A People’s True Story Anchors Its Native Wisdom and Its Values that May Safeguard the People from the Destructive Forces of Negation and Nihilism

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Publisher: Sycamore Tree Publishers, P.O. Box 27750-00506, Nairobi, Kenya.  Date of publication:  July 2017. Format: A5 (148 by 210mm). Extent: 956 pages. Binding: thread-sewn sections, with paper board cover. Illustrated with black on white maps and photographs. Genre: History and political affairs. Available for sale in hardcopy print version. Kenyan price: Ksh4000 (Booksellers enjoy 25 per cent discount). East African price: US$60. Rest of Africa: US$80. Rest of the world: US$100. Orders may be made through email address: sycamoretreepublishers@gmail.com.

This new book was launched on Saturday, 15 July 2017, at Wida Highway Motel, Kikuyu, Kenya, by one of Africa’s most eminent scholars and thinkers, Neurophysiologist Professor Kihumbu Thairu.

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By Paul N. Njoroge

Some years back, I was chatting with a young lad, my son’s bosom friend. The lad’s name was Nyaga and, although living with his parents in Nairobi, he had his roots in a village in Embu. I tried to persuade him that the Agikuyu were the elder brothers of the A-Embu. However, the plucky young man countered that it was the other way round: the Agikuyu were the younger brothers of the A-Embu!

Later, I realized that I had probably not paid enough attention to historian Godfrey Muriuki’s story in A History of the Kikuyu, 1500-1900. When I read Muriuki with keener attention, it came crushing down upon me: probably young Nyaga was right. Let it be revealed in open forum. Around AD 1000, an identical community of Bantu-Thagicu speakers left the Nyambene Hills area of Igembe-Tigania in northern Meru country—in search of new living space southwards. We all came from Meru! By AD 1400, this community had split into distinct, but closely related fraternal Thagicu-speaking sub-groups occupying an area running from Meru though Embu and Kirinyaga to Murang’a. These groups were—from north to south—the Tharaka, Cuka, Embu, Mbeere, Gicugu, Ndia, and Agikuyu.

The Embu settled in their territory before the Agikuyu did in theirs. So, yes, the A-Embu are the elder brothers of the Agikuyu. Young Nyaga was spot on.

The Thagicu-Bantu speakers of central and eastern Kenya include the sub-groups we have already mentioned, the greater Ameru group, and the Akamba. In spite of perceptions—according to British historian Charles Hornsby—that the younger brothers of the Thagicu fraternity are brash and display a sense of entitlement and superiority, sibling rivalry within GEMA has been contained within friendly levels, and these groups have sustained their cooperation right through the Mau Mau war of liberation, which they executed together. The Kikuyu-Embu-Meru passbook, which members of this fraternity were made to carry during the Mau Mau Emergency, was supposed to be the badge of stigma—but it reminded them of their unbreakable bonds.

During the post-President Daniel arap Moi, multi-party era, these groups, in the 1970s christened GEMA, have voted together in presidential elections almost to a man and woman to promote and protect their common interests. They must do the same in the presidential elections of 8 August 2017 in order to return to power the Jubilee Government of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, a government which has demonstrated its commitment to preserving the peace and social stability of the country and promoting the peaceful coexistence of Kenya’s 43 ethnic communities. (The forty-third community is, of course, the Makonde.)

My book has demonstrated, through the marshalling of evidence, that the Odinga-ODM led opposition not only does not offer an alternative, but also poses great danger to the existential interests of the GEMA communities in particular and indeed also to the existential interests of the Kenyan nation as the democratic and equitable home of 43 ethnic communities living in peace. The book has demonstrated that the opposition under the leadership of Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement perceives the so-called “third liberation” as a permanent and irreversible marginalization of the GEMA communities from Kenyan national and state affairs. Odinga’s “Canaan” is, quite simply, a post-GEMA Kenya. The ODM-Odinga ideology is anti-Gikuyu/GEMA; it revolves around the personality cult of Odinga, who in his own eyes is larger than life and more important than all the institutions of the Kenyan state; it is altogether nihilistic. To secure the existential interests of our people within a democratic Kenya, this ideology must be understood, confronted, and defeated.

