals. Muigai’s regime has excelled that instead of doing that, it employed school dropouts to be at the helm of driving policy. Even our ancestors would disapprove this. They were not literate but they were knowledgeable. You cannot have an ignoramus lead. Our communities would not have long survived had they been led by idiots. This regime has made idiocy its greatest motto: in stupidity we rule. Somebody should say that in Latin. Mottoes sound almost sexy in Latin.

Two issues VP treats exceptionally well is reason and its place in human progress, and here before Brian asks, I mean with progress a society where freedoms are guaranteed, access to healthcare and decent housing are guaranteed and where the standard of life is acceptable. People are not starving because of poor planning and such like. His treatment of how Christianity has made the African subservient waiting for a heaven, suppressing his reason and initiative speaks to my heart.

He writes, and I almost want to shout with him, on the mountaintops

If one doesn’t like his or her living condition here on
Earth he ought to change it before death knocks
On his door and drags him away into hades.
One needs courage to change one’s circumstances.

That Christianity promises a heaven where there is gold, milk and honey, things which my lecturer would call goods of ostentation means the poor person is contented with their miserable existence here as long as a heaven is guaranteed. I would even propose that miserable fellow hastens their departure by killing themselves. At least they will have done one act of courage in their existence.

I wasn’t sure whom the ants were, but either way, I liked the analogies. And I think, with Mark Twain, we can all say, man while descending from all the higher animals lost all that was great. Only saving grace for humanity is it retained the capacities to do that which the higher animals are capable of but no more.

On taxes, the less said the better!

Corruption, nepotism and all social ills that bedevils us do not need much attention. All I will say is they are well dispensed of by our author.

Equality, justice and truth especially their absence is common in Bananaland. The meaning of these words change depending on what side of the political divide one finds themselves. This is a law in all Bananalands.

I laughed at the requirements of kingship and then I looked at the Kenyan situation and laughed much more. A section of the population believes and strongly so, that for one to be fit to lead, they must be circumcised. One would think this would be the concern of those they choose to have sex with, but no, in Kenya, the prepuce is more important in determining one’s ability to lead. I am sure, the ancestor are proud.

Our politics, he calls

Apemocracy means a rule by political apes.

And he hasn’t been more right.

Since, I took liberties while doing this review to start with the epilogue, I will end with the beginning. He writes

Between ape and banana
There cannot be morality,
Ethics, law or constitution.
There is only one thing and
That is desire or instincts.

I hope, VP, that I have done justice to your great work. I also hope that I have kept my word and as such, the word honour can be applied between us.

Thank you for sending me the book.

It was hilarious, poignant and at the same time easy to read.

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The mission of university and a reconceptualization of my scholarship

This will be the last summary of the reflections of Dr. Bethwell A. Ogot. It is my hope that you did find the first installments here, here, here, and  here and that they were worth your time.

The origin of and idea of the modern university is, Ogot, informs us a product of the European Middle ages. He notes, however, that these universities could have borrowed from schools of antiquity such as Plato’s Academy or the mosque at al-Azhar where Islamic and Arabic studies were taught.

The universities that began in Europe were established as theology and philosophy schools. Oxford was established to train for church and state, Harvard’s oldest chair was that of Divinity.

The key feature of the idea of the university was a scientific interest, that is, a thirst for knowledge. It was conceived as a creative intellectual community of scholars and students, whose main task was seeking the truth. A definite line of study was marked out by authority and a definite period of years assigned to a student’s course , examinations administered at the end and a title of honour awarded at the end. Our universities, therefore, Ogot notes, are a direct inheritance from the Middle Ages.

The universities were mainly autonomous, elected its chief representative, deans, had the right of examination and graduation. Free movement of scholars from one university to another allowed knowledge to expand. This autonomy was undermined, from the 14th Century by the establishment of State or Church universities. From this moment on, the university was subjected to political and ideological aims. This can be seen, for example, in the words of Francis 1 of Austria to the professors of Ljubljana

we do not need scholars, but good citizens. Educate the youth accordingly. Who takes his pay from me, must teach what I order him to do. Who cannot do so, or will come up with new ideas can go, or I will have him removed.

