Msiwape vidonge vyao, Bw. Nderitu Njoka awashauri wanaume Kenya

Na Nick Thiong’o,

Nderitu Njoka

Bw. Nderitu Njoka awashauri wanaume wasusie ngono kama njia ya kulalamikia dhuluma za kimapenzi dhidi yao.

Nilikuwa nimekaa kitako hapo Domino’s Pizza, mkahawa mmoja mashuhuri wa kimarekani ulio jijini Nairobi, macho yangu nikimuelekezea mwandani wangu wa kale. Ghafla, jibaba ambalo nakadiria ni la miaka 50 lilikatiza maakuli huku likifoka kwenye runinga kuwasihi wanaume wasusie ngono. Nilimskia Mwenyekiti wa Maendeleo ya Wanaume, Nderitu Njoka akinadi sera ambazo zilidhibitisha duniani hakuna uhaba wa watu wenye mipaka ya kimawazo. La haula! Kama mpishi aliyeandaa ile Pizza hakuhakikisha ilikuwa laini na nyororo, marafiki leo hii wangelikuwa wakinibeza; “Kaenda kuzimu, kisa na sababu? Bw. Njoka na Pizza.”

Bw. Njoka alikuwa akiwashauri wanaume wasusie ngono kama njia ya kulalamikia dhuluma za kimapenzi dhidi yao. Alitangaza mgomo na kusema wanaume hawafai kushiriki kimapenza na wachumba wao wala kuwasalimia na wake zao; na iwapo ni sharti wawasalimu wanapaswa kuwasalimu hewani au kwa mkono wa kushoto. Mwenyekiti huyu wa vuguvugu hili la wanaume alidai kwamba keshapokea barua zaidi ya 3,000 kutoka kwa wanaume kote nchini wakimuomba aongeze muda wa mgomo. Alisema fursa hii ya kufunga ni ya kumrai Mungu kuingilia kati visa vya wanaume kunyanyaswa na kudhulumiwa na wake zao.

Upumbavu ulioje? Desturi za demokrasia ulimwengu mzima, ni kwamba umati ndio huamua sera na mwongozo wa nchi; kupitia uchaguzi wa kiongozi anayenadi sera ambazo zinaambatana na maazimio ya wananchi na itikadi za jamii. Iweje basi vikundi ibuka vidhani vitashurutisha nchi nzima kufuata sera potovu ambazo haziambatani na tamaduni za Kiafrika? Ni vikundi hivi ambavyo vilipendekeza masuala ya haki za mashoga na wasagaji yajumuishwe katika Kielelezo Patanifu cha Katiba ya Kenya. Wananchi wa Tanzania wanafaa kujihadhari sana na vikundi hivi wapojadilia rasimu ya katiba mpya ya Tanzania.

Ni mpaka lini tutaruhusu na makundi yasiyo yakiserikali kueneza tabia potovu za ughaibunio hapa nchini? Hivi maajuzi tu kundi lingine lilijaribu kuwashauri wanawake wasusie ngono na mabwana zao. Mapenzi hudumu ukila zabibu—yaani katika uhusiano wa jinsia tofauti au hata ndoa, mahaba hunawiri mkivumiliana. Tukizingatia mawaidha ya wanavuguvugu, mashua ya jamii hapa Afrika Mashariki ni sharti itazama.

Katika mwaka wa 2009 wanawake walihimizwa na vuguvugu la Gender-10 kususia ngono kwa minajili ya kuwashurutisha wanasiasa katika serikali ya muungano waache malumbano. Kama serikali iliopita ya muungano ya Rais Mwai Kibaki na Waziri Mkuu Raila Odingo ulikwa ndoa, basi walimega zabibu si haba. Walipigania nyadhifa, wakayosheana vidole kuhusu ufisadi, waziri mkuu akalalama eti maafisa wa serikali wanambeza kwa kutomuandalia mkeka na choo, yaani mobile toilet, alipozuru maeneo mbalimbali. Chini ya kikundi cha, Gender-10, wanawake walisema kuwa Rais mstaafu na aliyekuwa Waziri Mkuu walikuwa na mwongozo duni wa kisiasa na walifaa kutia saini kandarasi ya utendakazi, la sivyo, wang’atuke mamlakani.