The book A People Called the Agikuyu: Yesterday and Today … and Tomorrow? is written with two major aims: first, to illuminate the history of the Agikuyu in Kenyan and African history by telling their story which includes great achievements, setbacks, and tragedies; this story contains their wisdom and their values which have guided them through the sometimes slippery and treacherous paths of the encounters of history; second, the book tries to come to grips with the community’s tragic experiences including colonial conquest, colonial enclosure, massacres and more recently ethnic cleansing in the 1990s and, most traumatically, in 2008.

So let us first say a few words about the history of the Agikuyu.

The remotest ancestors of the Agikuyu—as of all human beings living today—are the San-like people who appeared in an area around the coastal border of present-day Namibia and Angola around 200,000 years ago. The human race, originally wearing a black complexion, is about 200,000 years old, according to University of Pennsylvania Professor Sarah Tishkoff. Around 130,000 years later, there would start the Great Migration Out of Africa to the continents of Asia and Europe. The population that stayed in Africa would remain in southern and eastern Africa, and would also occupy the valley of the River Nile as well as the then lush wood- and grass-lands of what later became the Sahara Desert.

Starting probably 50,000 years ago, our black ancestors started to occupy the forest lands of West Africa, including the Niger-Benue valley of present-day Nigeria. By about 10,000 years ago, there were people speaking the proto-Niger-Congo language in the Niger-Benue basin. This Proto-Niger Congo would spawn the languages spoken in West Africa (like Ibo and Yoruba) as well as the Bantu languages. The Bantu migration started around 2500 BC from the Nigerian and Cameroonian highlands in the River Benue Basin. The Bantu migration would over 4000 years populate virtually the whole of sub-Saharan Africa—from the Congo Basin to Lake Victoria and central and eastern Africa, even up to the Cape in South Africa.

Five hundred thousand Bantu ethnic groups—constituting, at 335,000,000 people, one third of the African population—live in the many countries of sub-Saharan Africa today. The Agikuyu, at probably 10 million today, are one of the more numerous Bantu peoples, as are also the Zulu of South Africa.

By AD 1400 the Agikuyu had developed national consciousness. True to their Bantu roots, they were developing as a community of farmers and cultivators using iron tools, for the skill of iron-making had been acquired in western Africa. The Agikuyu also started to develop democratic traditions embodied in generational handing over of power through a ceremony called Ituika. Every male person belonged to the ruling generation set of his grandfather. At any one time there was the generation of the people in authority and the generation sitting it out and awaiting its turn. Power changed hands every thirty years. A tradition of the ruling generation sets that have existed since 1442 is well known. At Gikuni village in Kiambu County in a bar popularly known as Ndung’u’s Bar is a mural depicting the names of these generation sets. Godfrey Muriuki and the mural list the following: Nemathi, Karirau, Manjiri, Mamba, Tene, Agu, Manduti,Cuuma, Ciira, Mathaathi, Ndemi, Iregi, Maina (Irungu) and Mwangi. The insurgents of the Mau Mau freedom fight would embolden themselves by averring: “Gutiri wa Iregi utuire!” or “There are no more persons of the Iregi generation still living.”

Gikuyu democracy, of course, also rested on the universal enfranchisement of all married elders and even junior elders of warrior age in decision making; decision making at homestead, ridge/village level, territorial and national level was done by all elders who had been initiated into the council of elders. Jomo Kenyatta in Facing Mount Kenya makes it clear that elders shared secrets with their senior wives whom they briefed on the social and political affairs of the community.

Jomo Kenyatta wrote: “In the eyes of the Gikuyu people, the submission to a despotic rule of any particular man or a group, white or black, is the greatest humiliation to mankind.”

Democratic values are an essential part of Gikuyu traditions, way of life, and acquired wisdom. This is why they opposed alien rule that robbed them of their God-given right to sovereign self-determination. Since 1982 when Raila Odinga participated in a violent attempt to overthrow the Kenya government, though 2007 when he led a campaign designed to isolate and marginalize the GEMA community (‘forty-one against one’), right up to 2014 and 2016 when Odinga instigated violent insurrectionist demonstrations and riots—to the applause of the local media who gave him daily headlines—Odinga has demonstrated that he does not subscribe to democratic ideals. The GEMA will not allow Odinga to dig an autocratic, tyrannical pit for our country.