Several minds were influential in the transformation of the medieval university into the modern university. Among them we have Wilhelm von Humbdolt in Germany, J, Henry Newman in Britain and the French model conceived by Napoleon. The British model had the most influence.

In Africa, the universities started as importations of our colonizers.

On his reflections on the socio-economic environments that universities operate in, he argues, they must appear to have a sure and well defined contribution to return to the societies which support them. This contribution will be determined by a combination of factors; who they educate, and at what cost, the structures of the institutions themselves and their relationship with the government, ease of access for potential students, level of fees charged, nature of research undertaken among others.

It is in this context that we must consider the neo-liberal proposal that the university should become market driven. The question to ask is

what would a market-driven university be like?

To the neo-liberal, the students should be the primary funders of university teaching. The role of the government should be as a lender to the students and a supporter of ‘useful’ research. Ogot fears that were this to be the case, the freedom of the professors to determine the content of their teaching and direction of research, the expansion of knowledge, provision of disinterested analysis of phenomena and evens will be some of the unhappy implications.

In reconceptualization of scholarship, he says we must expand the usage of the word from the narrow daily usage of research and publication to four independent components; the scholarship of discovery, of application, teaching and integration.

On university reforms, his focus is directed mainly to the state of university education in Kenya. He mentions the several reports, beginning with the Ominde Report coming after independence and focusing on education for manpower needs, the second report, the Gacathi Report concentrated on equity and relevance, the Makay Report focused on the need for a second university, with the 8-4-4 system of education as its by-product and the Kamunge Report whose basic thrust was the provision of quality education and training in a context of tight fiscal constraints.

From 1991, Ogot writes, the government resolved that undergraduate admission to public universities shouldn’t exceed 10,000 and a subsequent annual increase of 3%. It was also agreed that there should be a gradual move towards a 50:50 Arts: Science enrollment. Commission for Higher Education, established in 1985, though envisaged in paper to be a powerful body, was indeed useless, that is, staffing inadequacies, parallel functions with those in the legal instruments that established universities among others.

On staff management, he writes our universities employed unnecessarily large numbers of non-teaching staff. He says in some cases, they even out numbered the students. In an environment of rapid pauperization of the academic staff, working conditions have deteriorated, real salaries have declined in value, dignity and influence has also been conceded by the academics.

On quality assessment of higher education, he says we are ill prepared for this function. CHE cannot do this for public universities. He says Vice chancellors, who only have power to appoint visitation panels, only do this when there is a crisis and at the time of publication, he says this had only happened once in the University of Nairobi following a closure of about 14 months. He concludes that it is essential to develop a higher education monitoring and evaluation system.

On his reflections on the enterprise university, he says there has been a departure from university as a public good to a commercial enterprise. He says there is need to redefine the idea of the university. We have education companies, some calling themselves universities, sells skills and training awarding degrees or certificates to customers students. One of this companies is the Apollo Group (University of Phoenix) out of the US and is listed on the NYSE whose features include reduction in lecture and contact time, small classes, group work and target state of the art business practices. To be a teacher, you have to be willing to accept the new model and receive two weeks of training in content and methods.

Over reliance on part-time faculty, having self sponsored students, as happens in our universities, is part of the commercialization of education necessitated by failure of government to adequately fund higher education. To meet financing challenges, universities instituted commercial enterprises like bakeries, printing press, and for my alma mater, UNES.

I have omitted in my summaries, reflections on the internationalization of universities where he looks at the case of Australia and Britain with both their international students and branches/ franchise of their universities around the world.

 

 

spammers are stupid

In this post I wrote yesterday, the second and third paragraphs give a background of my beliefs until deconversion a few years ago. Then I get this comment in my spam

Hello! Just curious, I just stumbled upon your blog – sorry don’t know the history etc. Have you ever had a religious – spiritual belief previous to your naturalist view?

Can’t they even try to be smart? It should not be hard, no?

 

Is atheism good for society

In the view of Chris Arnade, atheism is an intellectual luxury for the wealthy.

At 16 years old, I was a practicing Catholic, would go for confession every so often. In my circle of friends, enemies and those I was indifferent to, no one I knew was an atheist. If there was an atheist in our midst, must have been a closet one. We are products of the age we live in. In that age, in my village where I lived, atheism was not part of the cultural milieu. Was everyone poor? No, not by a long stretch of imagination.

