Obulala an Amani


Prioritising the fight against drug addiction in Kenya

By Anne Foy, Ocober 30 2014
The abuse of illicit drugs and other legal substances in Kenya has been called a silent disaster: a scourge on the country’s youth, which affects every aspect of their lives. It is a major threat to the country’s social, economic and political stability. [1]

Political action

Opening the 2nd National Conference on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, held at Kasarani in June 2013, President Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed his government’s full commitment ‘to the attainment of high and sustainable levels of economic development within a stable and secure environment,’ which could not be achieved ‘if our youth are sucked into alcohol and drug abuse’. He also stressed the additional burden placed on the country by the health problems that arise out of drug abuse, particularly HIV/AIDS. In May 2014, he announced that the Jubilee Government would be forming partnerships with NGOs and other stakeholders to support rehabilitation programmes for the country’s youth, whose lives had been blighted by alcohol and drug abuse, an initiative that he described as a ‘worthy course for humanity’. [2]

At the 20th International AIDS Conference, held in Melbourne, Australia in July 2014, delegates from Kenya and Tanzania outlined some new strategies aimed at increasing the participation of injecting drug users in programmes to help prevent HIV infection while also improving their general health. [3] From Kenya, Hezron Okewe Ogembo gave a presentation on the Nairobi Outreach Services Trust, which has provided a range of services for injecting drug users in Nairobi, including a syringe exchange, antiretroviral therapy, counselling, vocational training, loan provisions, meals and showers. It also provides basic shelter for women with children. Ogembo and her colleagues reported that these interventions had shown a positive effect on the addicts’ lives, with a reduction in needle sharing, increased use of condoms and better employment prospects.

Mombasa drug addictionketamine drug kenya
Moi Avenue, Mombasa leading to the Killindini Harbour and ketamine crystals (right). According to government statistics, 4% of all annual HIV infections in Kenya are caused by injected drug abuse, with a massive 17% in Coast Province. In Kenya, ketamine is not a part of the club scene and its effects are not conducive to a great night out. Instead, it is used in private as a way to relax, usually in small groups.

Help for addicts

In 2012, the Kenyan government began a programme of handing out free syringes and needles to drug users across the country following concerns about the high number of addicts becoming infected with HIV. The pilot programme, which took place in Mombasa, was an attempt to help the crisis situation where more than 26,000 youths in the city were injecting drugs, sharing needles and spreading a range of infections. [4] According to government statistics, 4% of all annual HIV infections in Kenya are caused by injected drug abuse, with a massive 17% in Coast Province. Initially the free syringe programme drew criticism from organisations dedicated to ending injected drug abuse, particularly the Coast Community Anti-Drugs Coalition, which saw the policy as giving a green light to the drug pedlars by creating a state-sanctioned demand for their products. [5] The Coast Provincial Director of Public Health and Sanitation, Dr Anisa Omar, said that they had to find some way of stopping youths sharing needles, and the particularly dangerous practice of ‘flash blood’, the sharing of a syringe filled with a mixture of blood and drugs.

A growing problem

The abuse of drugs is itself similar to a virulent viral infection: once it has entered a society, it is practically impossible to eradicate. Supply and demand complement each other, and a vicious circle of compulsive abuse and tolerance becomes so ingrained in the culture that the abuse of drugs is seen as a normal part of life. The sad fact is that this is true of so many of Kenya’s youth, many of whom are not stopped by the difficulties of obtaining the more expensive hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine. In Kenya, there are plenty of other options, including cannabis, khat, glue sniffing and ketamine. Each addict’s individual story has the common factors of self-delusion, helplessness, waste and tragedy, although recovery and redemption are also there, providing inspiration to others. [6] Ketamine in particular is a growing problem in the slums of Nairobi. As a powerful anaesthetic, in Europe and the US it is difficult to obtain and is subject to the usual issues of legality and purity; in Kenya, this is not the case, and cheap medical grade ketamine can be bought over the counter from the small local pharmacist or petrol station. [7]

The ketamine story in Kenya differs again from that of other abused drugs in that it is not a part of the club scene and its effects are not conducive to a great night out. Instead, it is used in private as a way to relax, usually in small groups. The effect is an extreme sense of relaxation, while the mind remains clear. It has been described as feeling in control of nothing and everything at the same time. High doses can bring on a state of disassociation, memory loss, disorientation and hallucinations. [8] Its attraction for the poor and desperate is that for a while you become completely indifferent to everything around you. However, frequent abuse of the drug over long periods can result in impairment of brain functions, including loss of long term and short term memory. In the end, as with all abused drugs, the permanent damage done to the user outweighs its short term attractions.

As each new drug arrives, is misused, become fashionable and is then ingrained into the subcultures of our society’s poor and disadvantaged who are looking for an escape, a new challenge arises for governments, the law, medical services and the NGOs working to improve their lives. As the country modernizes, they cannot be left behind. President Uhuru Kenyatta has recognized this: that we must modernize, but we must also build strong families that help to create a society where there is support for people with overwhelming personal problems, and resorting to the abuse of drugs is not the first line of defence.

Sources
1. Academia.edu. Muriiki Ruthira. A case for drug and substance abuse prevention education in Kenya. http://www.academia.edu/4817900/A_CASE_FOR_DRUG_AND_SUBSTANCE_ABUSE_PREVENTION_EDUCATION_IN_KENYA [accessed 27/10/14]
2. The Presidency, official website of the President. 1 May 2014.  http://www.president.go.ke/we-are-keen-in-helping-our-youth-overcome-drugalcohol-abuse-president/ [accessed 27/10/14]
3. Science Speaks: HIV & TB News. AIDS 2014: Peer programs engage injection drug users in Kenya and Tanzania. Christine Lubinski, 25 July 2014. http://sciencespeaksblog.org/2014/07/25/aids-2014-engaging-injection-drug-users-in-kenya-and-tanzania/ [accessed 27/10/14]
4. Irin News. KENYA: Needles to be distributed to injecting drug users. 7 June 2012. http://www.irinnews.org/report/95601/kenya-needles-to-be-distributed-to-injecting-drug-users [accessed 27/10/14]
5. MySantonio.com. Kenya's Christians, Muslims unite to fight addiction. 21 June 2014. http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/religion/article/Kenya-s-Christians-Muslims-unite-to-fight-4615405.php [accessed 27/10/14]
6. Recovery. 7 inspirational books about recovery. http://www.recovery.org/7-inspirational-books-about-recovery/ [accessed 27/10/14]
7. Vice.com. Kenya’s growing ketamine problem. David Meffe, 19 Aug 2014. http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/kenyas-growing-ketamine-problem [accessed 27/10/14]
8. Drugs.com. Ketamine side effects. http://www.drugs.com/sfx/ketamine-side-effects.html [accessed 27/10/14]


All markets have madmen but Luanda has one too many

Luanda
The main street in Luanda Township, Bunyore. Apparently the market has more madmen than anywhere else in Kenya.

By Eric Lungai, July 29 2013
Luanda Market on the Busia-Kisumu highway is a throbbing, fast growing urban centre, but it also has an inordinately high number of persons who appear to suffer from mental illness It is exactly 3:30pm. As I stand at a shop in Luanda town in Vihiga County, a middle aged man emerges out of nowhere with a huge decorated club in his hands. He removes his ragged cap and tucks the club beneath his armpits, and bows for the building two times before he marches away without saying a word to anyone. In all descriptions available, he looks like a very healthy man. He is wearing on an old black anorak, a faded brown trouser and akala shoes. Moved by his supposedly polite act, I ask the shopkeeper in the building why the man did that. “It is his routine to come to this place every day at around 3:30pm and perform his ritual. He says that he respects this building so much because it is the oldest,” says the shopkeeper. That is just one case. On a normal day, Luanda market is abuzz with many mentally disturbed persons, doing all sort of weird things. It seems that the market, apart from being a busy economic hub in the county due to its direct linkage to Kisumu and Busia towns, has been known to be home of many mad persons than any other. A few months ago, there was a story on television about one Mr Daudi Otieno, a self-proclaimed mad man in the town who only acts mad during the market days to solicit for food for his family from the businesspersons. Menace He often comes to the market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. On any other day, he is a very normal man, fending for his family by doing small time menial jobs. He is not alone. There are many other people with peculiar behaviour loitering around the market who residents don’t bother about for they are long used to their antics. They move from place to place, sometimes nagging people to give them food or money. Others are peaceful and keep to themselves as they mind their own business.

A few weeks ago, another woman caused a scene when she camped outside Equity bank branch in the town as she demanded anyone leaving the bank to drop something in her metallic cup, which she kept rattling vigorously with a nail. She didn’t, however, want coins to be dropped in it. Anyone who attempted to eject her, including police who man the bank, was turned away by her noisy wails. She, however, left later after her collection cup was brimming with bank notes. When you talk about madness in Luanda town, residents find it ‘normal’. In fact, they are used to it. Many of the local people that we interviewed, but who not experts, pointed accusing fingers to overuse of drugs of which bhang is the most commonly abused. “Drug abuse is an epidemic in this region, with the drugs coming from Busia and Uganda. We are really trying to control the problem to our level best, but so far, it has not been an easy ride,” a security officer who is not authorised to talk to the press confided to this writer. The officer further claimed that there are many loopholes, which lead to the drugs being brought into the area, and they have been working on curbing the menace with very little success. Puffing “Abuse of bhang in this area is an open secret. It is not a new thing altogether. It is one of the most abused drugs in this area,” the officer confirmed. And true to his word, while walking in Luanda, you meet groups of people liberally smoking weed, while clad in Rastafarian colours. “This is our small Jamaica in Africa. It is where all those Jamaican reggae musicians originated from, and they have taken long to come back home,” one youth said, puffing out smoke like a chimney. In the last year, Luanda Police Station was involved in an operation dubbed Operesheni Wazimu Rudi Nyumbani which to some extent has borne fruit. As the situation stands now, the number of mad persons has greatly reduced and most of them only do a technical appearance at the market but go back home. But the officers allege that people in the region don’t make any effort to take their relatives to hospital for treatment.

The local administration helped the police a great deal in looking for the relatives of those affected and urged them to take their people back home, during the operation. “Many of those who continued staying in the town were arrested and their relatives later resurfaced and took them home. They have at least been contained,” the officer said. Residents in the region, however, hold divergent views regarding the state of madness in the town. Some claim that those people found roving aimlessly in the town come from the neighbouring towns. “The levels of poverty, coupled by the fact that Luanda is a small town with a high population density is likely the main reason why some have to pretend to be mad, to earn a living by soliciting for food,” says Mr Japheth Omonde, a businessperson in the region who operates a clinic. Omonde notes that bhang is not grown in the area because of the high population and the small size of the farms, but it is imported from the neighbouring regions. He further says that this state of affairs is a big worry to him as a medical practitioner because it portrays the town negatively whenever people visit. However, he is quick to point out that most of the mad persons come from Kisumu. “We are very close to Kisumu city and thus we accommodate the bulk of those people who cannot be accommodated in that city because of their state of mind,” he says. Victoria Angeyo, 20, a hotelier, confesses that indeed there are many cases of people who walk around in the town who are apparently mad. For some people, however, Luanda town is just like any other market which has mad people but because of its small size, it always appears like they are so many at a given time. “ Luanda market is just like Kisumu, with many mad persons although Kisumu is larger and thus they are scattered allover the place,” says Josphat Matindi, a sports organiser in the area. Although Matindi acknowledges that some cases are hereditary, he notes that bhang and the overindulgence in use of illicit brews in the region could also be a cause. He has, therefore, invested in sports in the area to help curb the situation.

Justus Inonda Mwanje
Prof Justus Inonda Mwanje

“Most of our youth have been growing up in a culture where drug usage is ‘normal’. It is very difficult rehabilitating them now, through things like sports can help,” says Matindi. Associate Professor of Environ mental Resources Conservation, Prof Inonda Mwanje, the Principal Policy Analyst at Africa Public Policy Institute (APPI), a research agency, says that mad persons in Luanda are just a common feature like in any other town. However, the academician says that the government has neglected the case by not putting in place measures to curb the situation. Rehabilitate “The Government should build a rehabilitation centre in the Western region to cater for the people who are mentally disturbed because they are human and need to be incorporated back into the society with decency,” says Mwanje. Prof Mwanje observes that if the government can provide free maternity care for the women, it can also rehabilitate its people who are disturbed and allow them live decently. “What people don’t understand is that individuals who are mentally disturbed fall under the category of those who are vulnerable and thus should be taken care of. Mathari Hospital is too far from here,” he says. Mwanje further notes that drug usage can be tamed in the region only if there are concerted efforts from all quarters concerned. Area commissioner, Wambua Muthama, said that there was a time when drug use in the region was rampant but it has now been reduced. “The situation is not as bad as people from other parts portray. In any case, there is a proposal in place to equip the region with facilities,” he said. So far, he says, the government has employed many mechanisms to contain the situation, such as organising for seminars, and educating people in public barazas. They are also trying their best to cut down on the supply chain so that the drugs cannot be easily accessible in the region. But Mr Wambua also cites family issues, genetics and some people who pretend to be mad causes of the problem. Luanda Mission Refuge Centre is the only facility around that helps in rehabilitating children with mental disability but it’s facility are insufficient.

source: STANDARD

HISTORY OF KHAYEGA MARKET

khayega
Khayega Market, the epicentre of Isukha people was named after a Mwironje clansman, Khayega son of Khadayi.

By Gerishom Majanja, May 20 2012

From Kisumu and after winding through several verdant valleys and treed hillocks of the Maragoli dissected plateau approximately 45 kilometres from Kisumu you touch down in the land of the Bisukha, the land of my ancestors. In fact the real Isukha starts at Khayega Market- the centre of Bisukha universe.

Khayega, the man who bequeathed his name to this market was M'mironje, my clan - a fact that adds to my pride, that he, my clan mate gave the centre of Isukha universe a name! Khayega was the son of Khalayi and apart from Khayega, Khalayi had another son  called Khadwasi. Khadwasi had a son called Shamala the father of Mukabwa, Liseche  and Karoli Lusega.Mukabwa died early without progeny. Khayega’s cousin was Luyai the father of Ambros Itebete,the father of Peter Itebete .Khayega’s other sons were Munyanya and Malenya the father of Captain Henry Malenya

The market originally started at Ikuywa wa Malaya. There was a wide grazing ground at Ikuywa which was also used for wrestling and bull fighting. On such occasions traders would also bring their merchandise to sell to the people. Such merchandise included Marimu, viholo, tsikhoni, vuraa, tsinyungi, bananas, potatoes, millet and other locally produced goods. By the beginning of 20th Century it had developed into a small barter market.  Malaya was the famous resident at Ikuywa. The market was later moved to the present site of Mukumu Cathedral. It is believed that it was from this vintage point that the Catholic Missionaries who had settled at Mugavagava  1906 appreciated its position and selected this site as their settlement. The Missionaries then occupied the place and built their first church and school. The place was later referred to as St Machungwa. They transferred the market to a site of the present gate to Mukumu hospital.

Meantime Milimu had been appointed Chief of Isukha by Chief Mumia after the First World War and the Provincial Commissioner of Kavirondo (currently Nyanza and Western Provinces) identified the site where the current chief’s office is located  for eucalyptus trees to be planted thereby setting up a works camp. Chief Milimu appointed one Khayega son of Khalayi to supervise the planting as well as hunting and killing the many moles that were destroying the young eucalyptus trees. In addition, he protected the young trees from vandals.  Khayega did this work for over 10 years – that is until the eucalyptus trees were grown. This is how the place earned the name Khayega’s camp (Bisukha corrupted it to Ikambi Wa Khayega) As a result of the activities that this camp generated, the market slowly shifted from Mukumu area to its present site of Khayega Market closer to the eucalyptus trees camp. This is also how the eucalyptus trees earned the name Ikambi in Lwisukha language.

This is how Khayega Market got its name.

Khayega rapidly developed into a major commercial, social and political centre after the Second World War, attaining significance between end of the war until independence in 1963. Kakamega never had any significance to Africans before independence because it was a white man’s fort, a place of humiliation and abuse for Africans. Khayega market offered Bisukha an opportunity for self cultural expression tinged with a bit of whatever few European habits one had learned from the white man. You know even though Europeans taught our people a few habits like dressing well (clothes and shoes) they could not tolerate an African showing off in these wears. On the other hand one became a figure of admiration among Africans on showing off these wears hence the love for Sunday parades in Khayega Market among fellow Africans.

There were significant names in Khayega in its ascendance to fame in 1950s such that its story would not be complete without mentioning them. They were Khasudi the madwoman, Khatembukhani the enterprising woman, William Ligabo Inyama, the General Merchant and posho miller, William Anyonyi the cigarette and beer merchant, Mbote and Shangalla the butchers respectively. Mention should also be made of Enosh Shihembeza, the Quaker owner of shop number one where as children we bought sweets and clothes and Jumba the hotelier where we bought a cup of tea and a sconce for ten cents.


Omukombero: local root is precursor to viagra

By Kabaka John, Jan 21 2011

Once, while you traversed the streets of Kakamega town in Western Kenya, you might have seen one or two individuals chewing sticks and you wondered what they are up to. Some would wish to think that those are ‘traditional toothbrushes’ or breath fresheners or just thought it as a habit of these people. Well, the sticks are called Mgombero- the African Viagra.

The roots are well known among the people of Western Kenya especially men who believe it adds value to someone’s sexual life. It is recommended for men whose virility is seen to be low. However, the results are not instant; an individual has to use mgombero for a given period. Consequently, it is also believed that mgombero has a vital substance that treats teeth diseases as well as keeping one’s breath fresh.

omukombero, african viagra
A customer buying omukombero dubbed "African Viagra" that Luhya men have used for centuries to boost their sexual libido.

Mgombero has offered Western Kenya residents especially the youth from Kakamega town and its environs a business opportunity offering them an income generating platform. Young men are seen within Kakamega town and other Western Kenya and North Rift towns with the mgombero roots stashed in a bucket, tray, or basin, selling a piece from as little as Sh5 to a bundle of over Sh1000.

Apart from being used as a vitality booster, mgombero is also used as an appetizer. And just like miraa, mgombero is chewed with groundnuts as well as chewing gum or even with miraa. In some instances, the roots are dried and crushed into powder and added to tea, porridge or even water when being used as an appetizer.

For this reason, some people have planted it in their homesteads where they only have to dig up the roots, just like cassava, wash and chew them while still fresh or dry them for future and longer use. Mgombero is mostly grown in Butsotso and Ekekho areas of Isukha while some are imported by hawkers from Uganda.

Besides, the roots are found in plenty in the Kakamega equatorial forest where locals spent a lot of time, and energy in searching for the plant to dig for the roots while others look for seeds to plant at their homes.

Source: Westfm


Busia the sleeping giant that is about to wake up

Busia Town
Busia Town, is a major border point and headquarters of Busia County but some politicians want headquarters shifted to Nambale.

By John Shilitsa and Ouma Wanzala, Dec 6 2010
Busia County has two border crossing points into Uganda – Busia Town and Malaba – which are important sources for revenue but the cash streams have not been optimised. Although Uganda is among the key importers of Kenyan products, not a single manufacturer has set shop in Busia Town. In the recent past, banking institutions have set base in the town to tap the local potential, especially among the unbanked in the informal sector. By and large, trade still originates from Nairobi and Mombasa, making Busia County as a transit point only. Insecurity and poor infrastructure are among the problems that still dog the region.

Although the flooding in Budalang’i has not been experienced this year, it is one of the major disasters that destabilises the economy of the area. The county boasts of five constituencies namely Nambale, Amagoro, Budalang’i, Funyula and Butula. Courtesy of the Interim Independent Boundaries Commission, Busia got two more electoral zones – Teso and Matayos. The county has a rich potential of crop farming including sugar cane, tobacco, cotton, finger-millet, rice among others.

Other economic activities such fishing in Lake Victoria near the flood-prone Budalang’i constituency, tourism at the famous Funyula hills and revenue from cross-border business add to already many opportunities at the disposal of close to 500,000 people living there. And for that potential to be met, the area leaders would better resolve fast the row over county headquarters that is still an explosive issue.

Some leaders are rooting for Nambale while others insist that Busia Town is the most appropriate. Teso County Council chairman Moses Otee says that Teso leaders and residents are comfortable with Busia Town as the headquarters. He warns that wrangles over the headquarters should not be tolerated saying that Nambale will inconvenience the county residents who come from areas as far as Budalang’i. Similar sentiments are echoed by Kenya National Union of Teachers Busia branch executive secretary Godfrey Odongo who says that Busia Town is a central location.

However, Bukhayo North civic leader Jack Wambulwa disagrees with those who want to have the headquarters in Busia Town saying that it should be at Nambale. Amagoro MP Sospeter Ojamong says unity among area residents and leaders will lead to faster development in Busia County. “Since the creation of several districts, each community has been on its own and there has been some suspicions but now that should be history,” Mr Ojamong, who is also assistant minister for Labour, observes. Mr Ojamong discloses that he will be going for the governorship position.

Expectations are high among the locals who believe it would be possible for the county to rise up from ashes if several defunct cotton processing plants are revived and farmers empowered to start from where they left over two decades ago. According to 2009 population and housing census results, Busia County which covers Budalangi, Nambale, Amagoro, Funyula and Butula constituencies has a population of 488,075 people. Busia County has no factory except the stalled Busia Sugar Factory that was initiated in 1990s but never operated and has been used by politicians in the past for political expediency during electioneering.

The politicians who seek to win the electorate’s loyalty always promise to ensure the factory is operational once they ascend to power. Promises from the government either, that investors would revive the factory, has not borne fruits. A fish cooling plant at Marenga in Budalangi, which was established by European Union and the local community, stalled after Bunyala Fishermen Co-operative Society purchased a sub-standard cooler. The county has also been in the past associated with illegal trade in early 1980s to 1990s but now the county will be trying to shade off the image. The county will be cashing on cross-border trade being in an area where major exports find its way into the Great Lakes regional countries such Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and DR Congo. A new entry point set to be constructed at Mulwanda in Samia district will be a bonus to the county.