When Europeans, for example Joseph Thomson, travelled through Gikuyu country in the 1880s, they were impressed by the productivity of Gikuyu agriculture. Thomson talked about “abundance” in agricultural produce, including “millet, beans, and maize.” He wrote that at Ngong, “Kikuyu women … came frequently down to the edge of the forest and disposed of their abundance to us.” He also wrote: “Enormous quantities of sweet potatoes, yams, cassava, sugarcane, Indian corn, millet, etc., are raised, and supplies seem to be quite inexhaustible. … At Ngong, we carried away three months’ provisions, yet it did not seem perceptibly to affect the supply or raise the ridiculously low prices. Extremely fat sheep and goats abound, while the Kikuyu have also cattle in enormous numbers.”

The Agikuyu had perfected a system of democratic family agriculture, where every person in the family, including physically fit children, participated. Each member of the family embraced the belief that productive labour accorded dignity and sense of purpose in life. Work was not torture but the means of realizing the joyful sense of belonging to the family.

Inexplicably today, are grown up men, nay veritable gray-beards, belonging to the weird, so-called NASA fraternity, in the 21st century calling for the “Unga revolution”? What you need is to return to Gikuyu traditional values and agricultural practices that enabled food surpluses—the values revealed in our true narrative—to get people to want to be proud productive farmers. And you need University lecturers with less sense of entitlement to the wealth of the country, and therefore spending most of the year demonstrating on streets for higher salaries. Instead, we should have lecturers who commit themselves to carrying out multi-disciplinary research on agricultural production in order to come up with blueprints for national food sufficiency. The place to start the research is Gikuyu/GEMA traditional agriculture.

It would be silly and futile to try to summarize a 956 page book for a 30 minute oral presentation. So let me give sketch highlights.

The book tells the story of the conquest of GEMA country by the British and the story of the villains of the gruesome drama who made the conquest at a high cost in “native” blood and property—Francis Hall and Richard Meinertzhagen. The consequences of the conquest were dire: alienation of Gikuyu land in Kiambu and Limuru; rendering former land rights holders into wage labour in the White Highlands; emigration of the Agikuyu into the Rift Valley to work on settlers’ farms; the role of chiefs and colonial government functionaries in destroying the traditional democratic social order; social change as modern education and health services were introduced in Gikuyu land.

Discontent in Gikuyu country gave impetus to the rise of a protest movement. Harry Thuku in the early 1920s gave voice to African grievances. Then a very important nationalist association was born in Gikuyu country, an association that would mother the nationalist movement that would finally win Kenya its independence. This was the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA). Gideon Mugo from Kahuhia, Murang’a, a devout Christian, was the father of the KCA. We tell of the other pioneer Gikuyu/Kenyan nationalists: James Beauttah; George Kiroongothi Ndegwa, whose land I can see from my home at Mbari-ya-Thongo; Jesse Kariuki; Johnstone (Jomo) Kenyatta ….

The Kikuyu Central Association mothered the Kenya African Union (indeed, Jomo Kenyatta, a former KCA secretary-general, became president of KAU in 1947), and KAU mothered KANU which ushered Kenya into independence in 1963.

We tell the extraordinary story of the greatest of these nationalist pioneers: Jomo Kenyatta. At first he is the editor/writer of the first African journal in the Kenya colony—Muigwithania (“Reconciler”). He tries to prepare the people psychologically and spiritually for unity so that they may demand their freedom and their right to human dignity. Kenyatta is a Prophet Moses-like figure.

We see Kenyatta becoming the property of the people, becoming their voice in undivided loyalty to his community. We see him as a student in London seeking to further his education in order to acquire intellectual respectability. He becomes the student of the foremost anthropologist of his time Bronislaw Malinowski at the London School of Economics. Kenyatta writes the seminal anthropological study by an African about an African people—Facing Mount Kenya—and now has in his grasp the intellectual respectability he craved.

Kenyatta becomes a Pan Africanist under the tutelage and mentorship of George Padmore, a black thinker from the West Indies.