I am a university graduate and most of my school life I was a practicing Catholic. Was I catholic because I was poor or because I was a product of the cultural milieu I had grown up in? At some point in my studies, I met some atheists but at that time, this chance meeting and spending time together did not result in deconversion. On the contrary, I was at a loss how one could have lived their lives without belief in god, that was how I had grown up. By the time I was graduating, I was nominally a christian but neither had I switched sides.

Now several years later, I am godless. My needs are basically taken care of. As a result of my education and my baloney detector, I am usually able to see a bad argument and in many cases see inconsistencies even in my choices, but that will be the story for my autobiography.

Coming to Chris, he tells us

When I first walked into the Bronx I assumed I would find the same cynicism I had towards faith. If anyone seemed the perfect candidate for atheism it was the addicts who see daily how unfair, unjust, and evil the world can be.

None of them are. Rather they are some of the strongest believers I have met, steeped in a combination of Bible, superstition, and folklore.

which in any case is neither an argument in favour of the bible nor against disbelief. Is it Chris’ argument that there are no atheist homeless and drug addicts? Was he an atheist because there is injustice, cruelty, and so on or because he was convinced that the evidence for deities is wanting? And if this is the case, what has this got to do with drug abuse?

He is right however when he says

They have their faith because what they believe in doesn’t judge them. Who am I to tell them that what they believe is irrational? Who am I to tell them the one thing that gives them hope and allows them to find some beauty in an awful world is inconsistent? I cannot tell them that there is nothing beyond this physical life. It would be cruel and pointless.

because that would make him a jerk. But if and when they ask him about his religious beliefs or lack of that matter, he is not being a jerk when he says he has no belief in the gods or that he thinks their hope in god is inconsistent with their present circumstances, especially if they believe in an all loving god.

I am surprised that Chris did not know people make mistakes. He writes

In these last three years, out from behind my computers, I have been reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes.

It doesn’t take genius to know this. Nor do you need to sit behind a computer to know that you make mistakes, your neighbour makes mistakes and so on.

Chris tells us he had an epiphany

Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.

at which point I quote William Foote on freethought

Our salvation is here and now. It is certain and not contingent. We need not die before we realise it. Ours is a gospel, and the only gospel, for this side of the grave. The promises of theology cannot be made good till after death; ours are all redeemable in this life.
Happiness is the only good, suffering the only evil and selfishness the only sin.
Learn what is true in order to do what is right.

but more relevant to his epiphany is the observations of Jean Messlier

We may be asked if atheism can suit the multitude? I reply, that every system which demands discussion is not for the multitude. What use is there, then, in preaching atheism? It can at least make those who reason, feel that nothing is more extravagant than to make ourselves uneasy, and nothing more unjust than to cause anxiety to others on account of conjectures, destitute of all foundation. As to the common man, who never reasons, the arguments of an atheist are no better suited to him than a philosopher’s hypothesis, an astronomer’s observations, a chemist’s experiments, a geometer’s calculations, a physician’s examinations, an architect’s designs, or a lawyer’s pleadings, who all labor for the people without their knowledge.

And maybe Chris is right, on those who have their needs taken care of have the luxury to reason about atheism and not before. In any event, the thing we must do is to heal the dysfunction in society that drive people to misery where their only hope is belief in chimeras and phantoms.

Finally, I am not sure whether this was Chris’ attempt at reflection about his life, experiences with the homeless or a way to attack Dawkins. I for one do not see the reason for writing this

I also see Richard Dawkins differently. I see him as a grown up version of that 16-year-old kid, proud of being smart, unable to understand why anyone would believe or think differently from himself. I see a person so removed from humanity and so removed from the ambiguity of life that he finds himself judging those who think differently

Let’s not be jerks, that’s all. Others will believe in gods others will not. But as yet, gods remain un-demonstrated hypothesis, we are within our rights to ask questions. It would be condescending towards others to argue that because of their situations in life, they should not have access to philosophical questions. This, to me, is like treating them like little children.