Area MPs Paul Otuoma (Funyula), Ababu Namwamba (Budalangi), Chris Okemo (Nambale) and Alfred Odhiambo (Butula) have not indicated whether they will be going for governorship or senator’s positions. Those being mentioned as potential contenders of the governorship position are Turkana Central District Commissioner Humphrey Nakitare, governance consultant Kizito Wangalwa and Amagoro MP Sospeter Ojaamong. Former VP Moody Awori has been mentioned for the senator’s position but it is widely understood that he no longer has interest in politics.

Dr Otuoma, who is the Sports and Youth Affairs minister, says politics focused on development will lay the foundation for sustainable development in the county. The minister observes that it is through proper political leadership that the county will be able to attract investors who will be vital in the development of the county. “Mere politicking won’t add any value to the development of our county but progressive politics is what we should encourage,” adds Dr Otuoma.

He rules out any possibilities of different communities in the county sharing political positions, saying that residents of the county should be allowed to elect their leaders in future, without politicians imposing a leader on them. “It should be an election to determine who becomes what in the positions created by the new Constitution and not few people sitting round the table to agree on how to share out positions amongst communities,” said Dr Otuoma.

Source: NATION


Leaders mourn over Bungoma's lost fortunes

Bungoma Town
The main street in Bungoma Town. There was a time, Bungoma was so rich it lent money to the Queen of England, according to local folklore. But with the collapse of Panpaper Mills, the county's fortunes have taken a heavy beating.

By Robert Wanyonyi, Dec 6 2010
Bungoma County, the third largest, faces myriad challenges, including collapse of factories. The fortunes of the county, which was among the richest districts at independence, have dwindled, with residents blaming bad politics for the regression. Leaders still boast of a time in 1964 when Bungoma County lent money to the Queen of England. Coffee and tobacco trade thrived in the early 1970s at Chepkube, Lwakhakha and Malakisi markets, but has since collapsed following economic hardships that saw major firms fold up. Collapsed Pan-Paper Mills was a major source of income for residents of Webuye.

President Kibaki led a team of Government officials in the reopening of the paper firm a few days to the August 4 referendum. But the factory went back to sleep only a few days after the Head of State left. Workers at Webuye’s Pan Paper Mills have since petitioned the Government to come out clear on the fate of the factory. They accused senior Government officials of misleading them to vote ‘Yes’ at the referendum on the promise the factory would resume operations. "Are we like chiefs and assistant chiefs who were used to campaign for the new Constitution only to be told later their positions would be scrapped," said a worker, who sought anonymity.

Kenya Union of Printing, Publishing, Paper Manufacturers and Allied Workers, Webuye branch, has been asking the Government to come out clean on the matter. Alfred Baraza, a member of the union branch advisory committee, says the Government must address the matter. Pan Paper Mills was closed on February 18, last year, after Kenya Power and Lighting Company disconnected electricity over Sh100 million debt. Over 4,000 workers lost their jobs after the paper mill collapsed. More than 30,000 tree farmers in Lugari District could run at a loss if the Government fails to revive the company.

The World Bank’s private investment arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) also stands to lose if Pan Paper Mills collapses. IFC stands to lose more than Sh2.1 billion in equity if the factory shuts down. Sugarcane, another major local cash crop, has also taken a beating. The Government faces criticism from cane farmers contracted to the giant Nzoia Sugar Company (NSC) over the appointment of the current board of directors, most of who the farmers accuse of doing business with the same firm.

"Sugarcane is the main cash crop for the people of Bungoma County and now that we will govern ourselves, the elected leaders have a daunting task of making farmers to believe in cane farming again by addressing problems in the sector," says Joash wa Mang’oli, the chairman of Nzoia Outgrowers Company. Nzoia Sugar Company is the only surviving firm in the county.

The leaders will also have to contend with reviving collapsed factories like the Kitinda Dairy, and Malakisi Cotton Ginnery. They will also fight to ensure Mt Elgon District, which has no industry or a factory, is also provided with an income generating activity that can employ the youth. But that is not the only challenge, Leaders from Mt Elgon fear being put in one county with the Bukusu, who dominate Bungoma.

"Most people here have reservations over how the new positions will be shared because they fear the Bukusu may use their vast numbers to share positions among themselves," says former Mt Elgon MP Wilberforce Kisiero. However, some of the aspirants for the Senate, including former Trade and Industry Minister Mukhisa Kituyi and Ford-Kenya Chairman Musikari Kombo, have dispelled the fears.

Source: STANDARD


Like a sphinx, Vihiga prepares to rise from backwaters of underdevelopment

Luanda Market in BunyoreGambogi in Tiriki
Luanda Market (left), the commercial hub in Bunyore and the upcoming Gambogi market in Tiriki (right). The county of Vihiga is set for major changes following the promulgation of the new constitution that has done away with provinces and after 2012, will bestow financial management to elected county governors.

By Benson Amadala, Nov 13 2010
Vihiga is a moderately densely populated county of 600,000 people whose economy relies heavily on agriculture. It is made up of four constituencies: Sabatia, Hamisi, Emuhaya and Vihiga. The county has a fairly smooth network of tarmac roads, but residents have raised concern over the poor condition of the Majengo-Luanda road and the busy Kisumu-Kakamega highway that is battered and full of potholes. The poor condition of the roads has dampened the enthusiasm of residents, who are calling on the government to repair the two key roads and other infrastructure to boost the new county’s economic prospects.

The battle for the posts of governor and senator has already begun to shape up, and Hamisi MP George Khaniri has declared an interest in the senate seat in 2012. The MP has served for three consecutive terms and would like to try his luck in the senate race. “I have done my best to serve the residents of Hamisi as their MP, but in 2012 I will be going for the senator’s position,” Mr Khaniri said after throwing his hat in the ring. The scenario is similar for the position of county governor, and several candidates have already lined up for the contest.

Those in the gubernatorial race include Alice Kirambi, the chief executive officer of the Christian Partners Development Agency, a non-governmental organisation involved in rural community development projects. Others being mentioned in the governor’s race are Gaylord Avedi and former Sabatia MP Moses Akaranga. Deputy Prime Minister MusaliaMudavadi, the Sabatia MP, has not publicly declared whether he will run for county office. Unit of development In a series of public meetings, the Local Government minister has maintained that the county should be viewed as a unit of development and warned that politics should not be allowed to overshadow county functions. Vihiga MP Yusuf Chanzu and his Emuhaya counterpart Wilbur Otichillo have not indicated whether they would seek any county posts.

Vihiga County boasts the leading tea factory in Western Province located at Mudete in Sabatia constituency which serves 13,514 farmers from Sabatia, Shinyalu, Ikolomani, Hamisi and Vihiga. The factory, located on the Chavakali-Kapsabet road, produces more than 10.6 million kilogrammes of tea a year. Vihiga County is a unique region with captivating and contrasting geographical features. The Kaimosi forest straddles Hamisi constituency and parts of Sabatia. The breathtaking beauty of the undulating rocky hills to the west in Emuhaya and Vihiga constituency could become a major tourist attraction.

Prospecting for gold and other minerals is under way at Kichutu mines in Vihiga and Kaimosi forest. Families in some parts of the county eke out their livelihoods from tiny patches of land etched on rocky hills while others have turned to selling of food and other income-generating activities. But despite the small size of the land owned by individual families, residents are excited about prospects of better times to come as leaders try to identify the unexploited potential in the region.

The mayor of Vihiga municipal council Eliud Kihusa said there was no doubt the county had a huge potential in terms of agricultural production that could turn around the high poverty levels among communities. “Our biggest strength as a county is the enormous potential we enjoy in terms of human labour and the challenge for the leaders is to identify opportunities to convert the potential into productivity,” said Mr Kihusa.

Political leadership Ms Kirambi says poor political leadership is to blame for high poverty levels. “For a long time we had leaders who were out of tune with the needs of those they represent, and that has contributed to the poor show in terms of development and infrastructure in the county,” Ms Kirambi said. Rural electrification is considered a major boost to small-scale industries, while the good climate could support horticultural production as well as dairy farming. Health facilities in the county include the Sabatia “eye” hospital, the Kaimosi mission hospital and Kima hospital in Emuhaya. The main government facility is located at Mbale. Masinde Muliro University has opened a campus at Ebunangwe in Emuhaya while a private university, the Kaimosi Friends University, has opened its doors to students.

Source: NATION


Cassava farming set to revolutionise farming in East Africa

cassava (emioko in Luhya)
Cassava tubers set to be cultivated on a commercial scale in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

By IRIN, June 7 2010
Perishable, poisonous if mishandled and reputedly fit only for the plates of the poor, the cassava plant is set for an east African makeover by agronomists who hope to unlock its potential as a cash crop with a host of industrial uses. The key, they say, is to add value locally.

A programme led by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Farm Concern International (FCI), and various partners aims to improve the food security of small-scale farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The hope is also to capitalise on cassava’s utility as a source of products such as animal feed, glue, bio-fuel, and glucose syrup. New varieties with higher yields, less cyanide and better resistance to drought and disease are part of the project.

“We are planning to set up 120 village processing units [which chip, dry and grate] within the next three years and to reach about 30,000 farmers who will learn how to increase commercial cassava production and to process it,” Kennedy Okech, programme manager of FCI, told IRIN.

Farmers will be encouraged to switch from growing maize to cassava, with up to half the tuber crop going to industrial use.

While cassava copes with drought and poor soil better than other crops, in east Africa “it has been marginalised because of its perishability if improperly treated. It also requires extensive processing to eliminate poisonous potassium cyanide,” Stefano Sebastaini Kuoko, of Tanzania’s Horticulture Research Institute (HRI), told IRIN. Cassava cannot be stored safely without drying and processing.

The project will benefit from the work of Joseph Kamau, who has developed more than a dozen improved varieties of cassava at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. His team is developing varieties that mature quicker and contain more proteins.

Kamau explained that the concentration of cyanide in cassava increases as temperatures fall and decreases as the tuber dries. As a result, cassava is particularly poisonous during rainy seasons.

“We are working on crops with less cyanide to support the safety of consumers. Through our improved seeds, farmers have seen the advantages of generating income from selling cassava produce,” Kamau told IRIN.
At the Nairobi launch of the project, Karen Nasubo, a Ugandan farmer, told IRIN she was already a convert.

“I’d always thought that when there is maize in the markets, cassava doesn’t sell. [But] for the past two years I have been using the improved crop variety, MH97/2961, resistant to drought, pests and with a maturation period of eight months. In one year I produce 7MT to 8MT of cassava per acre [0.4ha] from which I earn about 1,500,000 Tanzanian shillings [US$1,034]. With the money I make from the commercialization of cassava, I could send my kids back to school.”

Kenyan farmer Everlyne Oswat said cassava had suffered from the lack of a sustainable market. “Farmers used to sell individually and at their own prices. In some [times] of the year there is a surplus while in others there is nothing. This programme will help farmers learn the times to plant and harvest for more sustainable production.”

While the village-owned processing units are designed to deliver advantageous economies of scale to buyers, savings schemes partnered with commercial banks will also be established to offer the credit required to purchase inputs.


Drought a blessing to Lugari farmers as they shift to high-yielding crops

By Pius Sawa , March 23 2010

LUGARI DISTRICT, Kenya (AlertNet) - Western Kenya's Lugari district has long been a maize-growing area. But worsening drought, believed linked to climate change, has made the region's once-reliable staple an increasing risk. "When I planted maize, the rains disappeared when the maize had reached knee height. The whole farm dried up and I had nothing for food. My children could not go to school because I relied on maize as a cash crop also," said Dan Asembo Shaban, a farmer and a father of five. But farmers like Shaban have found an answer to their problems: Shifting to new crops that are both drought resistant and income-boosting.

Shaban now has divided his one-and-a-half-acre farm into plots for sweet potatoes, grain amaranth, cassava and sunflowers. He also grows a variety of maize called Pioneer that matures in a quick seventy five days. A quarter-acre of sweet potatoes, he says, produces ten times as much income as the same plot of maize would have brought. Now he sells some of his crop at the nearest market, buys what maize he needs and uses the rest of his profits to pay school fees for his children. "I have been growing maize since 1964. But maize has taken me nowhere," he said. Worsening drought has shortened western Kenya's maize-growing season. Five years ago, farmers in Lugari spent February preparing their land for the early rains. But now the rains come late. The land is dry, rivers run dry and life is hard for livestock and plants as well as people.

Roselida Atienoamaranth in lugari
Roselida Atieno, a farmer in western Kenya's Lugari district, weeds her young amaranth crop. The quick-growing, high-protein grain is replacing traditional maize crops in the drought-hit district and boosting income for farmers.

STAPLE MAIZE BECOMING A LUXURY

Maize, once a staple, has become a luxury, its production so unreliable it cannot be a source of food and income, as it once was. But with help from researchers and funding from Kenya's government and international partners like the World Bank, other quicker maturing crops are now being adopted. Sweet potatoes, sunflower, grain amaranth, millet and soybeans are some of the new crop varieties that mature within three months and now give farmers three harvests a year, up from two with maize. Sammy Tiego one area farmer, has become one of the country's top small-scale producers and recently won an award as Kenya's best grain amaranth farmer. He is able to harvest 150 tons of the grain in a year from his three-acre piece of land.

Much of Kenya's amaranth crop is sold to processors, who mix it with other grains to make flour for bread and porridge. Amaranth is considered an immune-boosting food for people with HIV/AIDS because of its high protein content. Tiego now describes the changes in the rain pattern as a blessing, because grain amaranth is drought resistant and growing it has boosted his fortunes. "As you can see in my farm, the maize is struggling to survive, but the amaranths are celebrating," he said. Tiego says he was won over to growing amaranth, which is native to the Americas, after experimenting with a small plot in 2007, and reaping an overwhelming harvest, enough to pay his children's school fees for the year. Amaranth is harvested three times in a year and farmers can grow it using only farm manure from livestock and poultry as fertilizer. The grain is also productive in many ways, Tiego said. When young, the plant's leaves are eaten as a green vegetable. When mature, the grains are milled. After threshing, the remains are fed to animals.

Marita Shikuku, another small-scale farmer and mother of three, says she now understands climate change as a measure of how much food she can produce from her small plot of land. She now grows cassava, sweet potatoes and millet, producing enough to feed her children and bring in income for the family's other needs. The new crops have brightened a once-dim outlook for the future in the area, turning a burden into a blessing, farmers said, particularly when combined with other climate change adaptation projects in the area, including tree planting, water harvesting and flood mitigation.

Pius Sawa is a freelance science journalist based in Nairobi.


Ancient city discovered in Ghana

By our correspondent, Feb 18 2010
Eighty ancient clay figures have been discovered by archaeologists at The Universities of Manchester and Ghana, showing that a sophisticated society - now forgotten - once existed in West Africa. They are the latest - and most impressive - batch of the beautifully sculpted human and animal figures, between 1400 and 800 years old, unearthed from a series of mysterious mounds in a remote region of Northern Ghana. The mounds, which also contain human skulls, are thought by Ghana's Dr Benjamin Kankpeyeng and Manchester's Professor Tim Insoll to be the sites of ancient shrines.
Ghana's lost cityGhana lost cityghana figurine
Ghanaian archeologists preparing to dig up the fields where an ancient city once existed. Together with a team of researchers from Manchester University, England, they have dug up several figurines like the two above which provides powerful evidence that a thriving city once lived here several generations ago.

Using state of the art analysis of the number, context and arrangement of the figurines, Dr Kankpeyeng and Professor Insoll hope to gain insight into the past ritual practices and beliefs of this sophisticated society - filling in a gap in our knowledge of that period in Africa. Hundreds of mounds are densely packed in an area only 30km square: it took just two weeks to excavate the 80 figures in January.

But illegal excavation of the treasures means the archaeologists are in a race against time to ensure they are safely removed."These finds will help to fill a significant gap in our scant knowledge of this period before the Islamic empires developed in West Africa ," said Prof Insoll."They were a sophisticated and technically advanced society: for example some of the figurines were built in sections and slotted together.”

Dr Kankpeyeng said: "The relative position of the figurines surrounded by human skulls means the mounds were the location of an ancient shrine."The skulls had their jaw bones removed with teeth placed nearby - an act of religious significance." Prof Insoll is to carry out analysis funded by the Wellcome Trust of the residues of material which were packed into holes within the figurines to provide more clues about the society. He said: "We are certain these people filled the holes with something - but the question is was it medicinal substances, or blood or other material from a sacrifice?"It's the first time such analysis is being done, with the help of colleagues from the University's School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences."

The first excavation of the burial sites took place in 1985 with others in 2007, 2008 and 2009 carried out by The University of Ghana. Some of the figures have been taken out of Ghana - with permission of the authorities  - for analysis in Manchester by Prof Insoll who joined the project this year. He said: "There are still many questions remaining: some of the figurines were deliberately broken and placed besides body parts. Why?"

Dr Kankpeyeng said: "What is interesting is that the people now living in this area seem to have no connection with the makers of the figurines". "That would suggest that that they have more in common with peoples living in other parts of West Africa - but we need to do more work before we can be certain".


Lugari chief says Gods must have been crazy not to bring computers earlier

By Dedan Okanga, February 6 2010
Senior Chief Paul Makete types a letter on his computer, prints it and hands it over to a woman waiting outside his office. He then leans back in his chair, a smile crossing his face. Makete, who initially relied on an old typewriter, has every reason to be happy. He says since he acquired the computer, services have improved. He is able to perform multiple functions, a feat he could only dream of a few months ago. "Previously, we did not have even a photocopier, and when we wanted to summon say 50 people, we had to type 50 letters one by one," he says. His small office, which serves Kongoni location of Lugari District, is perhaps one of the busiest in the district.

The three sub-locations he presides over have a population of 50,000 people who look up to him for solutions to their problems.Registering births or deaths took ages and that probably explains why many children in rural areas do not have birth certificates. But all this changed when locals, led by a Nairobi businessman Kent Libiso, donated a computer to the chief. The initiative borrows from community policing concept where locals supplement Government programmes aimed at improving public service delivery. The programme, which aims to reduce long queues, will hopefully change the perception of locals who curse every visit to the chief. It now takes less than half a day to register 100 newborns and draft more than 200 acknowledgement letters for teenagers seeking identity cards. The computer savvy chief does not have to worry about losing data to arsonists. "I walk home every day with my flash disk and whenever I travel I can work in a cyber cafe," he says.

Paul Makete
Kongoni Senior Chief Paul Makete (right) receives a computer from Kent Libiso in Lugari. Photo: Peter Ochieng

He plans to acquire a laptop to enable him work from the comfort of his home, even during holidays. Libiso says due to lack of equipment, administrative officers are often forced to refer their subjects to higher offices for cases they could deal with. "If we empower the chiefs to deal with issues at the grassroots, we increase the efficiency of the entire system," says he. The Government has in recent times recruited computer literate chiefs but lack of equipment has meant they cannot employ their skills. In Lugari, chiefs who are not computer literate have gone back to school to enable them use the new equipment. "Chiefs are influential and when they embrace technology, they become pacesetters for the entire community," says Libiso. Embrace technology The programme, which also involves introduction of computer classes for public schools in rural areas, has been on course for the last six months. According to the sponsor, the intention is to supplement on-going Government efforts to bridge the digital divide. "Our focus now is Lugari, and we began with chiefs but in the long run the target will include vulnerable groups like orphans and women," he adds. The initiative, however, faces challenges in remote parts of Lugari due to lack of power.

The prospects of computer literacy in such regions are largely dependent on the success of the ongoing rural electrification. Computer literacy Residents now want the Ministry of Energy to hasten the process. Many computer enthusiasts travel to Eldoret and Kitale towns for services. "Volunteers can help improve computer literacy but only after the Government plays its role of providing electricity," says Ms Esther Bukachi, a primary school teacher. For Bukachi and other villagers who have previously lost data in the hands of chiefs, the development is welcome. Her two sons did not vote during the last General Election because they could not get identity cards in time. Makete and the other chiefs who received computers hope they will use the new data storage for census, an idea they hope the Government will buy. "Chiefs will have updates on the demographic trend and the Government will not need enumerators for physical counts and related information," he says.

Source: Standard


Webuye's shocking decline into a crime ridden ghost town

By Daniel Wesangula, August 3 2009
In just five months, life for residents of Webuye Town in Western Kenya has turned into a nightmare following the closure of the Pan African Paper Mills in February. The locked shops and clusters of idle youth underscore the decline of a once vibrant trading centre on its way to becoming a ghost town. When Pan Paper opened its doors in 1970, residents of this western town saw it as a harbinger of good things to come. And, for several decades, business did boom especially in bars and restaurants. Webuye was well on its way to becoming a major town in the region.

Vivienne Keya, a 25-year-old environmentalist who was born in the area, concedes that things were good for awhile, but that the good life came at a price. “There was some money going around the town. People had a bit to spend,” she said. “But Pan Paper came with employment in one hand and serious environmental degradation in the other.” Ms Keya, an officer with the Green Belt Movement, said the harm the company did to the environment outweighed the few positive things it did.

As far as she and other environmentalists are concerned, the giant paper mill caused irreversible damage to the surrounding community and the micro-climate of the area has been changing as the years go by. “Look around,” she said, pointing at the roofs of rusting corrugated iron. “Some of these houses are less than a year old, and their roofs are already rusted.” The culprit, she said, was the acid rain caused by the sulphuric gases the factory emitted in the process of making paper. “Imagine, then, what the rain does to the crops and the surrounding vegetation,” she said. In spite of these negative aspects, life in Webuye centred around the factory, and when it was shut down, life more or less came to a standstill. “There is nothing left for us here,” said 35-year-old Joseph Wafula. “I am thinking of following one of my friends to either Nairobi or Mombasa. Maybe they might have something for me to do.” Mr Wafula, an electrical engineer, was one of the 30,000 people who depended on the factory for his livelihood. He said that although he wasn’t paid a lot, it was enough to ensure that he could cover most of his family’s needs.

panpaper mills, webuyewebuye town
Webuye's Pan African Paper Mills. The factory has been the heart of the town for more than 30 years. Its closure five months ago has driven the town's economy to total collapse.