Kenyatta learns at academic institutions and also the University of Life—and by the time he returns to Kenya in 1946, he is without doubt the most experienced, knowledgeable and wise nationalist leader in Kenya.

Kenyatta assumes the leadership of the Kenya nationalist movement, getting elected President of the Kenya African Union on 1 June 1947. He initiates a great nationalist outreach initiative that takes him to, among other places, Kisumu to link with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. He seeks to unite all the African communities in Kenya. Kenyatta watches the country slide towards armed conflict between the British colonialists and a nationalist insurgency. Emergency was declared on 20 October 1952, and Kenyatta and other leaders were arrested during Operation Jock Scott. He was tried at Kapenguria, convicted and incarcerated at Lokitaung. Against many odds, Kenyatta survived harsh prison conditions and exile and returned to his village Icaweri on 18 November 1952—and to national political affairs—after eight years.

The book tells the story of how the GEMA communities made the ultimate sacrifice for Kenya by fighting and dying to liberate the country. The chapter answers important questions: what was Mau Mau? What was the Mau Mau oath like? The extraordinary courage and military prowess of the freedom fighters is captured: Maina Kinyatti and Caroline Elkins have illustrated how these GEMA insurgents made the mighty British military ineffectual for virtually two years! For a spell, Murang’a virtually became a Mau Mau Republic under generals like Kago wa Mboko. Portraits of the generals—Stanley Mathenge Mirugi, Dedan Kimaathi wa Waciuri, General China or Waruhiu Itote, Field Marshal Mwariama—are attempted.

The British did finally win the war—by brute force and atrocities which amounted to crimes against humanity. Central Kenya was virtually reduced to a concentration camp through the creation of the colonial villages. But Britain was shaken and economically weakened and wounded by the expensive military effort to defeat the Kenyan insurgency.

With its moral standing wholly discredited by its fascist response to the demand by a people for self determination, Britain resolved to decolonize.

Let us now understand the Great Compromise upon which the new Kenyan state was to gain independence. The insurgents did not feature in the negotiations for independence, although they may have been represented by the civilian political leadership at the head of which was Jomo Kenyatta who had provide much of the inspiration to the liberation movement. Kenyatta had to negotiate as a member of a multi-ethnic team of nationalist leaders. Kenyatta had to eschew any pro-Mau Mau partisan stance, clearly aware that independence must come to the GEMA who fought as well as the ones who opposed and fought the freedom insurgents. The nation would become independent on the terms of the British: the Kenyan nationalist leaders would not push for an indigenous model of governance, but would accept the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy. The Great Compromise became also the great reconciliation effort—reconciliation between the Africans and their British brutalizers, reconciliation between the GEMA loyalists and the home guards, and reconciliation between all the Kenyan communities, including GEMA and communities from whom the African soldiers who fought against Mau Mau had been recruited.

Radical scholars will rail against that Compromise, that Social Contract that made the Kenyan nation-state possible, but it was probably the best thing for Kenya.

This Compromise enabled the FIRST PEACEFUL TRANSITION in Kenya—from colonial rule to Independence. On 12 December 1963, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, on behalf of the British Head of State Queen Elizabeth II, handed over to Jomo Kenyatta the constitutional instruments of Kenya as an independent state within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Jomo Kenyatta would become the Prime Minister of Kenya, and the Queen of the United Kingdom would be represented in Kenya by a Governor-General.

The SECOND PEACEFUL TRANSITION took place after the first President of Kenya Jomo Kenyatta died on 22 August 1978 and his Vice President Daniel Kapkarios Toroitich arap Moi was voted in by the Cabinet to become Acting President in the afternoon of the same day.

The THIRD PEACEFUL TRANSITION took place on 30 December 2002 when the second President of Kenya Daniel arap Moi handed over power to the third President Mwai Kibaki.

The FOURTH PEACEFUL TRANSITION took place on 9 April 2013 when the third President of Kenya Mwai Kibaki handed over power to the fourth President of Kenya Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, and his Deputy William Samoei Ruto.