 

Sex, morals and religion- an odyssey

We continue with our summaries of the book by Bethwell A. Ogot, History as destiny and history as knowledge. This is possible, to a great extent, because the chapters stand alone and can be treated individually.

A man revered by Kenyans generally but Catholics specifically, Cardinal Maurice Otunga, in 1998 termed calls for gender equality unchristian, ruled out the ordination of women as priests terming this ungodly and to crown it all, led a group of catholic faithful in burning condoms and books on AIDS prevention, and family life education.

The author tells us, starting with the ancient Chinese civilization, the basic form of marriage was polygamy. A married man, besides his wives, would seek entertainment in the company of ‘singing girls’. The grounds for divorce were; disobedience to parents’ in-law, having no son, adultery, jealousy of the husband’s other wives, leprosy, thieving and talkativeness. However, a wife who had no family to go back to wouldn’t be divorced or if, having married her when he was poor, he had become rich.

Starting in 8th Century BCE India, the gods were no longer important. Hinduism and Buddhism sought new ways to transcend the gods, to go beyond them. The Buddha appearing in 538 BCE taught that the only thing that was important was the good life. To the Indian, platonic love was inconceivable. To them, Bethwell notes, love, if it existed, had to be consummated. Those who renounced love had to do so utterly and completely. He notes the Kama Sutra, a manual of etiquette, dealing entirely with eros still has some application today.

Moving to Japan, the author notes the attitude towards sex, marriage, chastity, adultery is more concerned with etiquette and manners than with religious beliefs or tenets. To them, he writes, sex is considered a minor matter but something good, part of the general human feelings which cannot be evil and subject to moralizing. The real aim of marriage in Japanese society is the procreation of children and thereby to ensure the continuity of family life. He adds any purpose other than this simply serve to pervert the true meaning of marriage.

Turning our gaze to Africa, we find in Egypt, a religion that was a fertility cult, with the earth as the female element and the sun as the male and their union beget life. Monogamy was the general rule. The position of the woman was exalted. Her security guaranteed be legal provision that a father could reclaim his daughter if his son in-law insulted, injured or humiliated her and demand return of the dowry.

Elsewhere in the Tigris and Euphrates Valley, arose the Babylonian civilization. They bequeathed humanity with the Hammurabi code which had a strong and direct influence upon Mosaic law, though it was considered more liberal and humane.

From here, we see the birthing of monotheism in Palestine with their god which they argued transcended gender but would remain essentially male and with it the demotion of the women. In Judaism therefore, women were not required, and therefore not permitted to become rabbis, to study Torah and to pray in the synagogue. To their credit, however, it could be sinful to avoid such pleasures as wine or sex, since they had been provided for man’s enjoyment. We must however note their obsession with female virginity and almost pathological fear that illegitimate children might be smuggled into a family, which saw them promulgate a law

A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the lord.

Christianity through the works of Paul, its architect, Augustine of Hippo, Tertullian and contrary to other religions looked at already, regarded sexual relations outside marriage as a grave sin. Total abstinence was considered a nobler state than marriage. Gregory the great declared it was the lust of our parents’ flesh that was the cause of our being and to this extent, human existence was itself sinful. To Augustine, the originator of the doctrine of original sin, god had condemned humanity to eternal damnation simply because of Adam’s one sin. To Augustine, we owe the heritage of a religion that teaches men and women to regard their humanity as chronically flawed. Augustine writing to a friend wrote

What is the difference, whether it is a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any women?

Augustine was clearly puzzled that god would have made the female sex, after all,

If it was good company and conversation that Adam needed, it would have been much better arranged to have two men together as friends, not a man and woman.

Tertullian, writing before Augustine had already instigated women as evil temptress and eternal danger to mankind. He wrote

Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of god on this sex of yours lives in this age; the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway, you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You so carelessly destroyed man, god’s image. On account of your desert, even the son of god had to die.

In 1059, Pope Leo IX formally insisted on the chastity of all priests. During the reformation and counter reformation, the celibacy question arose. Melanchthon preached against celibacy, Zwingli married at 40 being the first priest of RCC to dare do so in five centuries and Martin Luther married a nun. The Anglican church arising from the King’s lust for a lovely damsel, in this view, was conceived in sin.