“I was able to pay school fees for my children, buy food, give my wife some pocket money and even spare some change for a good time in town,” he said. “Now I have nothing.”Many of his friends have left town. “As a man, you cannot sit at home and do nothing,” he said. “The walls will not give you food at night or pay your bills, and if you stay behind, what will you be doing?” Some of those unable to leave have chosen a life of crime. Gideon Nyongesa, another former Pan Paper employee, sees no harm in it. Sunday Nation found him seated in Flyover, an area many residents call one of the most dangerous places in town. “We are the ones who do ‘things’ around here,” he said. “We are not proud of what we do, but right now there are only two options on the table: steal or die of hunger. And no normal person would knowingly choose death.”

Area District Commissioner John Litunda admitted that since the closure of the factory, the crime rate in Webuye has been rising, something he attributes to the increased number of idle youths in town. New beginning But some former workers have managed to make a new beginning in other lines of work. Zakaria Weloti, 26, was a casual labourer in the factory. At the end of each day, the father of one daughter took home Sh110 with which he bought food and other basic commodities. Now he is a boda boda driver, a much better job for him. “I can make up to Sh300 on a good day.

If I had known about this earlier, I would have quit ages ago,” he said. He plans to buy his own motor bike. “When the company reopens, I will withdraw all the money I had put in the savings and credit society, purchase a motorbike of my own and move on,” he said. But he is not quite sure how much money he has saved in the sacco as there has been no official communication from officials since the sacco shut down. When the paper factory went under, so did a school, a dispensary and the Pan Paper staff savings and credit society. Sacco members who spoke to Sunday Nation say the society had more than 1,000 members. And while many Webuye residents know the mill came with its faults, they would rather live with its harmful effects than in their current situation.

“We know the smoke from the factory is not good for us. Our children get chest infections, the little that we plant fails at times. But better this than a life that has stood still,” said Mr Wafula. Like many others, he is eager to see the factory open its gates once more to the community. “We have had so many promises from the government and the receiver manager coming our way that we stopped anticipating when the factory will be reopened,” said Mr Watiti, who doubles as a representative of workers to the company’s management. “There’s too much politics involved in deciding the future of the company.” Life could have been somewhat easier for former employees had the company stuck to an agreement it made with them earlier in the year.

According to Mr Watiti, before the employees were sent on a compulsory three-month leave, it had been agreed that they would be paid 30 per cent of their base pay plus a full housing allowance; those living in the company estate were to be housed for free. “None of this has happened,” said Mr Wafula. Instead, their power and water were disconnected, and the clinic, where they and their families used to be treated free of charge, was closed down. “There is nothing we can be proud of any more,” Mr Waititi said. “The town is a shadow of what it used to be. And the people walking the empty streets are mere shells of what they used to be.” But the environmentalists see it differently. For them, this is the kind of break the town needed. “The break might not be a big one,” Ms Keya said. “But it is nice for a change to wake up to fresh air and a clear sky.”


Masinde Muliro University wakes up sleeping giant

masinde muliro university
Masinde Muliro University now has more than 5,000 students

By Allan Kisia, May 14 2009
Kakamega was once infamous for being a dull and dormant town, but it is now vibrant thanks to the youngest public university. Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, which started in 2003 with less than 100 students has grown remarkably in the past six years. With 5, 000 students and an additional 1, 000 expected to join the institution in August, Deputy Vice- Chancellor (Academic Affairs) Asenath Sigot recalls the journey the university took to get here.

She says residents did not welcome the university warmly as they thought it would negatively affect them. "Everywhere we went to look for land and other facilities people complained the university was taking over everywhere," she says. The university can only accommodate 2, 000 students with the rest being forced to live in private hostels. Many staff commute from Kisumu and Mumias.

Kakamega, Western’s provincial headquarters, has since been experiencing rapid growth of investments and inhabitants. Consequently the town is experiencing an acute shortage of housing. Sigot says the university has rented several buildings in town and turned them into hostels. However ,this has caused a shortage of office space.

"One investor keeps asking me if he should put up more buildings to accommodate our ever increasing students," she says. But some residents are not happily as they struggle to find affordable housing. Landlords have increased rent by up to 50 per cent. "There is no building in this town that is idle these days," says Sigot. A two-bed room house goes for between Sh8, 000 and Sh10, 000 and a three-bed-room for between Sh12, 000 and Sh15, 000. The increase in population has resulted in water shortages.

The Vice-Chancellor Wangila Barasa says the institution is putting up two major building, a laboratory and a library at a cost of Sh150 million. "We sometimes go all the way to Kisumu or Nairobi to buy building materials," he says. But hardwares have since begun to stock building materials to keep up with demand. The supply of steel, says Baraza, has been steady this year. "When we close for holidays, traders at the market and boda boda operators suffer," says Sigot.

Owing to a demand for furniture there has been a boom in carpentry. "I guess Nakumatt Supermarket is being put up because of the university," she says. The town only had three guest houses three years ago.

Source: Standard, May 14 2009

Mumias: Melting pot of culture and religion

By Stephen Makabila and Joel Okwayo, May 6 2009
Mumias town is Kenya’s leading sugarcane producer. Evidence of sugar is all over the town and its environs in giant billboards and logos on street light poles. But there is more to sugar in this western Kenya town of 30,000 people than meets the eye. The town is also western Kenya’s melting pot of culture and religion. Mumias town, which became an urban council in 1988, has the richest history among the towns in the province.

Ceremonial seat

Formerly called Lureko, Mumias is the ceremonial seat of the once powerful Luhya Kingdom of Wanga. King Nabongo Mumia, who assumed power in 1880 and was the last sovereign of the Wanga, reigned from Mumias. The town has a rich history related to the Wanga kingdom, Islam and the Anglican Church. It is also home to Mumias Sugar Company.

People speak with pride and nostalgia about ‘our kingdom’ although its influence is now only ceremonial. After the death of Mumia in 1949, his son Shitawa succeeded him. He lorded over the kingdom till the late 1970s. Mumia II succeeded Shitawa, but he does not enjoy the trappings of power like his predecessors.

mumias town

Mumias Town’s main street. Formerly known as Elureko, Mumias has 30,000 people.

The king’s role today is cultural, but the royal family still draws some stipends from trade in the town council. Members of the Wanga royal family, including the king, are still closely linked to political leaders as well as their royal ties of the Abashitsetse clan.

Past trade

In line with its history, the mayor of the town, Mr Patrick Sakwa, is referred to as "Meya wa Bawanga" (Wanga’s mayor). Muslims have a presence in the town because of past trade links between the Wanga Kingdom and Coast before independence.

The town is the headquarters of Mumias District, hived off Butere-Mumias. Mumias Sugar Company is the economic powerhouse of the town. It is also a major employer. The mayor says plans are afoot to expand the town to fit the status of a city. The council has installed streetlights on major streets, courtesy of the sugar miller.

Other development plans lined up for Mumias include Sh1.1 billion projects -building water, sewerage and sanitation infrastructure financed by the World Bank.

Academic centre

Local MP Ben Washiali says the project will supply the town with clean piped water and build a modern sewerage system. Mr Washiali says there are plans to establish a Sugar Technology campus affiliated to Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in the town. He says the college would conduct research and improve sugar production in the region. Sakwa says five acres have been set aside for the campus, and hopes it will turn the town into an academic centre. Mumias boasts schools such as the St Peter Mumias Boys’ Secondary School, St Mary’s Girls and Booker Academy.

The mayor says another five acres has been set aside for building houses by the National Housing Corporation. "We are prepared for major developments as soon we expand the bus park to cater for motorcycle and boda boda (bicycle) operators," Sakwa explains. He says the plans have to be implemented now that a Sh20 daily levy on motorcycles has been introduced.

The Aids scourge has not spared the town. To help fight the disease, a local NGO, Poverty Eradication and Health, has trained more than 250 peer educators and sponsors more than 20,000 residents affected by HIV and Aids. Executive Director Justine Mutobera says more than 300 grandmothers take care of Aids orphans in the district. "The town has contributed to the spread of the scourge, courtesy of the sugar factory," says Mutobera.

The town which was part of the larger Kakamega District still lags behind in terms of growth. Apart from the plan to establish a campus, the town lacks middle level tertiary institutions. But residents say with its elevation to a district they expect Mumias to grow due to the influx of civil servants. This, they say, would attract more investors to the town thus spurring economic and social growth.

Source: Standard


Mugabe is a Luhya and so is George Bush!

A community in Kenya has come up with a unique way of fighting tribalism and racism -- by localising people's names.


By Denis Lumiti, March 3 2009
According to Luhyas, Kenya's second-largest community, everybody in the world hails from their tribe. George W Bush, Graça Machel and Jacob Zuma are just some of the tribe's many sons and daughters scattered over the world.

They all have Luhya names by which they are known locally: for Luhyas, their names were coined around where they happened to have been born. No wonder then that it is only in this community that you will find people giving the names of famous people from across the world to their own sons and daughters.

Luhya elder Karoli Alukuma explains that the localising of people's names has helped them to view the world as one home and that members of the community take pride in the achievements of people around the world whom they consider "their own".

"We are the most non-tribal, nationalistic and global community in Kenya and perhaps in Africa because we treat everybody around the world as a member of the Luhya family. We feel proud of their achievements no matter their country of birth," says Alukuma.

In Luhyaland, Bush is referred to as Shisakha, which is a Luhya name for a cover of trees or thickets. If you hear Luhyas talking of George (which they pronounce as Chiochi) wi Shisakha, they mean George son of Bush. To them, the outgoing United States president's father is their son who just happened to have been born in the US and decided to call himself "Bush" as it is English.

US president elect Barack Obama is simply referred to as Upaama, a Luhya name meaning somebody who concentrates on whatever he does. When Obama was contesting the election, many believed his success derived from his strong concentration on the campaign. But for many Luhyas John McCain is also their son, just like Obama, and they would have been comfortable if he had won. Here, they refer to him as Chiooni Makani. Makani is a typical Luhya name and Chiooni has been slanted from John to sound Luhya.

Condoleezza Rice has no first name here. She is only referred to as Muchele, the Luhya word for rice. It is common to find many Luhya women being referred to by only one name.

"This has happened to me," says Grace, a mother who hails from the Luhya community. "I named my daughter Condy Peace Rice, but these names have vanished from people's lips and they simply call her Muchele."

One of the Luhyas' 18 sub-tribes is called Idakho. Luhyas thus believe an Idakho son or daughter founded the state of Idaho. And Luhyas who visit the US believe their trip is in vain if they fail to get to the state.

Graça Machel elicited a lot of excitement when she was recently in Kenya as part of a Kofi Annan-led team to broker peace after the disputed presidential election.

For many years, they have referred to her as Keresa wa Mashalia (Graça of Machel). Mashalia is a traditional Luhya name, whereas Keresa is a coinage from Graça to suit the Luhya dialect.

Luhyas have long known Annan as Mukofu wa Anami: Mukofu in Luhya means a wise old man and Anami is also a typical Luhya name, but sounds similar to Annan.

So Luhyas believe their son Mukofu and daughter Keresa were godsends for their motherland to bring peace and that it is because of their local blood that they succeeded in ending the presidential impasse very fast.

They also regard Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe as one of their own, and you will hear some of them complaining that "Roboti" Mugabe has let them down, though others strongly stand by him. Many Luhyas are called Mugabe or Mukabi (a person charged with the responsibility of sharing with other people).

A Luhya MP, Dr Bonny Khalwale, remarks that Mugabe is "our blood. Even his Shona tribe, just like the Ndebele, is a member of the Bantu group just like us. We are where we are and they are where they are because of the search for land and other opportunities."

Luhyas gave these names to all these well-known figures even before they attained their current status. And the community believes they have always done things right.

So Jacob Zuma is fondly referred to as Tsuma, a Luhya name meaning "a man of strong character and ability". He is also a Luhya son, and if he visits the community one day, he might be shocked by the kind of support he enjoys here.

Source: Mail & Guardian


Crying stone of Ilesi revered

By Stephen Makabila, Sunday February 22 2009

At the top of a hill three kilometres south of Kakamega town stands the mysterious Crying Stone of Ilesi, a clearly visible landmark on the left of the highway as one drives towards Kisumu.The rock formation resembles a solemn head falling on weary shoulders. From its top, ‘tears’ flow down the length of the column, about 40 metres long. Legend has it that the ‘tears’ never stop flowing, but the mystic stone was dry when the Sunday Magazine team went calling, although it was stained a dark green colour from the many years of ‘weeping’.

queen jedidah

Queen Jedina and John Shikhomoli walk near the Shimichiro cave. In the background is the Crying Stone of Ilesi.

For anyone at the foot of this phenomenon, the most striking feature is that it resembles a gowned figure, perpetually in tears flowing from ‘head to toe’ - an image spiced-up by myth and folkfore. For the Government, it is simply another tourist attraction within the Western Kenya tourism circuit. And to scientists, it is a formation consisting of a large boulder balanced on a column of rock with water flowing from a groove in the middle. Indeed, geologists describe it as an acid plutonic rock consisting mainly of quartz, alkali, feldspar and mica.

However, the stone is held dear and is of great cultural and spiritual importance to the Luhya community and the Isukha sub-tribe in particular. The Isukha live around the rock’s formation.

"To visitors, it is just another attraction but to us locals, it affects our lives in many ways just as it affected the lives of our forefathers," says 78-year-old John Shikhomoli. The community has resisted the take-over of the crying stone by the Government or private developers who would like to build a resort in the area. Villagers say when the stone cries, it is a good omen, signalling a bumper harvest, for instance. When there is drought, the community carries out rituals here to persuade the gods to bring rain. Other rituals are performed to allay disasters.

There is a symbolic meaning when the stone ‘cries’ when it has not rained, villagers say. Shikhomoli says the site is also used for cleansing victims of incest in families.

Ritual cleansing

"There is a cave under the crying stone called Shimichiro, where those involved in acts of incest are cleansed before they can be re-accepted into the community," explains Shikhomoli. The cleansing process involves those affected going to the cave to be administered traditional herbs, normally prepared by respected elders.

According to testimonies, so effective is the cleansing, that no misfortune comes the way of those cleansed thereafter. During sacrifices to appease the gods for rain or to avoid looming calamities like famine, several animals are slaughtered in nightlong festivities held at the foot of the crying stone. Women and children don’t participate in these festivities which are exclusively a men only affair. The women’s role is to prepare food for the rituals. "We prepare the food for our men who take part in such rituals but we are not allowed to participate otherwise," Queen Jedina, 65, explains.

After performing the rituals, the men usually slaughter a bull, a sheep, a goat and some chickens to go with traditional foodstuffs such as ugali made from millet flour for the feast, explains Shikhomoli. On the night of the ritual, Isukuti dance troupes brought in from various parts of the region entertain those in attendance.

shikhomoli

Shikhomoli points to the entrance of Shimichiro cave where those involved in acts of incest are cleansed. Photos: Benjamin Sakwa/Standard

The crying stone is so revered that folk has it that it even fought wars for the Luyha. One of such stories dates back to pre-colonial times. Local elders say there was war between Luhyas and the Nandis over the boundary of the two communities. During one instance, the Nandis tried to pull down the stone, which they believed gave the Luyha immense supernatural powers. At the end of the day, more than 100 Nandis died.

"The Nandis thought the stone was helping Luhyas to miraculously out-stage them and all of those who attempted to floor it perished," explains. Shikhomoli.

This, he says, shows that the stone has magic powers and can protect the local people against any evil designs by enemies.Overnight pilgrimage. The crying stone is also of religious importance as churches such as Legio Maria and Rosary Church make pilgrimages to it, camp there overnight as they fast and kesha (hold night-long prayers).

"We receive Legio Maria members from far away areas like South Nyanza who come to worship here in seclusion. They believe they can communicate better with God that way," says Kelvin Juma, a villager. He says some of the religious groups decide to camp at the site while crossing into a new year or celebrating Easter festivities, among other significant holidays.

Musicians also make good use of the crying stone to promote their music in terms of a scenic site to record videos. Jacob Luseno and Sukuma Bin Ongaro have at one time or the other used the stone as background for recording their music."We believe they do so because it makes their music even more acceptable among our people when familiar landmarks like the crying stone features," says Pius Wekalao, a Kakamega resident. Wekalao adds that some people even visit for egotistical reasons. "They come to be photographed at the foot of the stone, so that it can be recorded in history that they were photographed there."

Despite the bad state of the Webuye-Kakamega road and the Kisumu-Kakamega road, several foreign tourists visit the crying stone annually."On average, we receive between 300 and 500 foreign tourists every year," notes one of the youths who guard it and usher in visitors.Local tourism Local tourism also thrives at Ilesi. For example while driving along the Kakamega–Kisumu road, it is common to see Kenyans stopping their vehicles beside the road to have a glimpse of the stone.

Schools and colleges from the Western Kenya region and other parts of the country also tour the crying stone as part of their academic or educational tours. Whenever a vehicle branches towards the stone at Ilesi, villagers flock out of their homesteads immediately to welcome visitors, with some demanding some cash. Foreign visitors are charged higher rates by the villagers than local Kenyans or other Africans.

"We may charge a foreign tourist Sh500, but locals pay around Sh200 to witness this great landmark that is nature’s wonder within the region," adds another villager. The Sunday Magazine was no exception, as it had to part with Sh200 to reach the site and carry out interviews with the villagers. Villagers believe with improved roads linking Kakamega with other towns within the Western Kenya region, more visitors can flock Ilesi and improve its revenue.

"We always hear funds have been allocated to improve the Kisumu-Kakamega road and the Webuye-Kakamega road but their deplorable state has remained the same for years," they lamented. The villagers also question why the government has been highlighting the crying stone as a leading tourism attraction within the region, yet it cannot even improve the diversion from the Kisumu-Kakamega road to the site. And true to their word, accessing the site is not easy for the urbanised lot, for you have to meander through rough patches before getting to the mystic rock. That is what you have to do to satisfy your curiosity. Source - Standard on Sunday, 22 February 2009


Traditional ceremony splits Bukusu community

By Robert Wanyonyi and Stephen Makabila
A carnival mood has descended on the greater Bungoma District as the month-long circumcision festivities gain momentum.


bukusu

A candidate inviting relatives to his big day, in Bungoma. PHOTO: ISAAC WALE

The practice is part of the cultural activities of the community and its done in August every even year.
It is estimated that between 25,000 and 35,000 boys are to face the knife, known as ‘lukembe’, in a transition to adulthood.
Schoolboys abandoned classes weeks back and have been going around villages with jingles, ‘chinyimba’, and traditional head gears ‘ekutwa’ to announce to relatives and family friends their day of reckoning.
School children in uniform have been common features along major roads and highways. They have been escorting the candidates and singing circumcision songs, some obscene and others abusive. Although most schools in Bungoma have not closed the number of children reporting to school had reduced.
"Traditional circumcision among the Bukusu is deep-rooted and it is very difficult to change the practice because it is part of our culture that has to be preserved at all costs," said Mr John Simiyu, a 60-year-old elder in Kanduyi.
Conservative Bukusus, among them elders, political leaders and even leading professionals support the rite, although Christianity poses a challenge to its survival.
Assistant Lands Minister Silvester Wakoli and his Kimilili counterpart Dr Eseli Simiyu urge the community to preserve its culture.
The Inter-Christian Fellowship’s Evangelical Mission, (Icfem) based in Kimilili, has since 2002 circumcised 16,000 boys, in hospitals, and its crusade is currently paying considerable dividends.


bukusu circumcision

A Bukusu circumciser from Maliki village, in Webuye sharpens his knives in readiness for the rite.

"This year, we have 16 circumcision centres in Bungoma, Trans-Nzoia and Lugari to circumcise boys who do not prefer the traditional way," says Mr Solomon Nabie, Icfem’s director.
The organisation is targeting at least 12,000 boys this season. Christians are opposed to traditional circumcision rites.
"In this era of HIV/Aids, one of the identified avenues for the transmission of the virus is traditional circumcision. Boys undergo a ritual that involves cutting of their foreskin by medically unqualified circumcisers who repeatedly use unsterilised knives," said Nabie.
He says the ceremonies are accompanied by immoral activities, which lead to schoolgirls being impregnated, youths being infected with venereal diseases, and an increase in insecurity.
Nabie says performance by primary schools in national examinations during even years is not impressive in the district since a lot of time is wasted over the festivities.
Dr Nyukuri Mulati, a lecturer at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology says cultures that are retrogressive should be abandoned. He, however, says circumcision decisions are made at the family level.
"Traditional circumcision breeds poverty. A home can have as many as 1,000 guests or even more during the ritual and they all have to be fed," says Ms Evelyne Namalwa.
In 2002 workshop convened by the provincial administration it was established that the minimum cost of traditional circumcision is Sh25,000.
Nabie says the cost is much higher given the inflation in the country.
"Today the traditional ceremony may not cost less than Sh60,000," adds Nabie who says hospital circumcision costs less than Sh1,000.
The chairman of the Bukusu Association of Traditional Circumcisers Dr Isaac Misiko, however strongly dismisses this line of thought, saying most community members are preserving their culture. Circumcisers are drawn from all fields.
Schooled circumcisers
A case in point is this year’s rites, where six primary teachers, two secondary teachers, two medical doctors, one university lecturer and three elected councillors form part of the traditional circumcisers.
There are several clans of the Bukusu from which the circumcisers are drawn from. They include Bayaya, Bamasike, Basime, Baleyi, Basonge, Baengele and Bakhoma.
"Many community members never allow their children to be circumcised in hospitals. About 70 per cent do it traditionally," says Misiko.
He says traditional circumcision gives blessings to the initiate.
"The knife is sterilised because it is sharpened and kept hot throughout the night ahead of the ceremony. We also use one knife for each initiate," adds Misiko. He says circumcisers are trusted and honest and are carefully chosen. "We usually ensure circumcisers have no wounds on their hands, must be mentally sound and must know traditional practices that enhance hygiene," says Misiko.
He also claims the cost of traditional circumcision is usually exaggerated. He says a family requires around Sh35,000 to carry out the ceremony.
He however says traditional circumcision has some challenges, which include failure to dress the wounds immediately after circumcision. The mud that is used to cover the initiate may not be safe from germs.
Wakoli, says traditional circumcision should be maintained as part of preserving culture. He says there is need for the Government to train traditional circumcisers on the proper hygiene.