This is the tradition of Kenya’s political transitions, like Gikuyu Ituika transitions peaceful and predictable. It is a tradition based on our native wisdom. For me and obviously for the majority of Kenyan people it is a glorious tradition to be cherished, a bulwark against life-destroying chaos, destabilization and upheaval. And Kenya has done great things with this tradition. The population of Kenya in 1962 was 8,600,000. Today, the population is about 45 million. Birth and life have triumphed over death in Kenya. There are all those fatuous and juvenile assertions that the government is doing nothing. Keeping conditions of peace and stability so that people may give their daughters in marriage and so that sons and daughters may be born across the country and so that the people may multiply is no mean task.

To a greater or lesser extent, all the administrations in Kenya—Jomo Kenyatta’s, Daniel arap Moi’s, Kibaki’s, and the Uhuru Kenyatta-William Ruto administration, have been committed to providing “the three public goods of independence”, namely, “SECURITY AND STABILITY (as contrasted with foreign invasion, internal violence and civil disorder); BUREAUCRATIC IMPARTIALITY AND EFFICIENCY (as contrasted with corruption, tribalism and non-economic resource allocation); and ECONOMIC GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT (as contrasted with economic decline, service failure, poverty and starvation.” (Charles Hornsby, 2012) Kenya at this moment in time is the most prosperous country in East Africa, its foundations of prosperity laid by the founding father Jomo Kenyatta who was endowed with great wisdom.

Raila Odinga trashes the whole tradition of our independence and our achievements, characterizing them as the “status quo,” which must be overthrown by the “forces of change,” which he supposedly embodies. In 2007 when as a presidential candidate he was campaigning against one of the best economists in the world—Mwai Kibaki—Odinga made the grandiose claim that “he wanted to be elected to take over the government so that he could help Kenyans make up for the lost opportunities of the past 43 years.” This is the statement of a man with megalomaniac and Messianic delusions. He has never articulated a single economic vision for the country. Vision 2030 was Kibaki’s brainchild. But Odinga came up with the evil 41-against-1 ideology that sought to undermine the Great Compromise and the Great Social Contract upon which the Kenyan nation-state is based: the contract that all the communities in Kenya will have their place under the sun as free people protected by the constitution and the laws.

As we go to the elections on 8 August 2017, let us all remember that Raila Odinga and his key ideological mentors Salim Lone and Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o envisage a post-GEMA Kenya.

Our vow is that this will never happen: subtract one of the Kenyan communities from the sum of our Kenyan communities and you murder the Kenyan nation. Odinga’s Canaan is a delusion in the mind of a narcissistic, megalomaniac cult figure. Odinga stands for Negation and Nihilism.

*The views expressed in this post are solely those of the writer’s. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the owner of this blog.*

 

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Soliloquy: To Be or Not To Be?

Image via Google Images

Image via Google Images

I need to get my sh*t together.

Like seriously. What do I want to do with my life? Do I even know the answer to this question? It’s like one minute I’m so sure that I want to be a writer and before long I change my mind and decide that this writing thing is too out there for me. It’s too out there for me because ever since I started looking for a writing gig, all I have gotten is opportunities to write about abstract things. I hate abstract. I want to write about real stories, that real people can relate to. AND be so damn good at it, that I get paid for it. Continue reading

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Image courtesy Google Images

Image courtesy Google Images

1. YouTube

No. I did not discover YouTube in 2012. But, I discovered YouTube Fashionistas and Make-up Vlogs in 2012. My goodness! It’s like this was the piece of puzzle that was waiting to complete my fashion quest. Of notable mention is Brit Pop Princess and Shirley B. Eniang. Their British accents are to die for! 🙂  Continue reading

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It was a Thursday. I hated Thursdays because with them came Sports Day, or more specifically Sports (Half) Day. This is because Sports Day happened in the afternoon between 2pm and 5pm. I hated anything and everything Sport Day represented. From being made to run round the pitch 67 times, in a pitch that had long grass to sitting in the sun for three straight hours. All that may sound normal to you Olympic fans except I had recurring Bronchitis growing up, the long grass made my legs so itchy, and sitting in the sun for three hours wasn’t something I considered sun-bathing. Also, the grass was rumored to be heavily infested with snakes. You already know that I hate, nay, detest snakes. Get the picture? Good. Continue reading

Mourning: When it Hurts So Bad!

Amunga F. Baby!

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