Contemporary works on sex can be seen in the works of Kant who argued there is no way in which a human being can be made an object of indulgence of another except through sexual impulse. The conclusions from the work of Paul Fleischmann is that the substitution of sexuality for religious life constitutes one of the most prominent and pervasive elements of cultural pathology. The works of Freud are also important, at least, to the extent that he laid the groundwork for the liberation of the sexual aspirations of women from both an oppressive personal sense of guilt and the shame and humiliation of social stigmatization.

Of most recent publication that has had a great bearing on sex, morality and religion is the Kinsey Report in the late 1940s. Of the many conclusions, two are of interest to us

  1. The complete failure of orthodox morality- in spite of religion, moral philosophy, the influence of schools, church, mosque, temple and social conventions, it is obvious that human beings obey their sexual instincts to a far greater extent than the most pessimistic puritans ever hinted at. They noted that sex could not b sublimated. Fear of punishment or exposure made little difference to a person’s sexual activities.
  2. The rules of self-conduct were invariably influenced by personalities of those who set up the rules. The report shows, indirectly, that practically all the popular conceptions of sex morality are ill founded, hence, moral judgements are dangerous because they are unavoidably personal.

In his conclusion, the author notes contemporary evidence shows a progressive shift in attitudes. In all societies throughout the world, the prize of the virgin in marriage has given way to sexual enjoyment on the part of both sexes before marriage.

His last paragraph, below, is almost a lament. He writes

Where does all this leave us in Africa? We abandoned our Old Testament for other peoples’ Old testament, Torah and Quran. Now that our mentors are abandoning their gods and their rights, we are blindly following them in their wastelands inhabited by hollow men and women. A catalogue of indecencies now stares us in the face, including nudity, transvestitism, prostitution, pre-marital sex, extra marital sex, rape, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and other emerging unnatural mode of sex.

He finishes by asking a question

How do we obviate this sexual rot that is threatening to deplete the human race? Perhaps Africa need a Kinsey Report to analyse all the popular conceptions of sex, morality and religion, before we can pontificate ala Cardinal Otunga. Perhaps Africa needs its own sex manual, its own Kama Sutra. Perhaps Africa needs its own sex text books, from which ignorant teenagers can acquire basic biological facts.

Mau Mau and nationhood- the untold story

Last year, we had an election and a farce or two farces depending on where you stand. The time leading to both plebiscites were, to some of us, quite shocking at how much our country men and women are ignorant of their history. Most young Kenyans and this unfortunately includes university graduates are ignorant on which groups of individuals played key roles in the push for independence. To add to this, is a deliberate effort by the first and second regimes to distort history, the third to do nothing about it and Muigai to follow on his father’s footsteps of distorting facts.

In this chapter summary, Ogot does an overview on the different Kenyans who have been killed a second time, as the Algerians did to Franz Fanon.

Following the death, in 1994, of Oginga Odinga, the question was raised of establishing a heroes’ square. The question that wasn’t answered then and is still pending is who would be buried there? Ogot notes that our first problem is the identification of heroes and heroines with the forest fighters ignoring others whose contribution was through other avenues. In doing this summary, I hope, as Ogot does to arouse a curiosity among younger Kenyans to go back in time and read about these different men and women whose contributions were critical in the struggle for independence and who successive governments have killed a second time.

We must state at the onset that majority of those who emerged to rule in 1963 had betrayed the freedom fighters, a group of nascent grabbers and looters.

The Mau Mau, Ogot writes, quoting the works of Anderson (1983) and Berman (1987) grew out of internal factionalism and dissent among the Kikuyu people. Mau Mau, then, can be examined in the comparative context of the processes of constructing ethnicity and tradition. In another work by Clough, it is implied that by 1952 when the Mau Mau war broke out, the Kikuyu seemed to have already abandoned the national project. He adds that Kikuyu leaders like Ngengi, Koinange, P Karanja, Jesse Kariuki were motivated by Kikuyu ethnic pride and Kikuyu nationalism. They emphasized the need for Kikuyu unity, need to preserve Kikuyu identity and the need for self-help.