Source: Standard


Chetambe offers refuge to Babukusu

The photograph shows the original setup of the traditional homestead and giant fort on the slopes of Chetambe Hills which is 1685 metres above the sea level north of the present Webuye town, Bungoma East District in Western Province. The fort was founded by the ruler of Abangachi, Chetambe Yifile.

There were seven gates around the enclosed circumference of the fort. The Fort had cattle kraal, houses for the families where other close relatives also lived. The centre was a sacred tree (Omutoto) which is regarded holy and the elders prayed and paid their respect to their ancestors to bless their lives by offering an animal sacrifice. The community living here was the family of Abangachi or “Ngachi”. The community practiced sacred activities that were conducted during funerals by the traditional priest, called “Omusena Omusee”.

They practiced subsistence farming growing crops like corn, millet, bananas, cassava, potatoes etc and cattle keeping for diary and meat.  

As the strongest fort in the region, Chetambe was designed in such a way that it offered protection to the inhabitants from any external attacks. The perimeter wall running around the fort was several meters high, which was hardened by the clay soil, mixed with the rocks that were drawn from the rocky hills just metres away. The wall enclosed the entire homestead on eight acre farm with seven giant gates as outlets.  The wall had small holes that were used to spy any enemy hiding around the fort. The community had high level of entertainment by their traditional Litungu (harp) which offered rhythm to their music .They had a class of strong young energetic men to offer protection in case of external attack.

One of the most memorable event involved an old lady called “Makonjo” who led a queen fowl symbol during the famous war of 1895 at Chetambe. The community maintained strong relationship with neighbouring communities. It was through this spirit that the community easily accepted to host the large troops of Babukusu community who were running from their residential fort of Lumboka after a bitter duel with the British colonialists. War with the British resulted in over 400 people dead and the fort destroyed.

 

THE KENYA GOVERNMENT RECOGNISES CHETAMBE FORT:
Apart from the present proposals to rehabilitate the fort into a Museum, in 1981, then the Minister for Culture, the Late Hon. Jeremiah Nyagah paid visit to the site with the Western Provincial Commissioner on a fact finding mission. He planted a tree still alive to date; this is a symbol of the Fort in Kenyan history. Other Ministers who have been on site are:  Hon. Noah Wekesa, tourists from Germany, Denmark, and University students writing theses.

PAUL KAKAI CHETAMBE
P.O. BOX 403 WEBUYE 50205 KENYA
CELL:+254726881997,+254710970743
pazzykk@yahoo.com

chetambe

Location and business opportunity

There have been proposals to put up satellite dishes of major cell phone operators in Kenya, Safaricom and KBC TV, who have established within a walking distance from the fort neighbourhood. The present residents at the fort, are the direct descendants of Chetambe se Yifile, great grand children who have proposed to different stakeholders including the Kenya Tourism Board to rehabilitate the fort.

Clash of customs as father-in-law becomes husband

By Benson Amadala, March 12 2008
A sleepy village in Kakamega North District has been engulfed in a furious storm over the decision by a 45-year-old widow to be inherited by her father in-law.

kakamega
Wilson Mulunda Ndunde with his two wives, Rosemary Bosco (traditionally a daughter-in-law) and Susie Ayuma Nyangala (right) addressing the Press at their village. Photo/STEPHEN AGWATTA
The mother of two has defied tradition and provoked the wrath of a clan upon herself. The woman, who was married to a member of the Kabras sub-tribe, has stunned villagers after she accepted to be inherited by the uncle to her former husband two months ago.  The bizarre relationship between Rosemary Bosco and her new-found love Wilson Mulunda Ndunde has shocked relatives and puzzled villagers in Mukaba, Mahira sub-location.

The former primary school teacher turned farmer is married to two other wives with several children. But his rather large family does not seem to worry him and he appears keen to devote his energy to caring for new wife. But as the English saying goes, Love like grass chooses where to grow...no matter whether it is on rocky patch.

For Mr Ndunde, his love for Rosemary is steadfast and there is no going back despite the uproar that the affair has ignited in the sugarcane growing village. Relatives and neighbours have frowned upon the affair and decided to isolate the couple as a way of punishing them. When villagers see them approaching, they either turn back or take a different direction, but that appears to have only helped harden their resolve to stick together.

Attempts by desperate relatives and elders to convince Rosemary and Ndunde to end their relationship have so far borne no fruit. If the tension generated in the village by the saga is anything to go by a nasty confrontation pitting clan against the couple could be in the offing should the elders have their way. The elders who include close relatives of Mzee Ndunde have given the “couple” an ultimatum to severe the relationship to avoid bringing a curse on members of the Abatsikha clan or be banished from the village. The elders decided at a recent meeting to evict Mr Ndunde and his new “wife” from the village and demolish their semi- permanent house before organising elaborate cleansing rituals.

Cleansing rituals

A family spokesman, Mr Isaac Shiundu Musava, said elders from the Abatsikha clan were outraged by the unacceptable conduct of Mr Ndunde. “As a clan we have decided to kick out the couple if they chose to ignore out traditions and customs and engage in a bizarre relationship that could bring a curse on members our families,” said Mr Musava, a retired primary school headteacher. His views were echoed by retired senior chief John Maina, who is related to the family.

“What has happened has never been heard of in this village and should not go unchallenged. The couple should be advised to respect our traditions and the decision taken by elders and stop the shameful affair,” said Mr Maina, a former chief for South Kabras location.

But the couple has vowed not to give up without putting up a fight. When the Nation caught up with Mr Ndunde and Rosemary, they were actually spoiling for a fight with the aggrieved relatives and elders. Rosemary says she is least bothered by the hue and cry about her love affair. She says the death of her husband, Bernard Bosco Obuya, 10 years ago, had plunged her life into misery and suffering.  Her dead husband, who was a General Service Unit sergeant, died in 1998.

“I had two children with husband before his death. My husband had also married a second wife and got two children with her. But after the burial of my husband, his relatives began scrambling for property and mistreating me,” said Rosemary. She said she had finally found solace after Ndunde, who had stood by her in her years of tribulations, proposed that he was ready to inherit her. Rosemary, who is from the Mwironje clan of the Isukha sub-tribe in Shinyalu, says she did not find the proposal strange.

The couple has reported the eviction threats from elders to the police and consulted a lawyer over the matter. The lawyer has written to the clan warning of legal action should the elders try to eject the couple from their rural home. A copy of a letter from the lawyer dated, February 26 2008, reads in part: “That the resolutions of the meeting are repugnant to justice and hence our client is not bound to obey the same. Our instructions are to demand...that you cease from interfering with the freedom of our client and his constitutional rights. Take notice you shall be held liable for any damages which may be suffered by our client as a result of your illegal actions.”  Buoyed by the assurance from his lawyer, Mr Ndunde said he had began preparations to formalise the “marriage” after he recently visited her parents in their village in Shinyalu.

Whipped mercilessly

He said he had been well received by his would be in-laws and had began preparations to buy two head of cattle to send to his in-laws. Mama Ruth Kiteresi, who is from the Chagaa tribe in Tanzania and is married to a member of the family, described the relationship as shameful. “Back home, the couple would have been summoned before elders and ordered to strip naked and then they would have been whipped mercilessly in public before being fined for their misbehaving,” she said.

The Mahira assistant chief, Mr Moses Mulefu, said he had referred the matter to the area chief so that both the parties could be summoned to present their case before a final decision could be taken.

Source: Nation


Four daughters and a funeral

By Jack Nduri , Feb 15 2008
When Siprina Akoth Omach left her rural home in Nyanza for Naivasha five years ago, she had nothing. However, she had hope that she would make life better for her family.

siprina

Mrs Siprina Omach (centre) addresses mourners. With her is Mr Odoyo Alloyce (left) and Kokwanyo Ward councillor, Mr Okinyi Rao.

For the next two years, things looked up for her and her children since she found a job in a flower farm. But that hope was rudely disrupted when chaos broke out in Naivasha last month. Instead of good tidings, Akoth took back to her village four corpses, tears and regrets when she eventually found her way out of Naivasha."I went to work so I could pay my children’s fees. But now they are dead, burnt to death," she says amid sobs.

The mother of seven had been invited to Naivasha by a close relative to take up a job at Panda Flower Ltd in 2003 to supplement her husband’s meagre income. The husband ran a welding business in Kisii town.January 27 started just like any other day and Akoth reported to work in the morning.

Being a Sunday, her children stayed in their house at Kabati estate to prepare for school. "I woke up at 6am as usual and prepared for work. But at around 9am we received information that the town was on fire and people were being killed,’’ she says.

" Even houses were being burnt.…I felt confused and all that followed was total darkness. I asked to go home but could not reach there as gangs had taken over the town, hacking and beheading people with all manner of weapons."

coffins

Coffins bearing remains of her children. Picture: Jack Nduri

Police officers who were at the company’s gate advised her not to leave the compound. She says there were many youths wielding pangas and crude weapons. She says in some instances, passengers were pulled out of vehicles and hacked to death. At this point, Akoth had a feeling that all was not well at home where she had left four of her children.

The situation got out of control and Akoth and other members of targeted communities were moved to the Naivasha GK Prison. But determined to establish her children’s whereabouts, Akoth convinced the prison authorities to escort her to the house that had been reduced to ashes. "I was lost for words. I saw complete darkness and I watched as the officers loaded charred remains of my four children into a lorry and proceeded to the mortuary where I was asked to identify them for tagging,’’ she says.

Her daughters Beatrice Achieng’, 28, Florence Akumu, 18, Sally Awino, eight, and Maureen Atieno, five, had been burnt alive inside the house. For over two weeks, she was among the over 4,000 internally displaced persons at the prison’s compound. She says there was no information on when or how she would eventually reach her rural home and bury her children.

"I was completely cut off from my relatives. We had no food, water or other essentials. We stayed in the cold, waiting for help in vain. "Then on February 9, my name was called out, and I was told some leaders from Kasipul Kabondo had arranged for my transport home together with the bodies,’’ she says.The burial of her four children was not just an ordinary funeral in Nyanza Province but a forum to condemn the atrocities and laxity of the police.

One of her children had to be buried immediately because the body was discomposing. Villagers in East Kokwanyo Sub location of Rachuonyo District turned up in large numbers for the burial. For some, this was the first time to see more than one coffin at a funeral in their village. Gloom engulfed the village and tears flowed freely as hundreds of stunned mourners openly wailed and cursed the perpetrators of the violence. Akoth’s children were buried on the left side of the gate outside the home, in line with Luo culture that prohibits burial of girls inside their parents’ compound.

Source: Standard

INTER TRIBAL MARRIAGES OFFER ONE OF THE BEST HOPES OF BRIDGING ETHNIC DIVIDES BUT AS THE TWO STORIES BELOW INDICATE, MARRYING OUTSIDE YOUR TRIBE COULD ALSO PROVE FATAL IN A SITUATION LIKE KENYA TODAY WHERE CERTAIN TRIBES FEEL CHEATED, IGNORED OR WRONGED.

Kikuyu wife brings misery to one Luo man

By Muliro Telewa

Professor David Habel Odongo, from the Luo ethnic group, married his wife, a Kikuyu lady, more than 20 years ago. All this time, they have lived in Dunga in western Kenya. But he tells the BBC's Muliro Telewa why, in the inter-ethnic post-election violence, his family's livelihood has been lost and his wife's life threatened.

I was targeted because I am married to a Kikuyu. There is no other reason why they should have attacked me and identified me. They were attacking selectively. At about 0830 local time (0530 GMT), a big group of people not numbering less than 300, wielding pangas [machetes] and axes, came to my guest house and hacked the gate down.

Some ran, charging straight in, broke the windows and literally everything. Not even just breaking - some were smashing things onto the floor. Why, why, why? They took away a lot of things; maybe 50 tables and gas cylinders.

kikuyu lady
This lady, like Professor Odongo's wife, had to flee for her life

Why, why, why? Why did they say they were doing this? They did not come to argue or to listen to my pleas. I asked them, now, why have you come to destroy my things? I am a fellow Luo like yourselves. None of them could answer me. In fact, they were shouting. They didn't even want to listen to me.

They just marched in and broke into all the rooms, took away all the bedding, the mattresses, the beds, the mosquito nettings - anything that they could lay their hands on. The total cost of what has been destroyed is 13-15m Kenyan shillings ($180,000-210,000). I have been married to my wife for over 20 years and I have lived in Dunga for all that time with my lady. We have grown up children - they are at high schools in Uganda.

Last night, I sent my wife away because after those people destroyed everything we had, they said they would come for her. So the police rescued her and my mother-in-law, who had been visiting. We took them to the airport and got them tickets and flew them to Nairobi. I have since called the chief of the area where the attackers came from, asking him to come and talk to his people. It's a tribal issue the fact that I am married to a Kikuyu. They don't see her as Odongo's wife, they see her as a Kikuyu.

 

Source: BBC Africa

Kikuyu husband flees leaving Kalenjin wife behind

CHEPKANGA, Kenya (AP) - He never calls. He never writes. His phone has been switched off for weeks. After 17 years, Naomi Kering's husband is gone, one more interethnic marriage strained by the tribal violence that has followed Kenya's disastrous presidential election.

In the riots and ethnic violence following the Dec. 27 vote, love has not been immune. Marriages that united different ethnic groups are now splitting up as communities shun the Kikuyu tribe of President Mwai Kibaki, whose disputed re-election unleashed a wave of bloodshed that has killed at least 685 people.
«The kids always ask me, 'Where is he?' And I always say he is going to come back,» Kering, a 34-year-old Kalenjin, told The Associated Press as she stood in the burned-out rubble of her home, which a mob torched last month because her husband is a Kikuyu. «But I hope he stays away, because I love him and I want him to be safe.
The ethnic unrest following Kibaki's re-election has torn at the fabric of Kenyan society, forcing families to confront tribal identities many had cast aside long ago. And while relationship troubles may sound frivolous when stacked up against the bloodshed, marriages like Kering's had represented hope for what Kenya could be as a nation.
The breakups are a sign of the deep and abiding toll of the election's violent aftermath.
«This election has changed the very essence of these marriages,» said the Rev. Charles Kirui, a Catholic priest in the nearby town of Burnt Forest, where hundreds of Kikuyus took shelter in his church. «Marriages are breaking up because of a tribal conflict, which means we really have a problem in Kenya.
There are no figures on how many marriages and relationships are ending because of tribal strife, although deepening ethnic divisions are ravaging the society, particularly in the heart of opposition territory in western Kenya. Tribal tensions are not new here, although the election has sparked the most bitter _ and, some fear, lasting _ hatreds yet in a country once seen as a stable democracy on a violent continent.
After independence in 1963, then-President Jomo Kenyatta flooded this region, native to the Kalenjin and Luo tribes, with his Kikuyu people. The Kikuyu settlers quickly prospered, growing into the most powerful of Kenya's 42 ethnic groups, running businesses and politics. But favoritism shown to Kikuyus fueled old resentments.
Some of the worst clashes since the election have pitted Kikuyus against the Kalenjin.
Kering said she never imagined the bloodshed would jeopardize her marriage to Isaac Guthua. The couple fell in love more than 15 years ago, when he would stop by the beauty salon where she worked nearly every day just for a glance of her.
On the night the election results were announced, however, Guthua said he could not stay. Kikuyus were being hunted down and slaughtered. As Kering cooked dinner and Guthua watched the news, they heard screams in the distance _ a mob was coming for Guthua and other Kikuyus, including his two brothers who lived next door with their Kalenjin wives.
«We came out of the house and saw people with torches,» Kering said. «They burned our house.
Guthua, knowing she would be spared because she is not Kikuyu, told his wife to take care of the children, ages 17, 15 and 8. Then he took off at a run with his brothers, Steven and Mwangi. The three have not been home since, and their wives say the marriages are over, their husbands too terrified to return.
«We never had a problem before this election,» said Kering's sister-in-law and neighbor, 27-year-old Eunice Kinyanjui, who is pregnant with her second child with Steven Guthua. «We lived happily in our family until this disaster.
The women are too scared join their husbands, wherever they are, because of the hatred Kikuyus face. They have decided to stay behind and face an unsympathetic community.
«The people here, they say, 'Who told you to intermarry?»' Kinyanjui said, adding that they have not been targeted for violence, only shunned. «We are now useless to the community, they don't talk to us, anything.
Kemei Gilbert, 18, a Kalenjin who was manning a roadblock in the area, said the women deserved no sympathy.
«These women are not our problem,» Gilbert said. «In Africa, when a woman marries, she belongs to that community.
Kering and Kinyanjui both say they are confident their husbands are alive. Kering's husband called her two days after he fled, telling her he would likely go to Nairobi. Kinyanjui hasn't heard from her husband of three years, but he told her as he left that they might meet again.
«I'll just believe that one day, one time, he will come,» she said, her face wet with tears.

[source:http://www.pr-inside.com/print404649.htm

masakhwe
Phitalis Masakhwe - leading the disabled cause

Lessons to be learned

Now is also the time for us all to learn lessons, to ensure that disabled people never again experience these kinds of problems. The media must report on the disabled people and their stories and should be helped to understand the importance of this issue. Disabled People’s Organisations will also need to work with relief agencies and Government to explain the importance of recognizing and prioritizing the needs of disabled people in emergency situations. There are many lessons to be learnt. 

Yet these are important and essential lessons. Kenya must not sit back and allow disabled people to suffer to such an extreme; not now or ever again. Focusing on the plight of disabled people and helping rebuild their lives will play an important part in restoring Kenya to the peaceful, tranquil and caring country that we all know and love. Let’s start now.

 

The writer, a sociologist has a physical disability. He is a senior Resource Development Advocacy and Campaigns Manager with Leonard Cheshire Disability LCD East & North Africa Regional office based in Nairobi. He has worked and lived in Afghanistan and Sudan. He can be reached on Phitalis@lci-enar.org/mphitalis@yahoo.com

Impact of post-election violence on the disabled

By Phitalis Were Masakhwe
Some time back I wrote about the Rwandan Genocide and its impact on disabled people; the untold story. It never occurred to me that one day I would be writing a similar story about disabled people in Kenya. The flawed presidential election and the ensuing violence throughout Kenya have rattled the peace and tranquility that the country has long known.  The reasons for the current situation are varied, politics, long-standing ethnic differences, and historical injustices and imbalances, particularly the issue of access to and distribution of resources and opportunities. 

However, whatever the reasons that got us here, the affect of the violence has been consistent.  Widespread violence and killing, looting and destruction of property, and over 250,000 people forced from their homes into Internally Displaced Persons camps across Kenya. The media has reported widely on the fate of victims of the post-election violence and relief agencies have performed admirably in building temporary camps where displaced people can receive food, water, shelter and security.  However, one group has noticeably received little media coverage and has often been unable to access the aid provided; Kenya’s disabled people.

Media coverage, admittedly, has not ignored the plight of disabled people during this period.  Who can forget the pictures of the empty wheelchair in the Church burnt down in Eldoret?  Yet, in the main disabled people and the results of violence against them during the current crisis has gone unseen and unheard.  How many more reports, articles or pictures can you think of?  Myself, not many.

Disabled people have also gone unrecognized in many of the Internally Displaced Persons camps.  Over the past few weeks I have visited various camps and witnessed first hand the difficult conditions that disabled people are facing.  They are often unable to access food and water as they are not physically strong enough to queue or even at times push through the crowds to get supplies.  Many disabled people had to abandon their wheelchairs and crutches, etc in the flight from their homes and were carried to camps by friends and relatives.  They are now confined to sitting in the same spot all day, dependent on friends and family to feed and clothe them.  For many, not only have they lost their homes, but also their independence and livelihoods.

Many camps have also failed to recognize that people with hidden disabilities, such as diabetes or epilepsy, have urgent health care needs.  I have met parents whose disabled children have died because they cannot access the simple health care which their lives depend on.  This is not to criticize the many agencies that have done an incredible job under the circumstances, but I believe it is important to highlight the fact that disabled people often struggle within these camps.

Yet, in many ways disabled people who made it to the camps are the lucky ones.  I have met people who had to leave their disabled relatives and friends at home or on the road when they fled as they were simply unable to carry them.  What has happened to them?  I fear that this will forever remain an untold story. We must also not forget the number of people who will become disabled as a result of the violence sweeping across Kenya.  The link between conflict, emergency situations and disability is not disputed.  Conflict creates disabled people through increased rates of injury, lack of medical care and disruption of medical health care services.  Where is the commitment from the Government and relief agencies to tackle this imminent problem?

This is not, however, solely a Kenyan problem.  Persons with disabilities are always disproportionately affected by disasters and conflict.  Disabled people suffer most from the loss of assistive devices, the disappearance and loss of family members or carers, and from a lack of medication and health care.  Consequently there now exist international laws protecting disabled people.  Article 11 of the new UN Treaty on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights and Dignity of Disabled People, for example, requires states to take all necessary measures to “ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence natural disasters.”  These laws have to be actively observed and acted upon by all parties to the current crisis in Kenya. As our leaders struggle to bring an end to the violence and disruption in Kenya we must all start to focus on the plight of disabled people.  Disabled people and their families continue to experience problems, such as difficulty in accessing information, food, water and shelter and are likely to be placed in temporary housing not necessarily in line with their wishes.  They are also, especially women and children, particularly vulnerable to exploitation and sexual abuse.  We must make immediate and long-term plans to tackle these issues.

Kisumu bears brunt of police brutality

By Daniel Otieno, Jan 17 2008
A town that had established itself as a regional economic and commercial hub self-destructed in an orgy of violence as gangs went on the rampage under the pretext of protesting the outcome of the presidential elections.

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A building set ablaze by rioters in Kisumu Town in retaliation after Kibuye market was razed last week. Photos/JACOB OWITI
From being the vibrant gateway of the larger Eastern African market, Kisumu has been paralysed by violence, and the aftershocks are being felt in Rwanda, Uganda and other countries which rely on Kenya’s road network for  fuel supplies and for cargo from the port of Mombasa.

It will take years for the town on the shores of Lake Victoria to rise from the debris and regain its lost glory.

Anglican Bishop Francis Abiero said the town was facing “a slow, painful realisation that it could be condemned to endless stagnation”.

Death, blood and tears have been haunting the town since December 30, with authorities estimating that about 50 people could have been shot dead by the police.

Hospitals in the town have over 60 patients nursing gunshot wounds, while 146 others had been treated and discharged, said Dr Julianna Otieno, the medical superintendent of the New Nyanza General Hospital. The number could be higher because there were patients who sought treatment in private hospitals.

The debris of the destroyed buildings mirror the tattered hopes of thousands of people who worked in the town but now face joblessness. Supermarkets, bars, churches and industries are no more. They were looted and burned. On Oginga Odinga Street, two branches of Ukwala Supermarket and two Bata shoe shops were looted and burned by youths. Port Florence Hospital and the Swan Centre, which hosted several shopping outlets, were not spared either. The same fate befell Tusky’s Supermarket and two branches of Kimwa Hotels on Jomo Kenyatta highway. Kimwa Hotels owner, Mr Miriti Muthara, said he incurred loses estimated at Sh40 million.

But managers at both Ukwala and Tusky’s said it was difficult to establish the amount lost because vital documents on stocks were destroyed. On Obote Road, shells of burnt-out vehicles stand at intervals. Not even new cars that had been on display were spared by the arsonists; Looters also stole spare parts from the Crater Automobiles showroom which had six cars at the time. After stealing, they set the showroom on fire.

At the Lake Victoria South Water Board, the car park is littered with burnt shells of 17 vehicles which stand near the office block that was also destroyed by arsonists. Stalls from where estate residents bought groceries were also reduced to ashes as was the Kibuye open air market, which feeds the town and provides employment to many. The town’s industrial area, where hundreds of casual workers used to line up every morning in search of jobs, now looks like it had been attacked by mortar fire.

What started as a street protest degenerated into massive looting within hours. Gangs moved from shop to shop, emptying stocks and then  burning the premises. But unlike post-election violence in the Rift Valley, where marauding gangs were targeting ethnic communities they accused of not voting for ODM, in Kisumu the pattern was more of random looting and burning.

However, it was also only in Kisumu that looters were felled by police bullets. Still, local businessmen have accused the police of not doing enough to secure the central business district from destruction as happened in Nairobi. A senior medical officer at the provincial hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said almost all the deaths recorded in Kisumu were from gunshot wounds.

“From a medical perspective, we think there was a shoot to kill order from the fact that most of those admitted either had bullets lodged in their abdomens or chests,” said the doctor. Mr Aggrey Mwamu, the Law Society of Kenya West Kenya branch chairman, said over 80 per cent of the deaths recorded in the town occurred in residential areas, which in his view, were free of the looting reported in the Central Business District.

But Kisumu police boss Simon Kiragu denied accusations of high handedness and dismissed claims by the lawyer and the doctor as subjective. “The police reacted depending on the magnitude of the violence, but even then, we tried our level best to restrain from shooting more people,” he said.

At the height of the chaos, there were rumours  that the shootings were the work of military officers from Uganda, an allegation that police spokesman Eric Kiraithe later disputed. Before the violence broke out, Kisumu was an attractive town for businesspeople because they enjoyed good returns from their investments. But now, many of them are lamenting after suffering huge losses at the hands of looters and arsonists. The business community, led by the local chapter of the Kenya National  Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has asked the Government to exempt them from paying taxes. They said that they had incurred huge losses and their books of accounts had been destroyed by fire.

The chairman of the Kisumu chamber branch, Mr Jerry Ochanda, expressed doubts that some businesses could be revived. According to him, grants would be needed to help them restock but even then the question of investor confidence still remains because many had fled and had vowed never to return. Mr Ochanda said the losses incurred could run into billions of shillings. According to him, many of the burnt buildings will have to be brought down because they were damaged extensively.

Besides this, Kisumu has been struggling to get its routine supplies of vital commodities because major roads leading to the town still had illegal roadblocks manned by gangs of youths especially in Rift Valley. Many businessmen and professionals doubt that Kisumu can recover soon without massive injection of external help.

“Donor support to micro-finance institutions and other affected groups can help alleviate these problems and save us from collapse,” said Mr Samuel Deya, the executive director of Adok Timo, a micro-finance institution. Mr Deya estimated that small and medium-sized businesses lost Sh50 million due to missed business opportunities and destruction of property. Close to 80 per cent of the such businesses were affected by the violence. These include 184 shops which were looted and burnt leading to a loss of 5,000 jobs. This will adversely affect micro-finance institutions which are unlikely to recover outstanding loans.

Some business premises that have started operations have to incur the extra cost paying for armed security to keep away hungry looters. Besides the business losses, Anglican Bishop Francis Abiero said healing could be hard to come by because politics shattered the harmony communities enjoyed in the past.

“The country is bleeding and the confidence and trust communities had in each other were eroded by the aftermath of the elections. It will take a long time to restore the glory of the town and heal the inter-tribal relations,” he said. The Kisumu police boss has also expressed fears that the once secure town could become crime-prone because major shops and business activities had been grounded and the town had experienced a high exodus of investors. These could lead to further job losses. In the estates, it has become difficult for shoppers to carry home their supplies because of hungry criminal gangs who steal from passersby.

Source: Nation


In Siaya, rural has overtaken urban

By Walter Menya, Dec 20 2007

Simon Ouma is one of the few Kenyans who detest rural-urban migration by those in search of white-collar jobs. 

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Group member Simon Ouma attends to his simsim farm. Photos/WALTER MENYA
28-year-old Siaya farmer can comfortably take care of his family, thanks to a project he and others started two years ago. Today, East Ugenya Community Development Group (Eastcom Group), that Ouma and 29 others started amid jeers from the Bar Ober community, has become the beacon of hope for many farmers in the locality.

It started with 45 kilos of groundnuts for sale, but now receives up to 10 tonnes of the produce annually. And Eastcom has expanded its base to include other crops such as finger millet, simsim and amaranth.  The group introduced a revolutionary approach to farming in an area where many farmers depended on maize and cassava production. 

Their priority crops have for long been given very little thought by the farmers, and sometimes, neglected altogether. “Some people kept asking how we would be able to take care of our families on groundnuts since maize and cassava are the staple foods in the locality,” said Ouma. He continued: “Having been born and raised here, we have very good knowledge of the area and its potential, thus we decided to come together and explore the opportunities available in alleviating poverty and improving food insecurity.”

The idea of forming the group came after the members attended a workshop organised by the Inter-Diocesan Christian Community Services (IDCCS) in Siaya Town. According to the group secretary, Mr Charles Oloo, the training widened their view of the opportunities available and at the same time helped them identify problems affecting their location.

“The major issue in our location has been food insecurity due to poor farming techniques that we have employed for years,” he said. “After the training, about 30 of us came together to start Eastcom. Since we had already been equipped with the knowledge, we found it easy to identify areas of immediate concern,” he said.

With a membership of 30, they settled on groundnut farming that was previously done on less than a quarter acre plots.  They used part of their savings to buy 45 kilogrammes of unshelled seeds from the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).  They planted the seeds in one farm and tended to it jointly. Come harvest time and they were the toast of the village as they surpassed their target. Finally, every member was able to get seeds for individual farms, but still the harvest would be sold as group property.

“At the end of the second season, we had over two tonnes of groundnuts and instead of the seed availability becoming a problem, the market began to shrink,” said Mr Oloo.

In the face of this challenge, it was not surprising that IDCCS, which has been keen to introduce new farming techniques, was again conducting another farmers’ training workshop.  And for the second time, they attended the training on value addition to their produce, he said. After much thought and brainstorming, the group was more than willing to add to their groundnuts more value before taking them to the market. And so they settled on the idea of peanut butter production.

Today, Eastcom is the only manufacturer of peanut butter in the district. They acquired a machine for making peanut butter at a cost of Sh225,000, part of which is a loan from IDCCS. Mr Oloo proudly states: “Even some big supermarkets in Kisumu have enquired about the possibility of us supplying them with our products.”

The machine has a capacity for processing 50kgs per day, translating to 100 cans of peanut butter daily.  The group has entered into contracts with non-members to supply them with raw materials. “We realised that we could not meet the required quantity of raw materials on our own. We have contracted farmers across the location to supplement our production and in so doing, meet the demand for the products,” said Mr Oloo.

And while the groundnuts farming thrives, the group members are not sleeping on their laurels. They are intent on adding more value to their peanut butter.  Recently, the group began simsim farming as part of their value addition to the peanut butter production. According to Ouma, who leads the simsim farmers’ team, simsim is much easier to produce and more nutritious. Thus, they mix it with the groundnuts in the manufacture of peanut butter.

But they are not stopping here; with the help of the Ministry of Agriculture, the group has acquired a machine that they will use to manufacture simsim oil, separate from peanut butter. “We have already finished payment for the machine, which will be available anytime in February next year,” said Ouma.

The bulking of the seeds has began in earnest to enable individual members have enough for their farms, just like they did with groundnuts. They have also invested in finger millet and amaranth farming “so as to have a balanced diet,” says Mr Oloo. Last season, the group harvested five tonnes of finger millet. And the future is even brighter, as the members say, following the expansion of the acreage under millet production. 

The group has leased several parcels of land to expand their activities. For their efforts, several members have been recognised in the district while others have climbed the ranks to become farmers’ trainers in the region.  Eastcom treasurer Perez Adhiambo sits in the executive committee of the Siaya District Farmers’ Forum while Mr Oloo is the farmers’ service provider and educator with the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project (KAPP) in the location. Source - Nation


One game that ruined teenager's life

By Mike Mwaniki, Nairobi, Dec 2 2007

Two years ago, Jacob Ondeko was an up-coming basketballer, whose exploits on the pitch dazzled team-mate and foes at the prestigious St Mary’s School in Nairobi.

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Dr John Ondeko (left) explains what befell his son to the Press at the University of Nairobi's Medical School last week. Photo/ MICHAEL MUTE
Fit and strong, the life of the then 17-year-old basketballer, however, changed drastically when he was injured during a match involving his school and Alliance Boys at the latter’s playground one afternoon in February 2005. The incident did not only force the promising student to drop out of school, but a subsequent botched medical operation irreversibly changed his life, reducing him to a veritable “vegetable”.

His father, Dr John Ondeko, recalls: “As Jacob was chasing the ball, a player from the rival team hit him on his nose, displacing his nasal bone.“Following the incident, I took him to a colleague, who is an ear, nose and throat specialist at Nairobi hospital.” He added: “It is at this stage that the doctor booked Jacob to undergo the five-minute operation on February 11, 2005 at 10am.”

Last week, Dr Ondeko recalled the operation was delayed for about one hour. “After the delay occurred, the doctor was forced to replace the earlier anaesthetist and it was at this stage that I decided to rush to my private practice in Hurlingham, Nairobi, since the team had assured me that all would be well.” However, unknown to Dr Ondeko, the vibrant life of his son would be reversed for ever after the “simple” operation translated to a living nightmare.

“Barely 20 minutes after I left the hospital, I received a telephone call from the hospital informing me that my son had been admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit following a cardiac arrest during the operation.” “I was shocked beyond words since I had been assured that the simple operation would have taken only five minutes,” Dr Ondeko recalled. At the hospital, the radiologist was in for another surprise. 

“The ENT surgeon and the anaesthetist appeared to be cagey and appeared reluctant to discuss with me as a colleague what might have gone wrong during the simple operation..“It is only later that I learned that the anaesthetist had administered toxic drugs, which might have triggered the heart attack. “Although the medical team was successful in resuscitating him, Jacob’s life had changed for ever.”

Dr Ondeko reminisced: “As a medical professional, I was devastated by this turn of events since I realised that my son’s life had been irreversibly changed after his brain was starved of oxygen, following the botched operation.” Dr Ondeko says he had no option but to seek “justice” for his son. “With a heavy heart, I decided to forward my complaint over professional negligence to the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board for necessary action and the Nairobi hospital on March 18 2005.”

The board is mandated to register and licence doctors and dentists to practice in the country.  It also inspects and registers hospitals and clinics countrywide. After holding preliminary hearings on the issue, members of the board, led by the chairman, Prof Julius Kyambi and the registrar, Dr James Nyikal, decided to convene a medical tribunal. And last Thursday, the tribunal members suspended the responsible doctor for three years after establishing that Jacob’s cardiac arrest occurred during the administration of anaesthesia.

“The tribunal finds that doctor is guilty of infamous conduct in a professional respect and hereby has decided to remove her name from our register, while also cancelling all her medical licences,” Prof Kyambi said. However, the tribunal members exonerated another doctor involved of any professional misconduct during the botched operation. “At the same time, the members of my tribunal have decided not to cancel the licence of Nairobi Hospital...

“However, we plan to issue ‘guidelines’ to the institution on procedures to be followed before medical operations are allowed to take place in the hospital,” said Prof Kyambi. “As members of the tribunal, our goal is not to victimise any individual or medical institution, but rather to ensure justice prevails for all,” the chairman said.

Other high-profile cases that the tribunal has handled in the past include the one involving journalist and humour writer Wahome Mutahi, who died following a botched operation and another one involving former President Moi’s physician and renowned cardiologist, Dr David Silverstein, who had been accused following the death of former chief justice Zacchaeus Chesoni at Nairobi Hospital.

Following last week’s verdict by the tribunal, Dr Ondeko welcomed the ruling, but insisted that he would seek further redress in court. “I would like to pursue this issue to it’s final conclusion. I’m not doing this for any financial gain, but would like all colleagues to observe professional ethics at all times. “In our profession, any sort of lapse or negligence could easily lead to permanent damage or death to a patient,” Dr Ondeko said, as his son Jacob, oblivious to the ruling on his heart-rending case, hugged and played with his siblings and friends.

So serious is Jacob’s condition that his siblings are forced to be constantly around him. “On his own, Jacob has a tendency of smashing cups and utensils while also tearing any clothes causing untold havoc in the household,” a despondent-looking Dr Ondeko said. Source: Nation


New commercial fish farming concept that is changing lives in Khwisero

By Tim Querengesser, Kakamega, December 1, 2007

Elphus Okonda climbs onto a small hill and looks down at the five fish ponds on his farm as the falling sun paints the sky lavender and the burble of running water surrounds him.

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Mr Elphas Okonda at his fish pond in Khwisero. Photos/TIM QUERENGESSER
“This was just running through here,” he says, pointing to the stream feeding his ponds. “It was running to Lake Victoria, then to the Nile and to Egypt, doing nothing,” says the farmer. Nearby, Geoffrey Atulo is quietly scalling the same hill. A bumpy ride on the backs of bicycles has brought us here from Mr Atulo’s plot in nearby Khwisero division, Kakamega district, where eight cattle lazily graze near his maize crop and two tilapia ponds. “I use fish to improve my life,” says Mr Atulo.

Three years ago, these two men didn’t know each other, or for that matter the dozens of other farmers on the hills overlooking Lake Victoria who, remarkably, all decided to use the region’s abundance of rivers and streams to farm tilapia and catfish at about the same time. But now the group comes together to share ideas, resources and passion within a 28-member, community-based organisation they created to spur the development of their fledgling fish industry. 

So, while people plying the nearby lake are forced to sail their canoes further from shore in the quest for tilapia, these men and women are growing the same fish the way they know how - by farming it. What changed? They pushed out a corrupt NGO that was blocking them from working together and welcomed a perky Canadian woman with a knack for fish farming and raising money.

Three ponds with dark water sit beside Mr Atulo’s. They belong to Stevie Mang’ula, a shy man who never stops smiling despite his modest success as a fish farmer. He got the idea to supplement the income he receives from his dairy farm with tilapia from Mr Atulo, and says he’s determined to make it. “Animals have been eating the fish,” he says. “I need a fence. But I believe it will be a success, because it is a great idea.” In six months, he hopes to see tilapia help his growing family go to school.

Industrial fish farming is a new concept in many parts of Africa, though it has been practised for centuries in the Middle East. The climate and geography in Khwisero is ideal for tilapia farming, as the soil retains water and is free of sand, which can ruin the water quality, and the rivers and streams that feed into the lake run during both the rainy and dry seasons.  It’s also a natural fit for farmers. Manure from cows and chickens – and food scraps and the refuse from farming – can help feed the tilapia and in turn, feed farmers and their families.

Feeding, however, is just one of many problems encountered by this group. It’s understandable, really, since these men and women have plied the fields for generations but until recently, had never so much as caught a fish, let alone fed one. “They used to put fish in the ponds and leave them and go there and find the fish hadn’t grown,” says Mr Hussein Wechuli, the 26-year-old leader-in-waiting who is helping to bring the group together.

In 2003, Mr Wechuli met aquaculture expert Susan Thompson - the Canadian - in Kakamega. She soon learnt that fish farmers in the area were having problems and asked Mr Wechuli to arrange for her to talk to them. Since then Ms Thompson has been visiting Khwisero and giving farmers nets, feed and loans from her own pocket. With her expertise and dedication to personally get involved she’s feeding the farmers what they need most – a helping hand and accurate information, says Mr Wechuli.

When she arrived, a local NGO had been working with the farmers. But it was, in reality, dividing the farmers and ruining their chances of success with tilapia by feeding them inaccurate information and keeping money that Ms Thompson sent for the farmers for itself, says Mr Wechuli. “It was a briefcase NGO; they were just after her money. They didn’t know how to manage fish farms – they knew how to spend the money. I encouraged her to talk to the farmers directly.”

She did. And in 2004, at a meeting that brought the farmers together, they collectively decided to push the NGO out, create a CBO, and take their advice straight from Ms Thompson. The change has reaped a revolution. Before the meeting, every fish farmer in the area was on his or her own, says Mr Okonda. “Now we can talk together, share news, help each other. When we are together as a group we see changes.”

When Ms Thompson isn’t in the country, the farmers can receive information from her through Mr Wechuli, who keeps in touch with her using email and then relays the advice to the farmers on the ground. It may sound simple, but it’s crucial, he says. Still, whenever Ms Thompson comes to town it’s a cause for celebration – and inquiries. This week, Mr Okonda and 13 other men and women, their eyes full of questions, came to see her in a small room in Khwisero. 

After the praises she receives comes the problems: there are difficulties bringing baby fish – called fingerlings – from Kisumu to their farms without them dying, says one man; we can’t afford to pay for fish food, says another; we need a freezer to store fish for market, says the group together, before adding that the nets Ms Thompson brought them last year have all broken. But an unlikely pride and ownership is undeniable in the room – one that’s severely lacking in many projects where outside money, ideas and resources tries to make a difference on the ground. 

“We are happy you have come to see our efforts and to judge how we are doing with our work,” says Ms Mary Medevo. Everyone claps. And out at Mr Atulo’s fish ponds, Ms Thompson is impressed with what she sees.  What was once a shallow pond without life has flowing water to oxygenate the water, its fish are being fed with feed instead of starving and he has plans to use multiple ponds so different growth cycles can allow constant harvesting, she says.

Mr Atulo, who once chipped rocks to sell to passing lorries for Sh2,000 a month, is now earning Sh10,000 from fish without the hard labour, and has bought himself some cows. But what’s really caught Ms Thompson’s eye is the cooperation and transfer of ideas. “When I look at what they’ve done, the most important thing is that they’re helping each other,” she says, glancing from Mr Atulo’s ponds to Mr Mang’ula’s. “These are all brand new ponds.”

She hopes that in a few years the fish ponds and the community organization will become self-sustaining and that she will pass off her role to Mr Wechuli. Though he’s young, he’s philosophical about the challenges and possibilities fish farming can reap for the farmers.  Like money or land, Kenyans, by nature, keep information to themselves rather than sharing it, he says. All he has to do is keep them in touch with facts and ideas and the rest should sort itself out. 

“In the next five years, if they are given the right information and they co-operate together, I’m seeing everyone being able to support themselves,” he says. “They can be able to take their children to school.” Indeed, the role model in the group is its chair, Mr Okonda.  At his beautiful plot of five ponds – two with hundreds catfish and three with hundreds of tilapia – the biggest problems are now unsuspected guests in the water. 

A catfish has managed to jump into a tilapia pond and is eating the smaller fish. When he feeds the pond it surfaces and reveals an ugly, whisker-covered face nearly the size of a child’s. And then there are the other passers-by. “I found a drunkard sleeping in my pond the other day,” he says, chuckling. “I gave him some food and told him to get out.”

Source: Nation


Memories of visit by Head of State live on

By Barnabas Bii and Luke Kapchanga, Bungoma, Nov 29 2007

It was a rare visit that has turned a rural woman into a celebrity and a heroine in a sleepy village of western Kenya.

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Mama Rosemary Namalwa Njari, 55, a widow and a farmer talks to the Nation at her home in Matisi, Bungoma East District. Mama Njari was visited by President Kibaki at her home last September during his tour of Western Province. Photo/ JARED NYATAYA
When President Mwai Kibaki turned unexpected guest at Mama Rosemary Namalwa Njani’s at Matisi Village, 10-km from Webuye Town, least did she know the visit would earn her such a high status in the society. “They now call me Mama Kibaki. I have continued to receive unknown numbers of visitors, who come to inquire what made the President to visit my home,” says Mama Namalwa.

Although the visit took place two months ago, the widow still recalls the event that has earned her fame as though it occurred yesterday. “Although the visit did not earn me direct financial gain, it has turned to be a blessing, not only to my family, but the entire village. It elevated me to high status and I came to understand how government system operates,” discloses Mama Namalwa.

The widow, who grows bananas, sugarcane, sweet potatoes and beans on her seven-acre of land, says some of those who visit her home want to know how she goes about her farming activities. “My farm has turned into a demonstration field. Most of those who throng the home, including senior government officials, want to emulate my farming techniques with a view to improving their socio-economic statues,” she explains.