Contradictions can be seen in the case of Ngengi who denounced Mau Mau in Central province but was seen by the British and written of in their press as the leader of Mau Mau. Still on Ngengi, it is important to note, save for a brief moment between his release from detention in 61 to 65, he was in the whole more active in the creation of the imagined greater Kikuyu society. Instead of the misnomer as a founding father, he should rightly be seen as the architect, patron and benefactor of the greater Kikuyu community.

The contributions of Oginga Odinga and Ramogi Achieng’ Oneko to the national project, I presume are known beginning with the formation Luo Thrift in 1946 to address among other things, getting rid of the colonial notion of ‘Lazy Luo’. This progressed to the formation of Luo Union E.A in 53 with Oginga as first Ker. It should however be noted Oginga wasn’t starting on a blank slate. There has been formed previously, in 1927, the Kisumu Native Chamber of Commerce, North Kavirondo Chamber of Commerce etc. Luo nationalism arose from the convergence of the economic and cultural movements. It is at this point that the Luo began to refer to themselves as Jo-Kanyanam and Nyikwa Ramogi thereby giving the mistaken view that all Luo groups descended from one person- Ramogi.

In 1946, there was a land situation in Babukusu land. They held that Trans Nzoia district was their ancestral land which was stolen from them. One response was a religious movement, Dini ya Msambwa whose founder and prophet was Elijah Masinde. In 1943 he opposed conscription of Africans to fight in WW2, arguing correctly, it was a European tribal war which had nothing to do with African interests. In 47, he began to advocate for the use of violence earning him arrest and detention in Lamu till 1960, when he was released. One of his followers, Lukas Pkech from East Pokot, on 24th April 1950 organized young Pokots armed with spears and shields to a dawn raid, known as the Kolloa Affray, on government forces where he and others lost his life. This was not before he composed a song

Who is our enemy?

Is it not the white people?

They began by killing many of us. They teach us bad things.

Don’t listen to this white man*.

He is our enemy.

Haven’t we got a god?

We pray to you Jehova.

Who is Jesus? The wazungus say he is god but how could he be if he died?

The refrain was

We will overcome by our strength.

It can be seen already there were precursors to the Mau Mau war.

The first attempt to form a countrywide political party was launched on 1st Oct 1944. The party, Kenya African Study Union aimed at fighting for independence. One of the functions of the party was to advice the only African in the Legislative Council, Eliud Mathu. Among the officials was one Harry Thuku who had been detained between 1922 and 1931 following riots. He quit his leadership position and became a staunch supporter of British rule in Kenya.

Other religious movements included the People of Jesus Christ from Kiambu, Roho Maler from Nyanza and Diniap[?] Mbojet among the Kipsigis.

Following the declaration of the state of emergency in 1952 and arrest of altogether 87 leaders, new officials were elected to lead the Kenya African Union among them, F. Odede, Joseph Murumbi, Awori and T. J. Mboya. During these tumultuous times, a Luo, Ambrose Ofafa, was killed by Mau Mau activists on 21st Nov, 1953. The colonial administration, which until this moment had been trying to sow discord between the Luo and Kikuyus hoped this would lead to war between them but this didn’t happen.

Dedan Kimathi, writing in 1953, opined the Kikuyu joined Mau Mau following the proscription of KAU. It is this moment that saw the abolition of the national project in Central Province.

How do we remember Kenya’s second vice president, Joseph Murumbi who did a lot to articulate the Kenyan problem in the international press writing between 1953 and 1960 while in exile?

Pio Gama Pinto, the first political murder in post-colonial Kenya, gunned down a few days after Ngengi sought legal counsel about ways to deal with “this bloody Goan”. He had, using his money and contacts, organized fundraising for Mau Mau, supplied them with weapons and ammunition, founded Sauti ya KANU- a party publication, with others founded the Lumumba Institute in 1964 etc.

How do we remember Girdhari Lal Vidyarthi who fought for press freedom? Founded the first Swahili weekly published in Kenya in 1935.  Arrested and detained several times by the colonial administration for sedition, the post-independence government killed him a second time by erasing his contributions in the Kenyan psyche.