The widow, whose husband died in 1991, had a face to face discussion with President Kibaki on September 19 when the Head of State visited her home while on a visit to Bungoma District. Since then, the mother of seven has never looked back. She has done everything possible to expand her farming and venture into poultry and livestock keeping.

“The visit opened doors in my life. Knowledge from people who have kept on coming has enabled me to venture into other income generating activities and boost my financial status,” says Mama Namalwa. But nothing comes without a prize and mama Namalwa has paid for the visit by the Head of State. Although she considers the visit as a blessing, it has, on the other hand, turned to haunt her.

“I have on some occasions received strange visitors who demand to have a share of money they claim I was given by the President,” discloses Mama Namalwa, who confesses that she did not receive a single penny from the Head of State. There is no evidence that the President gave the widow any money. All that he did was to take notes as the woman spent five minutes talking to him. The widow reveals that she has received several life threatening messages and was at one point forced to seek protection from the local provincial administration and Local Government minister Musikari Kombo, who is the outgoing area MP.

“Some people have been spreading rumours that I was given over a million shillings by the President, making criminals to demand a share of the loot,” says Mama Namalwa, adding that she was provided with two security guards to patrol her compound at night when the matter became serious. “I believe in hard work and it is through determination and confidence that I have managed to raise enough funds to take care of my family,” says Mama Namalwa, who pays fees to her fourth born child in University and two others in secondary school.

She, however, calls on the Government to tackle problems facing the sugar sector to facilitate prompt payment for cane delivered to milling firms. “Sugarcane is our main cash crop and the proper management should be put in place to ensure that milling companies pay us promptly for our cane deliveries,” says Mama Namalwa. She delivers her sugarcane to Nzoia Sugar company. The company that has been facing a financial crisis, was recently given Sh300 million loan by the Government to clear accumulated debts and pay farmers their dues.

Mama Namalwa is, however, full of praise for President Kibaki’s leadership, citing free primary education programme and improved agricultural system, and is optimistic that he will be re-elected for a second term. “The President promised to visit us again and I am sure he will do so once Kenyans vote him in for a second term,” says Mama Namalwa. She calls on Kenyans to shun violence during the electioneering period, noting that what mattered most was a steady economy and peace.

“The Kibaki Government has done extremely well in almost all sectors, but it will be up to voters to either re-elect him or vote in another leader,” says the widow. And as she beams in glory, Mama Namalwa calls on Kenyans to elect development conscious leaders, who will address the needs of the poor, especially in the rural areas. “We want leaders who will address the socio-economic issues of the rural people through initiation of income generating projects, and Kenyans should use this election to vote in such people,” advises Mama Namalwa. Mama Namalwa is looking forward to a day when President Kibaki will pay a visit to her home again.

Source: Nation

Tale of abandoned Nyakach projects

By Cosmas Butunyi, Nyakach Nove 12 2007
A huge framework of a building abandoned just before it was  completed catches the eyes of travellers on Kisumu-Kisii road. It was intended to house a cotton ginnery, courtesy of efforts by philanthropists and the local community. 

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The front view of the stalled Community Hospital project in East Nyakach, Nyando District. Photos/ JACOB OWITI
Next to the structure is yet another abandoned building, which was earmarked for a health centre by the same groups. Both structures stopped midway just moments after the health centre, which had been completed, was opened. The health facility was used as a centre to promote primary healthcare, which included immunisation, building pit latrines, provision of preventive healthcare and general health support.

It was at this time that the idea of building a cotton ginnery in the area was conceived. Today, there is nothing to show for the huge investment at Jimo village in Lower Nyakach, Nyando District. The promise of a better life for residents of Lower Nyakach Division - better health and employment opportunities - remains nothing but a dream.

Getting into the compound is tricky as there seems to be no locking mechanism from outside. The caretaker jumps into the compound over the low fence before he removes a huge stone placed against the gates from inside.  The main building and staff quarters had been completed and the facility in operation for three decades before it was closed down for major renovations and addition of wards. 

The wards would never be completed and neither would the health centre reopen. Now, the hospital is an eyesore, resembling the scene of an abandoned city from an old movie.  Sections of the building that were being added to the main hospital are overgrown with bushes, as are parts that had not been roofed when the construction stopped.

From the gate, a narrow path in between overgrown bushes leads to the hospital building. At the reception, window panes that were pulled down during the repairs are gathering dust on one end of the building.  Charts extolling the importance of child immunisation are still pasted on the walls, where a picture of the opening ceremony has pride of place. Sections of the ceiling are rotten, thanks to the roofs that are leaking from more than one point.  Thorns have been placed at the doorway of the backdoor. This had not been fixed when the construction stopped.

Rusty steel covers, to the right of the health centre conceal two large underground concrete water tanks where water harvested from the roof was stored before it was pumped for use in the hospital.  Some water is still trapped in the tank. A  dense layer of cobwebs has formed on the walls of the water tank. A flight of stairs leads to what used to be the hospital’s staff quarters. The hospital’s nurse still lives in the quarters with her family although she found a job elsewhere. 

During the day, the compound is deserted and the house locked as all members of the nurse’s household are away on business.  Eerie silence is occasionally disrupted by squeaking chicks in the bushes surrounding the locked house. The facility’s caretaker, Mr Joseph Mikusa Openga, ensures that no one takes off with the property. His is a thankless task, as he claims that he has not been paid for the last two years. 

“I do it for the sake of the community,” he declares, leaning on his walking stick. Mr Openga and Mr William Yugi, who has since died, took over the caretaker  responsibilities after the building stopped being used.  No one tends the expansive compound, and over the years it is overgrown with weeds. The security of the facility at all times is the responsibility of Mr Openga since after the death of his colleague, he has no one to relieve him.

Conflicting reports abound on the reason for the closure and abandonment of the health centre and the failure to complete the ginnery. According to Mr Openga, a dispute arose over workers’ wages that forced some sponsors to abandon the project and place the compound under the caretakers. Afterwards, the ownership of the property reverted to the community and the responsibility of paying the caretakers was passed on to the local leaders led by the area member of Parliament.

Outgoing Nyakach MP Peter Odoyo says of the stalled project: “The health facility was set to be handed over to the community after renovations.”  Mr Odoyo says that attempts by the constituency development fund committee to take over the facility hit a dead end as they could not be allowed to administer it. “The land had been mortgaged for a Sh4 million loan for the expansion of the facility,” explains Mr Odoyo.

As a matter of principle, he adds, all community projects have to be situated on land belonging to the community. “We could not develop the facility because the bank had rejected requests to write off the loan,” the outgoing Nyakach legislator says. The bank in question advised the constituency development fund committee to seek a strategic partner to help in the renovations and servicing of the loan.  As the committee is still considering the option, no work can proceed. 

The land title deed, or an agreement affidavit, has to be deposited with the committee. After the failed attempts at developing the hospital, the constituency put up an alternative health facility at Onyuongo, which Mr Odoyo says has a larger catchment of Nyakach residents. “Though it is a smaller facility, it is only a short-term measure as we plan to put up a larger health facility,” he adds. About the caretakers, Mr Odoyo says that the committee took up the responsibility of paying them .

“We resolved to incorporate them as part of the constituency health project and to give them a monthly stipend of Sh 2,000,” he adds. He admits that there has been controversy about the caretakers’ pay but clarifies that it arises from arrears. “It has not been easy to offset the pay backlog, as well as clear the current pay, given that the committee is only partly involved in the project,” he adds. Mr Odoyo says that the ginnery was set up for the community to come up with an income generating project.  It was befallen by the same fate as the health facility. It stalled before the construction work would go far and what remain standing are the pillars. Source: Nation

Neccy Kikaya, great great grand daughter of Ambale, whose name the town of Mbale in Vihiga is derived from

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Annual Maragoli festival held at Mbale town in Vihiga

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Mbale bears the name of sex equality pioneer

By Neccy Kikaya in London and Mary Ganihizu in USA
The present MBALE town in Maragoli, Vihiga District, is locally known to its Abaloogooli residents as “WA-MBALE”.  It is a name derived from my ancestor – who was my Great Great Grandfather called “AMBALE” of the Abasaniaga  (Kamnara) Clan.


Ambale’s parcel of land which stretched from "IDAVAGA" where he lived and died, extended beyond the present MBALE Market Place in Maragoli.  History has it that Ambale was a shrewd cattle trader.  Both buyers and sellers always converged at a famous spot in Ambale's land under a tree shade or some trees known as "MU-MIZAMBARAU" – ‘Mzambarau’ is a Swahili name of a tree that produces sweet purple fruits in the class of the red cherry fruits that are very popular with birds.  The “Mzambarau spot” brought together traders from as far as Bunyore, Luanda, Idakho, Isukha, Serem (Banja), Kisa, and Kisumu for Saturday market livestock trading. 


When the Colonial Government built the Kisumu / Kakamega Road, Ambale's land was affected and divided - hiking away the 'Mzambarau' spot from his parcel of land to which he was never compensated.  The present Muslim Mosque was built and stands in the very “Mizambarau spot” and a few of these trees can be seen to this day.


Ambale’s sons were - Gamsha, Engome, Luvita and the youngest – Ganihitsu.  Ganihitsu and wife Diana Nyagi who bore my grandfather Agesa (alias Harambee), Asava (alias Kilanduka) and Lusigi were great people.  Agesa bore Inziano (my father).  Understandably from Ganihitsu’s surviving daughter Resba Mengesa Lwimbu (now 90yrs), even the land extending to Muslim Primary School and the Muslim neighbours (village), belonged to our great, great, grandfather, extending up to where the Church Praise centre (evangelical) is situated.


Ambale was so kindly naïve that he went against tradition by giving away land to his sister called Maria Ilunda (our GG-granddad’s auntie, Ganihitsu's sister) who was married at 'Evogonda'.  According to Abaloogooli culture, women were not allowed to inherit land and property and that is how land was lost on the Evogonda / Idavaga side.  Talk of equality and land inheritance, Ambale did not place value on boys and men alone but also considered women too.  He was inclusive – bridging gender disparities.  Imagine without knowledge, an Auntie and several uncles have bought part of the same parcel of Ambale’s land on the Evogonda side from current vendors where they have built dwelling houses! 


I have yet to reclaim my share of land! But proud that the place “Mbale” or “Wa-Ambale” retains my ancestors name to this day.


By Neccy (wa-Agesa) Kikaya, UK and Mary Lusigi Ganihizu, USA.

Pain of neighbour rising against neighbour

By Julius Bosire, October 29 2007

Standard One pupil Maureen Nyanchama is unable to comprehend why her neighbours turned against her family, torched their house and destroyed their crops, while threatening them with death.

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Frightened residents flee the trouble-hit Sondu trading centre.  Photos/JACOB OWITI
She sits pensively at the veranda of St Thomas Catholic Church in Sondu, counting sticks, since learning, to her, must continue. Next to her is Reuben Okerio, a Standard Five pupil at neighbouring Agai Primary School, coaching Nyanchama on counting sticks. Lilian Bisieri, a Standard Two pupil at Ngege Primary School, ensured that she was not left behind as the other two children engaged in learning.

The three innocent children are a pointer to the agony of children who have been displaced by recent flare-up in Sondu, a cosmopolitan town at the boundary of Rift Valley and Nyanza provinces. Three people died when police moved in to control what was seen as a raid by men armed with bows and arrows.

Police patrols, which have been persistent in the town and its environs, are proving effective though. Houses were burnt as neighbour turned against the other and livestock stolen as the raiders went on the rampage. The victims say that the raiders, some of who were familiar to them, told them to vacate the land. And they pointed an accusing finger at politicians, who they claimed sponsored the mayhem by providing raiders with torches and money.

They claimed a politician from the area was behind the skirmishes, which have displaced more than 400 people. Homes have been deserted as some of the residents seek refuge at the urban centre. The town is situated at the valley overlooking hills between which runs Sondu River. The people targeted by raiders are those who bought land and settled in the lower parts. 

The majority of residents of Sondu are the Kipsigis, the Luo and the Kisiis, most of who have bought land there. Apart from the suffering of children, including national examinations candidates, parents are mourning huge losses incurred through burning of their houses. Tension is high as parents caution their children not to venture far away from their newly found homes at the shopping centre and church.

Mrs Juliah Moraa Kebabe had her six-room maisonette burnt down, with all the property in it. The raiders torched the house at around 10pm on a Sunday after chasing her away. She asked the Government to assist those who had incurred losses like her, first and foremost, by providing them with security. She muttered as she wailed over her lifetime investment: “We are Kenyans; we are not from another country and I don’t have anywhere to go from here.”

She said she did not have anything to do with politics to suffer for its sake. The raiders, unable to carry away her TV set, smashed it outside the house. A few metres away from Mrs Kebabe’s home, was an elderly couple – Mr Samuel Ogao, 82, and his wife Rebecca Nyasuguta. The raiders burnt their house with all property in it as they looted other household goods. Mr Ogao narrated how the raiders, armed with bows and arrows, stormed into their home at about 5pm on a Sunday and started slashing crops.

They broke into houses and picked beddings and other valuables as they confronted the couple’s son Hassan Manani, who suffered an arrow wound. Mr Ogao, who bought his land 35 years ago, says he had not witnessed such an attack before. “We are told there is a man who is funding the raiders for political reasons. They told us to go where we had come from as they destroyed our property. The person must be arrested and charged with all this damage that we have incurred,” Mr Ogao said.

We met Mr Martin Onwong’a, another victim, speaking in low tone as he advised people displaced not to hurriedly go back to their homes as the situation remained volatile. He also sees a political hand in the raids, which have turned neighbours against each other. All the victims decried the attacks and urged the Government to investigate the root cause and bring to book the culprits.

They said although ODM pentagon member William Ruto urged residents to observe peace when he visited the area, a politician from the area met youths and held a meeting at Maemba running into midnight, where he supplied them with torches and gumboots. The politician is reported to have said that those who had bought land in the area had rendered the indigenous people landless and consequently homeless.

Mr Samuel Maemba, 55, suffered a panga cut on the head when the raiders attacked him a month ago and forced him out of his home before damaging his property and burning his house. Mr Wilfred Mesa knows the person who drove away his four cows and six goats, but blames Sondu police officers for failure to arrest the culprit.

Mrs Jael Nyaribo, a widow, had her maisonette she estimates to have spent Sh4 million to put up, vandalised and property looted. An attempt to burn it failed although the fire destroyed the ceiling. Mrs Nyaribo has now moved to town and settled with her relatives. Her mother-in-law’s house was too vandalised and looted. Sondu police had to seek reinforcement when the situation became more chaotic.

Nyanza provincial police boss Grace Kaindi confirmed that the reinforcement was meant to help contain a possible spillover of the raids. Her Rift Valley counterpart Everret Wasige warned politicians from the area against utterances that could fan the clashes. He said he had put in place security that would ensure that the destruction of property stopped while at the same time looking for a long term solution for the problem.

Mr Wasige said people who sold land did so as individuals and if there was any disagreement, it did not warrant community and mob reaction. Former area MP Charles Keter blamed the clashes on Government’s inability to equip Sondu police station with a motor vehicle. He, however, complained that police used excessive force when they encountered the raiders.

Source - Nation


Musalia the "phandom"

By Oscar Obonyo, Nairobi, Sept 9 2007

Long before he honed his presidential dreams and became "allergic" to wearing shorts in public, Mr Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi loved subjecting that small piece of clothe to rough sport, leaving it in shreds and tatters.

It did not matter that he largely lived in town with his parents or was son to a senior Education officer who later rose to become an influential Cabinet minister. Musalia was your typical village boy who mingled freely with his age mates and cherished rural "jungle games".

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Mr Musalia Mudavadi and his wife, Tessy, arrive at the Kasarani Stadium for ODM nomination.

Picture by Jacob Otieno

The sport of sliding in a sitting posture by the riverbank — which often left his shorts ripped off — was his favourite. Many were occasions when he ran into trouble with his parents for sneaking back home in a short that had changed appearance to a skirt.

Popularly known as ‘msweelleko’ in the local Maragoli dialect of the Luhya language, the sport involves sliding downhill on a banana plant stem to the stream. The scenic sloppy and hilly terrain of Vihiga District in Western Province provides a most conducive sporting ground for the game.

During holidays, Musalia and friends who were in primary school did their favourite ‘thing’ at Igalagoli River, which runs across his Mululu and the neighbouring Iluzu and Budaywa villages.

Typically, the boys first collected cow dung, which they smeared along selected parallel pathways to facilitate sliding. This was however not necessary if it had rained and the soil was wet. Each boy then provided a banana stem — mostly slashed from the family’s farm — which served as a racing vehicle.

Musalia was my perennial competitor. We sat on the stems and raced downhill plunging into the river dangerously. Sometimes the stem slipped, leaving one sliding on cow dung on a rough surface," Mr Bernard Kivisi, now a businessman in Vihiga, bursts into laughter as he recounts the episodes of this youthful adventure.

Musalia has double lives

Back in Nairobi, where he spent his school life from nursery right through to university, Musalia was a "jamaa wa mtaa" (youthful urbanite) complete with a separate set of friends who popularly referred to him as ‘phandom’.

‘Phandom’ is the nickname he acquired while in high school. The pet name was actually ‘phantom’, but because of Musalia’s open pride for his cultural background, friends opted to call him ‘phandom’ — a Luhya corruption of the word.

His high school and university colleagues maintain that ‘Phandom’ lived up to his nickname, whose English meaning is "something that can be seen or heard or whose presence can be felt, but that is not physically present".

"Looking at his current big frame you may dismiss him as non-athletic. But Phandom was a lethal football striker, shying away from the goal area and only making predatory moves. He was hardly noticeable on the pitch but all we saw was the shaking of the opponent’s net followed by teammates embracing him in jubilation. He was neither here nor there — he was truly a phantom," Mr Mukundi Wahome, now a Nairobi-based businessman, recalls.

From the King of msweelleko by the riverbank of Igalagoli in Mululu village to ‘Phandom’ the lethal striker of Nairobi School soccer team — that aptly sums up Musalia’s well spiced-up village-cum-urban childhood.

Observes his elder sister, Ms Jeanne Mudavadi: "Musalia has double lives. While most of us opted to stick in Nairobi during holidays, my kid brother made it a routine to travel upcountry, sometimes even by night on the same day that school was closed."

Jeanne says his brother enjoyed his youth. Noting that Musalia had many friends in Nairobi and Vihiga, Jeanne recounts the many occasions he hosted his brother’s friends during their playtime or for lunch.

The only son

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Musalia (third right standing) with classmates at Nairobi School.

Picture courtesy of Musalia Mudavadi

Perhaps the one factor that pushed Musalia into being sociable by creating a wider loop of friends whom he mingled and played with, is that he was born the only son to his mother, Mrs Hannah Mudavadi.

Born in September 1960 in Kabarnet, Baringo District to Hannah and his late father, Moses Budamba Mudavadi, who worked as area education boss, Musalia was raised as the only son among six daughters. But he also had half-brothers and sisters, from Mama Hannah’s co-wife, Rosebella.

Aware of this "natural shortcoming", Musalia capitalised on it to earn a ticket of staying away for long with playmates or inviting them to his parents’ compound.

"When he wanted to jump out of the compound, he shot very tough questions at me. He would, for instance, demand to know why I only gave birth to girls thereby denying him playmates. Having made his point and leaving me speechless, he would dash out in search for his friends," recalls Mama Hannah, with a maternal chuckle.

Being raised among girls also had its other major advantages. Musalia, the fifth born in a family of seven, naturally emerged as the protector and leader of his other female siblings.

Musalia’s father — a respected educationist and later Cabinet minister — who was reputed as a disciplinarian and custodian of traditional cultural values, particularly inculcated this feeling and responsibility in him.

"Dad not only encouraged him to assume responsibilities as the ‘man of the home’, but adequately exposed him to the village and its local elders as well as the cultural ways of our community," says Jeanne.

And at a tender age of eight, Musalia joined his village mates at the all-important cultural ceremony for a Luhya man, at Kivuye River in Chemakanga location. While most parents of Mudavadi’s stature would have executed the operation quietly in a respectable city hospital under "more hygienic" conditions, the former Local Government minister drove his son to a secluded location in a bush for circumcision.

Mama Hannah recalls this is just what his son wanted as he would have flatly rejected the hospital option had it existed.

Alongside others, Musalia, whose circumcision age set of 1968, was named "Hybrid" (the year when the hybrid brand of maize was first introduced and circulated in Western Province), spent three weeks in a makeshift grass thatched hovel healing and undergoing the crucial ritual.

But it is the responsibility challenge that little Musalia took up with glee and a lot of enthusiasm, occasionally advising and even reprimanding his elder siblings.

Musalia’s perpetual victims were Margaret, the one he immediately comes after, and Sarah whom Margaret follows. The two were constantly at war over little things and differences that usually characterise sibling rivalry, especially among followers.

"Musalia would boycott meals even for a whole day until we shook hands and resolved our differences. Then the boy would make us feel real small by chiding at us for behaving like small children," says Sarah roaring into prolonged laughter.

Unknown to him, Musalia was just but giving meaning to his name or rather his prophesied role of a peacemaker, handed over to him by elders of his family lineage.

"Musalia" is the contracted version of the Maragoli word ‘musalizi’, which means a peacemaker. Indeed, Musalia did not only exhibit the meaning of the word among family members while growing up, but even much later at college and in politics.

Face of unity

At the peak of heated political temperatures within ODM-Kenya, for instance, Musalia stood out as the face of unity and peace. He increasingly emerged as the possible compromise presidential candidate, following hostilities between politicians allied to Mr Raila Odinga, who is now ODM’s presidential candidate and ODM-Kenya’s Mr Kalonzo Musyoka.

Musalia’s humility and neutrality was equally evident during his school days. Although a privileged son to an influential personality, his former classmates concede that he never used to brag about it.

At Nairobi Primary, for instance, Wahome recalls that he was uncomfortable with the idea of being dropped off in his father’s personal or official government vehicle. Wahome remembers that Musalia preferred using public transport or walking to school, as his parents lived not far away from the institution.

"We would occasionally be blamed by dad for letting him walk to school. While the rest of us wanted to arrive in school ‘in style’, Musalia was not keen at being dropped off or picked up at school," observes Jeanne.