When we talk about human rights defenders, the name of Argwings Kodhek is hardly ever mentioned. Between 1952 and 61, he almost, single-handedly defended the rights of ordinary Kenyans. He argued that human rights are indivisible and universal, and freedom cannot be appropriate in the west and inappropriate in Africa. His fight for human rights included a personal struggle to live under the same roof with his Irish wife since at that time there were white and African quarters, a battle eventually won.

In the labour movement, what tribute do we pay to Mahkan Singh, who in 1935, formed the first trade union, the Labour Trade Union of Kenya? He was arrested and detained from 1950 only to be released in 1960 in a Kenya where his role in the trade union movement had already been forgot.

The question to be asked at the end is how do we remember all these people whose contributions were critical in different spheres in the struggle for independence?

Why do we celebrate Mashujaa Day? What are we commemorating, the arrest of the KAU leaders, Mau Mau leaders or the sacrifice and suffering of all freedom fighters bearing in mind too, that the arrests took place on the early morning of 21st October and not on 20th October as is commonly assumed.

 

Boundary changes and the invention of *tribes*

This is part of a summary of specific chapters of the book by Bethwell A. Ogot: History as destiny and history as knowledge.

For most of the travellers who end up here and are not familiar with the problems of ethnicity in Kenya, you can skip this post since what I talk about may sound all Greek.

In this chapter, the author discusses three boundaries

  1. inter-territorial boundaries which were arbitrarily determined in foreign capitals by foreign diplomats
  2. colonial boundaries or better still segregation boundaries: white highlands, native reserves, outlying districts and closed districts
  3. administrative boundaries

These different boundaries froze, in time and space, movements by individuals and groups from one cultural zone to another. Tribes, whatever it means, is a consequence of these administrative boundaries. Evidence for this can be found, for example, in the researches that show that 40% of Baluyia clans were originally Kalenjin. There are also to be found several Luyia clans of Maasai origin.

The author notes that the claim by the colonialists of perpetual inter-clan and inter-ethnic rivalry and fighting is undermined by consideration of the political, economic and cultural situations in different regions of Kenya during the second half of the C19. He says researches show for example Wayaiki Wa Hinga, a Maasai emerged as a eminent Kikuyu leader. The relationships can be seen too in language where the Kikuyu borrowed from the Maasai such words as Ngai, initiation rituals and military tactics. Similar reciprocal relationships existed between the Kikuyu- Akamba, the coastal nations and even in the north between the Samburu and the Rendile.

The effect of these arbitrary boundaries can be seen in how they separated several ethnic groups with one landing across an imaginary border. Examples include Abakusu/ Abagisu, Saboat/ Sabey and the Luo who would be living together with their cousins the Padhola, Acholi, Lango, Alur and Atwot instead of being isolated in Kenya.

In 1895, the East Africa Protectorate created four provinces; Coast (Syyidieh), Ukamba, Tanaland and JUbaland administered respectively from Mombasa, Machakos, Lamu and Kismayu.

What is tribe? No one knows. The colonial administration referred to the Luo as a collection of twenty tribes. The classification into tribe attempted unsuccessfully to combine linguistic, cultural, ethnic and geographical elements to create homogeneous administrative and political units. Further it can be said the definition of ethnic groups as tribes was both racist and ahistorical to the extent that it regarded the various nationality groups as being static, exclusive and homogeneous. In this sense, therefore, the concept tribe was an intellectual abstraction, a mental invention to portray the picture of a people without rulers, without government, without culture, without history to justify colonialism.

These boundaries, he writes, froze historical processes whereby dynamic interactions among the constituent elements had constantly produced either new synthesis or cultural differentiations.

It is however interesting to note, the Africans themselves, dissatisfied with the colonial tribes decided to invent their own for political purposes. The Kalenjin transformed and combined the Nandi, Kipsigis, Tugen, Pokot, Marakwet, Elgeyo into a bigger Kalenjin tribe, the different Luyia ethnic groups to one Luyia tribe, GEMA and attempts by Maasai and Samburu forming a Maa tribe.

He concludes by noting that the decision of the post colonial government to retain the colonial district boundaries is making it difficult if not impossible, for Kenyans to live in a multicultural and multi-ethnic societies that would encourage diversity and interaction, promote the coexistence of communities with multiple identities, protect minorities and emphasize intercultural dialogue and tolerance.