Wahome, one of Musalia’s closest friends, remembers the ODM presidential running mate as intelligent, very quiet and humorous. Wahome, who has known Musalia for 40 years, first met the politician in 1967 whey they were enrolled in class one. The two later joined Nairobi School for ‘O’ and ‘A’ level before proceeding to the University of Nairobi.

His village experience combined with the cosmopolitan environment in Nairobi and at school, won him friends from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.

"Much as he is proud of his tribal identity, Musalia is not a tribalist and his friends cut across communities. He is a true Kenyan," sums up Wahome, who was Musalia’s ‘best man’ during his wedding to his bride, Tessy.

This attribute, observes Wahome, endeared Musalia to many and greatly boosted his leadership qualities. He served as head of house in charge of Grigg House, now Kirinyaga House, which Wahome nostalgically claims "always excelled in whatever we did."

‘Phandom’ studied economics, geography and literature at ‘A’ level, passing his examination with high marks. Wahome remarks, that although he enjoyed his fan, "Phandom" was "naturally brilliant" and anybody who carelessly imitated his ways fell by the wayside.

Wahome recalls his escapades with "Phandom" at Nairobi School, or "Patch" in the parlance of the students then, with amusement.

"Then we interacted frequently with girls from "Chocs" (Limuru Girls), "Bomas" (Kenya High) and "Cabbs" Nairobi Girls, and I can assure you that Musalia was a star, although — as is probably the case today — the fan in those school events is short-lived as it never stretched beyond the school compound," says Wahome.

Musalia, who resided in Hall 5 while at Nairobi University campus, would turn out to be a good dancer and fan of the so-called "Fuanka", a corruption of funk music — fast paced beats. His popular clubs then were 1900 Club along Waiyaki way, Starlite and Bombax.

Musalia, a land economist, eventually started his working life with a real estate agent, Tysons Limited, after graduating. This stretch was, however, broken in 1989 following the death of father.

And at age 29, he ventured into politics and won the Sabatia parliamentary seat that was occupied by his father. He eventually became a Cabinet minister and rose to the position of Vice-President in 2002.

Tessy, the beautiful woman he met in 1989 in an Eldoret bank where she worked, now has the great task of actualising a big fraction of the rest of Musalia’s dream. The couple has four children

Source: Standard


Knife and illiteracy threaten daughters of tobacco country

By Elisha Otieno, Kuria, Sept 26 2007
Schools reopened for the third term four weeks ago but learners in Kuria District are still struggling to break away from cultural stereotypes.

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Girls celebrate after going through the alternative rite of passage in Western Kenya.Photos/FILE
Pupils, especially girls, have to contend with many bottlenecks as they strive to break away from illiteracy. They are yet to fully benefit from the free primary education programme introduced by the Government in 2003. Maureen and Jane are aged between 14 and 17, but they are already housewives of elderly tobacco farmers at Kehancha Division. Others work on farms alongside their parents although they are supposed to be in school.

In nearby Mabera Division, a provincial administrator dissolves a marriage between a 15-year-old girl and a 40-year-old widower. The man is thrown into the cells for marrying a minor. Some girls have dropped out of primary and secondary schools and are now employed as barmaids and househelps in Isebania, Migori and Kisii towns.

Most of them, we find out, are victims of broken marriages into which they had been pushed by dowry-hungry parents. Education of girls has been under threat from outdated cultural stereotypes. As such, there is a high rate of illiteracy among girls in Kuria District. For girls, education is secondary to marriage and circumcision. This has put parents and government officials on a collision course.

The introduction of the free primary education has not benefited girls as classrooms are filled by boys. A few girls enrolled but were married off immediately after circumcision. Education authorities say female circumcision gives girls a false feeling of womanhood and opens doors to marriage. About 62 per cent of girls who enrol in primary schools do not make it to secondary schools.

“Since Kuria is among the poorest districts in the country, parents opt to educate their sons and not daughters. They believe they are just a source of wealth in form of dowry,” says Mr Lucas Chacha, coordinator of Action Aid in the region. There are 145 primary and 17 secondary schools in the one-constituency district and most of them are ill-equipped, leading to poor performance in national examinations. The level of illiteracy among parents is also high. 

“We also lack women role models in this district who our girls can envy to study harder. That is why several organisations have come together to build a western Kenya anti-circumcision network to enable us build on initiatives elsewhere,” says Mr Chacha. Although area MP and Health assistant minister Wilfred Machage has been urging the community to take girls to school, his advice has been largely ignored. During the December holidays, parents circumcise hundreds of girls in thickets and immediately married them off, often to old but influential farmers and traders.

Dr Machage has been pleading with them to let the girls decide on own whether they want to be circumcised. “Eighteen is an ideal age because most of them shall be through with their secondary education and will be in a position to make informed decisions. They must learn that they will only get out of abject poverty when they educate both boys and girls,” says the medical doctor. A few girls have been lucky to escape the circumcisers’ knives to pursue education.

Non-governmental organisations have been organising camps that serve as alternative rites of passage. More than 200 girls go through the alternative process every year even though some are later forcefully circumcised when they return home. Mr Chacha wants the Government to take stern action against parents and guardians who circumcise their daughters. “The State must get tough on child rights violators. There aren’t enough children officers in Kuria District with the mandate and skills to handle matter pertaining to children.”

Some parents take their daughters to relatives in neighbouring Tarime District of Tanzania for fear of arrest.  They believe an uncircumcised girl is an outcast whose future is doomed. Elders from the community in Kenya and Tanzania often meet with a view to stop the retrogressive practice. Their endeavours haven’t been successful. A rights activist, Ms Beatrice Robi, has rescued some girls from forced marriages and linked them to donors who supported their education after being chased away by parents. She has been at loggerheads with chiefs who are said to support female circumcision.

Speaking at forum organised by Action Aid in Kisumu recently, the girls said their future remained bleak if they continue being denied access to education. “We urge the Government to provide equal opportunities for both boys and girls as the nation cannot develop if there is gender disparity in education enrolment,’ they said.

Source: Nation

Women raise rabbits to ward off cattle rustlers

By George Omonso, Kitale, Sept 24 2007

Fed up with perennial attacks by cattle raiders, women in Trans Nzoia have opted for a new form of investment — rabbit keeping.

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Mrs Mary Muriuki (left), the founder of the NGO that trains women on how to keep rabbits. This was during a training seminar in Kwanza recently.
Photo/JARED NYATAYA
The more than 800 women from Kwanza constituency have started running a trial rabbit-keeping project in the hope that they will entice their husbands to move away from overdependence on cattle, which often expose them to attacks by livestock thieves.

Their determination to see the project succeed was underlined by the tears they shed as they celebrated the unveiling of the project recently. The women decided to turn to rabbits after some of them lost their husbands to the bullets of cattle raiders. The women, alongside more than 400 pupils of Kwanza Primary School, danced for a kilometre as they welcomed two lorries with the first 40 rabbits from the Kenya Women Poverty Eradication Education Organisation, a local NGO.

The reception was at the home of a colleague — Mrs Margaret Juma. And after the dust of the festivity had settled, the women narrated how some had lost their husbands in their attempt to repulse the cattle rustlers.  Others said their sons, traditionally supposed to guard their families, had been killed.  Many of them also have had sleepless nights due to the frequent gun battles between bandits and security officers. Some of the officers have also been killed in the confrontations. 

It is estimated that in the last seven years, more than 200 people have been killed by cattle rustlers who have also stolen about 16,000 head of cattle from Kwanza alone. However, the number of attacks has gone down in recent years after the Government improved security. According to the NGO founder, Mrs Mary Muriuki, the rabbit project is ideal for local women given that most of them had in the past been depending on maize farming for their sustenance. 

“Women in Kwanza will benefit from the project given that the area is prone to insecurity,” Mrs Muriuki said, adding that the project will not attract rustlers as cattle and goats had done in the past.  Already, the women have been taken through some training, which included slaughtering some rabbits for them to appreciate the taste of the animals’ white meat which is rich in nutrients. 

The women expect that rearing the rabbits will help them make quick money since the animals take a short time to reproduce. It takes 30 to 32 days for a rabbit to give birth to a litter of eight or nine which take three months to mature. Each rabbit can be sold for between Sh300 and Sh350. Rabbit meat is recommended for people with diabetes and high blood pressure. 

The coordinator of the poverty-eradication organisation in Rift Valley, Mrs Jane Kihara, said the NGO decided to introduce rabbit-rearing because it was difficult for the women of Kwanza to take up dairy farming without attracting raiders. Similar projects have been started in Nakuru, Kericho, Maralal and Nandi districts. “We want our MP, Dr (Noah) Wekesa, to support us by giving us part of the CDF money for the project,” Mrs Juma said. 

According to her, the project will be part of the diversification programme to encourage women to stop over-relying on maize farming. Poverty levels in Kwanza are high due to frequent attacks which had forced some residents to abandon their farms and flee to safety. “The idea of keeping rabbits is good because we shall never be attacked by raiders,” Mrs Juma said.

In the past, the area had witnessed a spate of attacks, but the incidents had gone down, thanks to Government efforts to beef up security.  Life is slowly returning to normal in the once no-go zone. Two officials of the Kitale Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Mr Emmanuel Linga’a and Mr Samuel Limale, said the decision by the Government to disarm residents in Kwanza, Kolongolo and Kanyarkwat was largely behind the calm currently being experienced in the area. 

The introduction of police patrols has also helped to keep would-be raiders at bay. “You can now see the presence of police even at the village level,” Mr Limale said. According to him, some residents were now ready to volunteer information to the police about suspected raiders. The presence of security personnel has also encouraged many women to start projects such as rabbit-keeping. Areas where the security personnel have been stationed include Katikomor, Kanyarkwat, Kapkoi and Kolongolo. 

In Chepchoina, the Government has stationed the General Service Unit personnel who patrol the Kenya/Uganda border while an army camp has been set up in Kanyarkwat. Dr Wekesa, who is also the Science and Technology minister, said that some leaders from other constituencies often triggered insecurity in his constituency after making negative remarks about some communities. He suggested that the Government allocate hundreds of squatters in his constituency part of the Agricultural Development Corporation land to help solve the problem of landlessness which has been a major contributor to conflicts in Kwanza.

But an assistant minister for Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Moroto, whose Kapenguria constituency neighbours Kwanza, dismissed claims that raiders from Kapenguria had been making forays into Kwanza.  He blamed insecurity on some communities from Uganda who use his constituency as a route to enter Kwanza to steal animals.  He asked the Government to beef up security along the Kenya-Uganda border to curb the influx of illegal guns.

Source: Nation


Budalang'i floods disaster could get worse

By Otsieno Namwaya, Busia, Sept 22 2007

More than 20,000 people have been displaced, at least five killed, homes submerged, property destroyed, schools shut and some areas completely cut off in the aftermath of Budalang’i floods. And now authorities are warning that the situation could get worse. Budalang’i DO, Mr Kennedy Maunde Nyamboga, says water levels increase everyday and flooding is expected to continue for at least four months.

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Residents of Budalang’i stand on an island created after the floods swept away dykes along River Nzoia. The dykes are a result of raised soil put in sacks many years ago, and have been easily swept away when the floods hit.

A website set up by a Budalang’i parliamentary aspirant, Mr Ababu Namwamba, to appeal for humanitarian aid for victims also warns of the possibility of the situation getting worse and estimates that the displaced could be well over 40,000. Having been displaced thrice in less than one year, Budalang’i residents are now spoiling for confrontation with the authorities, against whom they level claims of corruption in the distribution of humanitarian aid and management of funds allocated for construction and repair of the dykes.

The chairman of the dyke management committee, Mr James Opiyo, a retired water superintendent, says so much money has been released for the repair of the dykes, but there is little to show for it. Locals now want investigations launched into how the money was used since the dykes break every time the water level rises. Speaking to The Standard from Budalang’i, some residents said it was due to poor workmanship that the frequency of floods from River Nzoia, which empties into the nearby Lake Victoria, has increased from an initial once every ten years to thrice a year. The current floods started in August and are expected to last four months as the rains in Mount Elgon and Cherengany Hills continue. The DO says the Government has released more than 210 tonnes of food, which he hopes will last the four months. "People are receiving food aid as required," said Nyamboga.

This is the third time the floods have hit the area since last November. The second time the floods came was in April, forcing residents to stay in the makeshift structures for more than a month.Residents say the money released by Government since 1997 is adequate for the construction of new concrete dykes but no sustainable repairs on the current dykes that were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s have been carried out. The current dykes are raised ground, mainly with soil from riverbed, and are said to have cost less than the amount the Government has spent on their repairs since 1997.

The colonial government constructed the 16.7km long dyke on the southern side in 1961 and the 16.8km long northern dyke in 1977. Government sources said both dykes cost less than Sh1 million in 1961 and 1977 respectively. However, the Government has since 1977 released Sh123 million for repairs that were either shoddily done or never done, thus necessitating the current breakages at various points of the dykes.

"This dyke is old. The Government needs to put up a new and stronger one. The new dyke should not be made of soil," says Ms Hellen Nabalayo, the vice chairperson of the dyke management committee, a body formed by residents and whose officials also sit on various other Government planning committees. The Special Programmes minister, Mr John Munyes, last month said the World Bank had released Sh6 billion for the constructions of dykes in Nyanza and Western provinces while the Government had set aside an additional Sh3 billion for the same.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an engineer in the Ministry of Roads said a concrete dyke of one metre thick, four metres high for 35km could cost between Sh840 million and one billion. This, said the engineer, would last over 50 years without floods destroying it. The dykes are managed by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation. The ministry’s Busia District resident engineer has not been seen in Budalang’i due to bad blood with the locals, say provincial administration officials. "I know the residents are hostile to the engineer, but I’m only a few months old here and have no idea what happened," said Nyamboga.

Opiyo, however, said residents resolved not to allow the engineer to work on the dykes further. "We want an expatriate engineer. Maybe he will do a better job on the dyke. And this time we want to know how the money being released for dykes is used," he said, adding that they had forwarded a request for an inquiry into the past expenditures to the Government. Budalang’i locals are also taking issue with the way Government officials, particularly chiefs, distribute food aid.

While the DO said food rations were given to the families on a weekly basis, some families said they only received food aid on August 15, when they fled the floods. Mrs Clementina Anyango, a grandmother of three and whose food granary was swept away by the floods, said they had since been summoned by chiefs several times to go for food rations. "But every time we go there, they say it is late and food is being taken to the St Annes store for storage.

Source: Standard


Nabongo's Kingdom wrecked by alcoholism and witchcraft


By Ted Malanda, Mumias, Sept 10 2007
The story is told of a scruffy, mentally handicapped man who used to hang around a leading girls school in Western Province in the 1980s. His favourite post was a window overlooking an "A" Level mathematics class.
He would watch the proceedings for hours on end. And in the event that the mathematics teacher got stuck, the chap would stride into the classroom, extend his hand for a piece of chalk and wordlessly work out the sum to perfection before retreating back to his post.

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Drink and the devil have done for an empire and many good minds in Western Province.

Word went that he was a son of the neighbouring village; that he had been an outstanding mathematics scholar at the university before something went wrong. He began ‘seeing’ demons — demons so powerful that no amount of medical, spiritual or herbal intervention would heal. Consequently, he abandoned his studies and retreated to his constant post by the "A" Level mathematics classroom.
He is not the only one, though. There are many other university students who lost it, abandoned their studies and retreated to the village where they spend wasted lives shuffling around the local market or as chained prisoners in their homes. They are a pitiful sight – dirty, scruffy, hungry and ill clothed. No one knows where they sleep – or if they sleep at all.
Power of witchcraft
The women invariably always fall prey to perverted village sex pests and it is not uncommon to find one holding a suckling baby to a shrivelled breast as she mumbles incoherently in snatches of impeccable English.
Villagers stream past them without a sideways glance, having long learnt to ignore their existence. Occasionally, though, an old man is overheard mumbling, while shaking his head sadly, how brilliant "that boy or girl" was.
Villagers always point a knowing finger at witchcraft, evil spells or some ancient demon in the family that reared its ugly head and struck the genius.
But these are not the area’s only ‘madmen’. Walking around a village market near Mumias in the late 1990s, my attention was drawn to a scruffy villager holding fort to an enthralled audience in impeccable Queen’s English about a subject I cannot now recall. His accent, diction and general command suggested a very well educated mind. And yet, there he was imbibing from a tin of local brew, dusty knees peeking out of torn trousers as his bare, jigger-infested toes scratched the ground.
His whole persona was unkempt — dirty even, making one wonder where he learnt to speak like that.
"You see that man?" my friend offered. "He was the first man from this entire division to ‘go to Makerere.’ After his graduation, he won a scholarship to study economics at Cambridge. He married a mzungu woman, got a job with the United Nations and worked in many places across the world. But he was sacked. Pombe," he said simply.
"So what happened after?" I enquired. "Well, he came back home and got employed as a human resource manager at a local sugar firm. But the drink got worse. He would be away from his office for so long that his juniors took to bringing him documents to sign from the bar. The sugar people sacked him too," my friend intoned emotionlessly.
The man consequently held a series of less prestigious jobs till he landed in the village of his birth and sought employment as an untrained teacher at the local harambee secondary school. When the drink became too much, the headmaster, a man practically illiterate in comparison, fired him, too. In between, the mzungu wife had long left; many others had come and gone — with the children.
At the height of his career in the 1970s, my friend explained, our man from Cambridge considered himself flat broke if his wallet held less than Sh10,000. Yet as we spoke, the man depended on his aged mother for all his food and basic needs; to the extent that he covered himself at night in her ancient overcoat.
From quaffing the choicest brandies and cigarettes and cavorting with the prettiest of women to adorning the classiest woollen suits, he now made do with homemade liquor, smoked whatever brand of tobacco that landed his way and covered his bare back with whatever rag a benevolent spirit flung his way.
This, from an intelligent spirit who counted former Cabinet ministers, captains of industry across East Africa and even Presidents as school and college mates.
There are many like him across the land of Mumia – men who went to the best schools and colleges in the land and beyond, earned prestigious salaries and threw it all away for the comforts of drink and the lure of the village market.
While opinion is mixed as to what could have gone wrong, most villagers point to vanity, pride, alcohol and witchcraft as the cause of their downfall.
How the King’s people squandered an empire
Mumias Township — the seat of the fabled Nabongo Mumia — is called ‘Mombasa Ndogo.’ So proud, fun-loving and vain are the people of Mumias that it is virtually impossible to find one amidst the standing army of Luhya cooks and watchmen in Nairobi. They consider such tasks menial and beneath their rich pedigree.
At the height of the Wanga Kingdom, legend has it, Mumia retained the Maasai, known locally as Akwabi, as mercenaries — waging war on neighbouring Bukusu and Luo and guarding his livestock against marauding Nandi raiders in exchange for livestock. So sly and consummate a leader was the Nabongo that he practically engaged Arabs, the British and the Maasai as ‘watchmen.’
Ancient Wangas waged bloody wars — such as the battle of Chetambe against the Bukusu — and annexed lands from neighbouring tribes and sub-tribes. Now, it seems, all that blood and sweat was in vain. The King’s people have flushed it all down the drain. They have parcelled out that land and sold it inch by inch to the very people they fought the land from.
The Bukusu, long considered primitive and regarded with open contempt by the Wanga, are now socially and economically superior as a community. Why, their sired Masinde Muliro and Kijana Wamalwa, men more princely than any Wanga pretender. More illustrative is that once a rich granary, the food consumed in Mumias today is ‘imported’ from Bungoma District and its environs.
Warriors degenerating into vagabonds
Even worse, the sons of the King have sold Mumias Sugar Company — East Africa’s most successful sugar manufacturing concern, and their birthright — for a song.
The few farmers who still hold title to their cane farms are too lazy to weed their crop, which would be fine if they didn’t sell the fertilizer, loaned to them by the company, either.
Most have leased their farms for as long as seven years to wealthy investors for a pittance; they have sold their shareholding in the company on the Nairobi Stock Exchange for a fraction of its value and the few who actually hold onto their land and harvest their crops pilfer the proceeds on booze and nubile Ugandan women at the many local markets that dot the ‘kingdom’.
Naturally, the sugar money that remains is splashed in Ukambani and the Coast on ill-conceived missions to bewitch the neighbour’s goats and his school-going children.
Now there is an emerging army of would-be-warriors that is slowly degenerating into idlers, drunks, vagabonds and madmen. They hang around funerals digging graves and inheriting widows in exchange for food and chang’aa. Many of them lack primary school qualifications.
But there are others whose parents sold land and livestock to see them through secondary school. Once done, and having missed the university entry point due to intermittent periods of school fees-related absence, they too have joined the army of madmen and women at the market.
Many of them have drunk hard liquor for 18 straight years, and have never once been gainfully employed. They are now slowly rusting away at the local market, hooked on illicit brew, an idler’s lifestyle and the charm of ajua - the game of bao.
Their children and grandchildren are unlikely to go to school. They are locked in a vicious cycle of poverty — without access to land, because they sold and drunk their birthright — and they live on the odd shilling that comes their way through begging at the bus park from city based kin.
While in the old days they would be gainfully waging wars on neighbouring tribes on behalf of the Kingdom, now the Kingdom looks yonder for food and leadership. The Kingdom had to look yonder to find a prince to preside over Mumias Sugar Company.
Even the Member of Parliament for the region where the Nabongo’s old bones are entombed is rumoured not to be a son of the soil.
Is this land — trembling with vice, laziness, greed, drink and marijuana — the Kingdom that Nabongo left? --- Source: Standard

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In Western, farmers cry over spilt milk

By Cosmas Butunyi, Bunyore July 26 2007

Mzee Johnstone Chweya is a desperate man. He can barely find enough fodder to feed his prized Friesian cow, which he rears by zero grazing.


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A farmer holds diseased napier grass uprooted from his field in Vihiga District. Photo/COSMAS BUTUNYI

His once lush napier grass field has been reduced to stunted yellowish shoots. And because his cow has little to eat, its milk output has fallen from a daily output of over 20 litres to less than five litres. Though his Ebukanga Village in Vihiga District receives sufficient rainfall, the yield from his napier crop is dwindling.  After consulting an agricultural extension officer, he was informed that his field was affected by the napier stunt disease — which has no known cure.

Like Mzee Chweya, many other farmers in Western Kenya have been hard-hit by the disease and scientists have predicted a bleak future for the dairy industry if it goes unchecked. “The napier stunt disease will wipe out all the napier in this country in the next five years if nothing is done about it,” says Dr Zeyaur Khan, a researcher at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe).

Buying napier grass
But he is looking at the big picture. For farmers like Mzee Chweya, they have to find a solution to declining fodder. And that means buying napier grass from those whose fields have not been affected.  While an acre of napier grass can provide enough to sustain four cows, plots affected by the disease can support only one or two animals, greatly reducing milk yields and incomes for affected dairy farmers.  Because the demand is high, the price of napier grass has gone up.
Initially, Mzee Chweya used to buy the fodder from his neighbours at Sh50 per bundle to supplement his diseased crop but this too has now been affected. 

Keeping his cow is now 10 times more expensive than before. He now has to buy and transport the napier grass from faraway farms.  Mzee Chweya is even considering selling his cow because of lack of fodder.  The napier stunt disease, Dr Khan says, has led to huge losses, with smallholder dairy farmers being the hardest hit. This has threatened the viability of the smallholder dairy industry. Between 50 and 60 per cent of the napier plants in Western Kenya have been affected by the disease.

Free from disease
“A survey of the napier from Icipe’s Thomas Odhiambo Campus at Mbita Point found that out of 100 samples, only two were free from the napier stunt disease,” says Dr Khan.  Finding a disease-free napier field has become difficult. Since it takes a long time for symptoms to manifest themselves on infected plants, a healthy crop may suddenly look infected. “The disease shows symptoms after about six months to one year from the time of infection,” says an Icipe researcher, Mr Simon Degelo.

The disease has been present in eastern Africa for about 30 years but it has become more noticeable in the last five years.  Until a few years ago, the cause of the disease was unknown. Researchers thought it was either caused by a fungus, nematode damage or a nutrient deficiency. It was not until 2004 that the cause was identified. And it was traced to a specialised bacteria called phytoplasma, which multiplies in the napier plant material. “The phytoplasma is a parasite on the plant phloem tissue,” says Dr Khan.

Sap-sucking insects
The disease is introduced in napier field when diseased cuttings are used for vegetative propagation of new plants. “It is then transmitted in the field by unknown sap-sucking insects,” he explained. Icipe was assigned the job of identifying the vector at a meeting in Addis Ababa. The discovery of the transmitting vectors, researchers argue, was the missing link to combating the disease.  The knowledge will be used to develop napier grass varieties that are resistant to phytoplasma and the vector.

So far, Dr Khan says, Icipe researchers have narrowed the transmitting vectors to two categories of phloem-sucking insects: leaf-hoppers and plant-hoppers, which belong to the same family as grasshoppers and crickets. “We have identified at least 12 species of leaf-hoppers and three species of grasshoppers with help from international taxonomists,” says Dr Khan. But research is ongoing to identify the particular species that act as vectors of the phytoplasma before a variety of napier grass that is resistant to it can be developed.

“Preliminary results indicate that both insects could potentially transmit phytoplasma, since plant-hopper species feed exclusively on phloem tissue whereas leaf-hoppers feed on both phloem and xylem,” says Mr Degelo, who is involved in the research. He is investigating the feeding habits of the insects and their rates of feed assimilation. “The napier stunt disease is transmitted in a manner similar to malaria,” says Dr Khan. Only the female anopheles mosquito is the vector for malaria.

Icipe is currently developing a control strategy against the napier stunting disease to combat its spread. At present, the basic control measure is to dig up the infected plants and replace them with healthy ones. “The soil around infected plants cannot harbour the disease, so replanting in the same place is possible,” advises Dr Khan. Leaves of diseased plants are also harmless to livestock and the dung can still be used as manure since the phytoplasma does not persist in the manure. But the roots of the infected plants should be burned, says Dr Khan. 

Since planting materials play a major role in transmission of the disease, farmers should be helped to identify healthy cuttings. “Trans Nzoia is one of the areas where the napier stunt disease has low prevalence,” Dr Khan adds. Napier, also called elephant grass, is a perennial grass widely grown in East Africa as a fodder crop. It also helps in environmental protection by acting as a wind breaker besides stabilising soils Moreover, the plant is used as a trap plant in the recently launched push-pull technology developed by Icipe to combat weeds and stem borers. Under the technology, a one-metre wide border of napier grass is planted around a maize field to trap stem borers.

Source: http://www.nationmedia.com/dailynation/nmgcontententry.asp?category_id=39&newsid=103176

 

With five crippled sons, to whom does a mother turn to?

When Fridah Mbone married her childhood sweetheart 22 years ago, her expectations were to raise a healthy family. But it has turned out to be two decades of pain after she gave birth to five crippled boys. Stephen Makabila and Jessica Nyaboke trace her woes.

By Stephen Makabila and Jessica Nyaboke, Lugari, Saturday July 21 2007
For Ms Fridah Mbone, 38, motherhood has come with a cost, a painful one. When she gave birth to her first child 22 years ago, her life turned into endless nightmares.She has five boys, all crippled by a strange disease. The ailment not only stunted their growth but also immobilised and impaired their speech. They are dumb, stunted and crippled siblings.

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Ms Mbone’s disabled children: From left, Aggrey (21), Dick (8), Godfrey (6), Simon (4) and Charles (17).

And the disease seems to attack only the male children — all her three daughters are healthy. In her Maragoli tradition, the first-born brings shikhoyelo (joy) but Mbone’s life has been a sad story since 1985. Mbone and her late husband, Samuel Ngusare, were blessed with their first-born son, Aggrey Karani shortly after they were married in 1985.

"I was delighted after God gave me Aggrey because a baby boy is usually a big blessing for a newly married woman in any homestead," says Mbone.Her joys were however cut short when Aggrey turned four months. The once bouncing baby boy suddenly became docile. The changes in the baby’s physical appearances took away the family’s joy.

 

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Ms Mbone with one of her disabled sons.

Although he is 21 years old, his diminutive frame makes him look like a seven-year-old child. When Mbone took Aggrey to Likuyani Health Centre, the clinical officer prescribed polio treatment."But his condition worsened. He became weak and lost strength. The situation never improved after the polio treatment," said Mbone.

He became completely crippled, unable to walk, talk or sit upright. He relies entirely on his family for everything. He seems oblivious of any activity around him. Not even human beings can attract his attention. He only stares at people who walk into the homestead. But his are empty stares that do not communicate anything.

Mbone dropped out of school in lower primary school. To survive, she has to undertake menial works in farms within the neighbourhood.That is how the mother of eight manages to provide for her family. Working in the farm. And she has to be physically present to attend to the boys.

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Ms Fridah Mbone
Pictures by Peter Ochieng

"I have to wake them up, clean, dress, feed, and carry them around whenever they want to answer to calls of nature," says Mbone.

When she gave birth to her second child, Mbone was filled with joy. But happiness started fading away and apprehension took over."I prayed to God daily when Charles started showing some weak signs," reflects Mbone.

He developed problems similar to those of Aggrey. Charles, 17, can be mistaken for a six-year-old child.Fears that mysterious disease might strike babyHe was also subjected to polio treatment, which failed to reverse the weakness.

Mbone’s three other sons; Dick Irahoya, 8, Godfrey Chogo, 6, and Simon Imwoka, 4, also suffer from the same problems.Simon Imwoka was born out of Mbone’s second marriage after the death of the father of the first four children.Mr Mannasse Kagia, her present husband was away when The Sunday Standard visited the homestead.

The family has another son, David Omukondo, who is barely one month old. But Mbone still fears the mysterious disease might strike and eventually cripple him.Her second born child, Rose Karani has remained healthy to date. The 19-year-old is married and has children.Her two other daughters, Ruth Oside, 16, and Josephine Chimuli, 11, are also healthy.

Ruth is in Standard Four while Josephine is in Standard Two at Nasianda Primary School in Lugari.Due to poverty, Mbone has been unable to seek specialised treatment for her five sons."I have lived in poverty throughout my life and that is why I have never managed to take these children for treatment," said Mbone.

Advised to put the children on multi-vitamins
The clinical officers at Likuyani Health Centre referred her to Kenyatta National Hospital but she could not raise bus fare to Nairobi.She was also advised to put the children on multi-vitamins diet but she could not afford them.Their small piece of land in Nasianda village in Lugari District can hardly support their daily needs.With five disabled boys, Mbone’s daily life could be described as pretty demanding.

Views differ on the cause of their ailments. Some say they have been bewitched while others claim the problem is hereditary."Some of them advise us to seek help from within our family system because they believe it is a family problem," says Mbone.Teachers at Nasianda Primary school, who teach her two daughters, are a source of inspiration.

They usually pay the family visits and give them hope and financial support."Madam Topister is very helpful to us. She visits us regularly and sometimes offers financial support," says Mbone.She shares a single room with her husband, and all the children. Several pieces of tattered clothes, a torn mattress heaped on the only bed at the corner of the house, a few stools and household items placed in one corner of the house complete the family’s property.

The single bench fixed outside the house, next to the doorstep, serves as waiting bay for the regular visitors. And their presence offers them hope."We prefer to have a bigger house but financial limitations have not allowed us to build one," says Mbone.

Family ridiculed and stigmatised
The little earnings she generates from menial jobs go into feeding the boys. She describes their eating habits as demanding."I struggle to ensure the diet is changed regularly," says Mbone.And she has to ensure they are fed and hence happy."Despite their disability, I feel that is what God gave me and I have to work hard for their well being," says Mbone.

During the weekends or holidays, she asks her daughter to join her in weeding farms for a pay. The combined effort earns her more money."I sometimes force them to skip school and attend to their brothers, " says Mbone.When menial jobs, popularly known as vibarua, are not forthcoming, life becomes hard.

"Getting work between June and October is difficult because there is no weeding or harvesting," she says. The state of the boys, Mbone explains, has also made the family ridiculed and stigmatised.

"There are those who sympathise with us while others talk in low tones saying we are bewitched," adds Mbone.Amidst all these, Mbone is determined to soldier on."I am a Christian and I usually seek God’s intervention. And I will continue doing so," says Mbone.

Source: The Standard

Blind choirmaster and the disabled boda boda operators of Busia

A special report of how some physically challenged persons have overcome the odds against them. Read about a blind choirmaster and the disabled boda boda operators of Busia.

By Harold Ayodo, Busia July 21 2007

To be visually challenged may be an impediment but it should not stop one from pursuing other gifts that life has accorded them.This has been a guiding fact for one Joseph Osumba. He is a blind choirmaster who has entertained three presidents from East Africa in the past 37 years.

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Mr Joseph Osumba.

Today a retired teacher, Osumba 59, was promoted by retired President Daniel Moi following his string of compositions. Osumba’s only regret, however, is that he never saw the standing ovations he received in the packed stadiums and halls. The visually impaired composer and instructor of the once popular Prisons Choir is the brainchild of patriotic songs that were once the epitome of national day celebrations.

Osumba recalls these special days, when mammoth crowds turned up at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi and listened to his compositions.He argues that music is natural.His well known compositions include Meli ya Nyayo and Lugha ya Mama among other songs

"I conducted the choirs that entertained presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Moi of Kenya as well as Mwalimu Julius Nyerere of Tanzania during his visits here," says Osumba.

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Mr Joseph Osumba (left) with the Prisons Choir.  Pictures by Titus Munala

His attempt to add President Mwai Kibaki to his list of VIPs hit a snag at the State Lodge in Kisumu last month when he was told that ‘Mzee was tired’. Kibaki was on a three-day tour of Nyanza Province after launching the Lake Victoria Basin Commission.

The composer started out with Gospel songs and had trained the Kodiaga Prisons Choir to present a song titled "Kibaki: Kiongozi Mwenye Kipawa" but failed to accomplish his mission."State guests that I entertained with the Prisons Choir are too many to name. The group was considered among the most patriotic in the country," Osumba recalls.

Osumba argues that music is natural. He does not use a baton as is the case with other conductors and often dances along to the music when conducting choirs at times hitting his legs with his hands."I do that to show my appreciation of music because I am usually in my own world when conducting a choir that sings the right codes," he says.

Talent has made him rub shoulders with the high and mighty

The choirmaster, who says his talent has made him rub shoulders with the high and mighty, singles out Moi as a leader who appreciated music."I started teaching as a PI teacher in January 1970 before Moi ordered the Teachers Service Commission to push my grade up," says Osumba.A similar directive by President Kenyatta at State House, Nakuru, to have him promoted in 1977 landed on deaf ears.

"I composed, conducted, instructed and presented a choir before President Kenyatta in 1975 titled, Kenyatta Muana wa Muigai, which he loved," Osumba says.The then Nyanza Provincial Commissioner, Mr Ishmael Chelanga, had led a delegation from the area to State House, Nakuru."The eight teachers who accompanied the choir were to be promoted by one grade while I was to be promoted by two since I was the choirmaster," he says.

At the time, Osumba was teaching at the Kibos School for the Visually Impaired and headed its choir, which also entertained Kenyatta and sang many songs including Kenyatta Mlima wa Kenya."Kenyatta was so impressed with the compositions. He said I was a blind man who saw his development more than those who could see," says Osumba.

Moi saw to his promotion as a teacher

The artist also recalls the late Nyerere’s appreciation of his songs during his visits to Kenya in the 1970s.Osumba, who composed and conducted 50 songs in praise of Moi between 1978 and 2002, says the former President always paused to listen to the tunes."I was always at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with the Prisons Choir to either send off or receive Moi from his tours abroad," he says.

He sang other compositions during national days, which he says were a ‘must-attend’ during the Nyayo era."Most of the songs were in support of the Nyayo philosophy. They promoted the then newly introduced 8-4-4 system of education, family planning and the free ‘Nyayo milk’ introduced in primary schools by Moi," he says.

It is Moi who saw to his promotion as a teacher from grade P1 to S1, a precursor to other promotions, before Osumba’s retirement two years ago as an Approved Status Teacher One.Although he did not earn a salary at the Prisons Choir, Osumba says the administrators ensured that his ‘palms were always greased’ after performances.

"Leaders like Moi would not let you go empty handed after presentations," he says.His talent in music is inborn.Osumba and his group were regular visitors to Kabarak home on weekends, often to entertain the former Head of State and his high profile guests."We (the choir) were also invited to perform at several weddings and corporate functions which made the group constantly occupied and in demand," he says.

Despite being blind, he has a sharp ear that easily detects members of the choir singing out of tune.Osumba, who is married to a former member of the Prisons Choir, says his talent in music is inborn but may also be passed on."My grandmother used to sing but I believe I was also born with the talent which I sat on for a long time until I joined college," he says.

Osumba recalls that his first recording with a choir was in 1975 when he took pupils of Kibos School for the Visually Impaired to a studio at Mfangano Lane in Nairobi.The retired teacher attended Thika School for The Blind before joining Thika High School in 1965, where he shared a class with students who are not visually impaired.

"Thika School for the Blind (Secondary) was started when I was in Form Three. I learnt in Braille throughout my schooling," he says.He plays the keyboard and flute.It was at Thogoto Teachers Training College where Osumba formed a choir with four other men. Female students later joined the group."I composed a song that competed at the national platform for colleges with the then esteemed Siriba Teachers College and we were the runners up," he says.

Osumba says he sings to his wife, Janet Awino, at their house in Kisumu. He hails from Kamanga village, Rachuonyo District in Nyanza Province.He plays the keyboard and flute and says he is not about to retire from music any time soon."I am not yet done. I still compose songs late in the night today as I used to 37 years ago and they are just as sweet," he says.

Osumba has never travelled abroad but says he almost went with the Prisons Choir to Israel after composing a Jewish song. "An Israeli taught me a few Jewish words that helped me compose a song that promoted peace in the troubled Middle East. The trip, however, did not materialise," he says.The composer of the hit Anyango anapenda Samaki na Ugali says the Prisons Choir recorded several songs over the years.

Stevie Wonder and Mary Atieno are his role models

He says that though he may have left a mark as a choirmaster, being visually impaired has had its challenges."I can only compose songs in Braille, which means I have to hire a translator for members of the choir to read and understand," he says.The musician, who is also good with musical instruments, was the pillar behind the construction of an academic block at St Francis School, Kapenguria.

"Moi called me aside and gave me Sh200,000 after I put together a group of pupils to sing for him a patriotic song during a visit to Kapenguria in the 1980s," he recalls.It is after Moi gave him the Sh200,000, which, the school used to construct a tuition block, that he ordered for Osumba’s promotion.

Osumba is today a choirmaster of the Kodiaga Prisons Choir and Kibos School for the Visually Impaired, which he has so far led to the annual national schools music festival. He cites internationally renowned singer, songwriter, producer, humanitarian, and social activist, Stevie Wonder, and local gospel songstress, Mary Atieno, as his role models.

"Stevie Wonder was an inspiration because is also visually impaired. The same goes for Atieno who has sang exceptionally well to date," says Osumba.Other musical groups that inspire him are the Arusha Mjini of the Sodom na Gomorrah fame and Mwanza Town Choir of Tanzania.

Source: The Standard

Maize farmer's big day with Annan

By Simbi Kusimba, Bungoma, July 19 2007
A family in Bungoma is over the moon after hosting a dream visitor at its farm last weekend.


annan

Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan ( third left) and his wife Nane listen to Ms Jane Ininda, the programme officer of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, during Mr Annan’s tour of a maize demonstration farm owned by Mr Pharis Wekesa Masibo (left and inset) in Bukembe, Bungoma South District at the weekend. Photos/JARED NYATAYA

Yesterday, the head of the family, 74-year-old Pharis Wekesa Masibo, was still elated as visitors kept streaming into his home to find out what had attracted former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan.
Mr Annan visited the retired primary school headteacher’s 20-acre farm at Bukembe in Kanduyi Division to see his unique farming practice.
Mr Masibo, who was a headteacher for 44 years (between 1958 and 1989) after training at Siriba Teachers Training College (now Maseno University) is a small- scale farmer growing sugarcane, maize, sweet potatoes, bananas, groundnuts and beans.
“Every three years, I harvest 80 tonnes of cane for sale to Nzoia Sugar Company at Sh2,200 per tonne. Last year I harvested 100 bags of maize, small quantities of groundnuts and beans. 
“For sweet potatoes and bananas, we sell some and use the rest for domestic consumption,” the farmer explained. 
Mr Masibo is the chairman of a group of 34 banana farmers intent on adopting new farming technologies to achieve higher yields.
They work with NGOs involved in the promotion of sustainable agriculture. 
“We began inter-cropping maize with sweet potatoes, beans and groundnuts and we are reaping the benefits of improved harvests from small units,” he told the Nation.
Half an acre of his farm is dedicated to trials of new seed varieties — 502 and 505 hybrids developed by Western Seed Company and Muguga 100 and 036, with appropriate fertiliser use for optimum yields. 
Their performance in this agro-ecological zone is what Mr Annan went to see firsthand.
Mr Masibo said: “I was first told of the visit of Mr Annan last Thursday by some people from the Ministry of Agriculture and Sacred Africa and when he finally arrived here on Sunday, I was very touched. I felt very happy, my family too and everybody in this village. 
It was an encouraging visit as we were able to articulate the challenges facing us — poor seed varieties, expensive inputs, particularly fertiliser and poor marketing systems that leave producers at the mercy of middlemen.”
Married to Rhoda and Jerida with whom he has 16 children, Mr Masibo said more Kenyans should turn to agriculture for employment. 
“If treated as a business, it is profitable once the issue of high seed and fertiliser prices is addressed. 
“It is not for women alone who have been tasked with managing food reserves and farms as well. 
“Men now need to minimise the time they spend idling in markets to work on their farms, and socialise only after work!” But the farmer said more investment in agriculture was crucial for its growth. 
“The Government needs to pump in more money to empower farmers’ organisations and expose producers to modern agricultural technology through visits to other parts of the world to witness first-hand use of latest techniques in production.”
Emphasis should also be put on traditional food crops such as millet, sorghum and cassava, if families and the country are to attain self-sufficiency in food production, said Mr Masibo.
Addressing farmers at Mr Masibo’s home, Mr Annan said a revolution that aimed at making the African continent self-sufficient in food was in the offing. 
Mr Annan, who chairs the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) board, said a partnership between his organisation and African farmers would increase agricultural productivity, ensuring food security and trade. 
Africa has for long been ravaged by food shortages and famine as Asia was mid last century.
The Asian continent overcame food insecurity courtesy of a green revolution based on high yielding seed, increased fertiliser use and improved agronomic practices, spearheaded by Nobel laureate Norman Bollack.
All these practices were tied to one crop — rice — and irrigation.
Africa, on the other hand, was by-passed by the green revolution due to lack of political will, and today, only 13 per cent of its farmers use fertiliser and 20 per cent use improved seed varieties, says agriculture expert Eusebius Mukhwana.
Dr Mukhwana, the executive director of the Sustainable Agricultural Centre for Research Extension and Development (Sacred) Africa, said the problems on the continent were further compounded by subdivision of land into uneconomical units; expensive imported fertiliser; poor infrastructure and disjointed, haphazard, outdated policies, whose implementation was uncoordinated.
He told the Nation yesterday: “Liberalisation of the agricultural sector in the 1990s added more woes to the African farmer, who lacks a global view and entrepreneur skills, access to market information, thus paving the way for the middleman to ride roughshod over him.
“For the African green revolution to happen, we need to think out of the box because of the diversity of too many crops and agro-ecological zones. 
“Consideration must be on key crops — maize, rice, wheat, cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas and profitable social working markets and probable subsidy on fertiliser and seed varieties,” said Dr Mukhwana.
Mr Annan said he had on Saturday met President Kibaki, who was excited by the progress being made in agriculture. Agra is poised to spend $150 million (about Sh10 billion) to improve seed varieties under its programme.

Source: Nation Media