Mpango wao ulikuwa wanaume wote nchini Kenya—hadi kisiwa cha Migingo—wanyimwe raha kwa siku saba ili kuhimiza mabadiliko ya uongozi. Kwa mujibu wa Carole Ageng’o, mkurugenzi wa chama kimoja cha watoto hapa nchini ambaye alihutubia wanahabari, wanawake hawa walikusudia kuwashurutisha viongozi “waajibike katika kusimamia nchi”
Ni kweli idara za serikali zilikuwazimezorota sababu ya ufisadi, hudumu kwa umma ilidorora, na serikali ni kama kwamba ilitia nanga kwenye ufuo wa uzembe. Lakini sioni uhusiano wa maovu ya serikali, wanasiasa; na mapenzi au cheti cha ndoa.

Ni aibu iliyoje familia inapogudua kuwa habari za alasiri ni kuhusu ngono. Halafu bwana, bibi na watoto wanatupiana macho ya haya pale sebuleni. Bw. Njoka naye alisingizia utafita ambao umebaini kuwa zaidi ya wanaume 300 walidhulumiwa na wanawake huku uume na sehemu zingine za wanaume 110 zikikatwa. Bw Njoka alidai kuwa wanaume hawana nafasi za kujiendeleza kwani hata serikali imewabagua katika sera zake ambazo zinawapendelea sana wanawake na vijana. Wafuasi wengi wa maadili ya jamii walistahimili haya si haba. Hoja hii ya ngono imezagaa kwenye magazeti, runinga, redio na tovuti.

Familia ni msingi wa taifa, hatuwezi kubali familia ziporomoke makundi ghushi. Kunyimwa mapenzi ni mojawapo ya sababu za kuachisha ndoa katika sheria za Kenya, mbona wapendanao waachane sababu udaku wa wanavuguvugu. Wanaume na wanake waliopevuka na hawakupiga foleni kuunga mkono msimamo huu usiokomaa kimawazo. Katika mwaka wa 2009, kunao waliohofia wakisusia ngono mabwanai zao watapotelea kwenye madanguro.

Inakadiriwa kuwa katika usiku wowote ule, kuna makahaba 70,000 mjini Nairobi. Aidha, kunao walioamua kutosusia mapenzi kwa sababu za kidini. Wanawake Waisilamu huko Mombasa walikataa kuungana na G-10. Wakiongozwa na mwenye kiti wa chama cha Orange Democratic Movement wa Kisauni, Amina Abdallah, walisema kususia ngono katika ndoa ni kwenda kinyume na sheria za Kiisilamu. Mwalimu wa Kiisilamu Bi Ukhiti Imma Khamisi alisema kuwanyima wame zao ngono kungeleta “ugomvi nyumbani”.

Lakini kunao walienda mpaka kotini ili mradi tu wapate haki yao. Bw. James Kimondo alifululiza mpaka mahakamani baada ya kunyimwa ngono na bibi yake, Teresia Wanjiku. Aliwashtaki wanawake wanaoongoza vikundi vya haki za wanawake kama vile Ann Njogu, Patricia Nyaundi, Carole Agengo na Rukia Subow ili walipe machungu yanayomkabili baada ya kunyimwa ngono. Bw. Kimondo alidai maumivu ya kichwa, kuhisi kichechefu na kulemewa na kazi zake za kila siku.

Kususia ngono sio jambo jipya, lakini ngono haifai kuwa silaha. Wanawake wa Ulaya na Marekani walitumia njia hii kupinga vita vya Marekani dhidi ya Iraq mwaka wa 2003. Maelfu ya waigizaji dunia nzima walijumuika kusoma tamthilia kongwe ya Ugiriki iitwayo Lysistrata, kama mojawapo ya pingamizi ya vita vya Iraq huku wakisusia kula “uroda”. Tamthilia hii iliyoandikwa 415 BC, inawahusisha wanawake wagiriki waliosusia “mapenzi” ili kuwashurutisha mabwana zao waweke silaha chini. Katika hadithi hii, wanaume waliungama na kusitisha vita. Desemba iliyopita, wanawake wa Italia waliwapa mabwana zao ilani kuwa wangesusia ngono, lakini hoja yao haikupewa kipaumbele katika vyombo vya habari kama ya Kenya.

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Will the real Kenyatta please stand up!

Will the real Kenyatta please stand up! I’m enraged by what happened in Mpeketoni yesterday Mr President and my senses have taken leave due to some hormonal imbalances that have suppressed that part in my brain that ponders over weighty issues and reasons rationally. So pardon me if you notice fits of incoherence and momentary autism engrained within this letter. Mr President, I have heard incredible tales about your father, the late Johnstone Kamau. Legend has it that he used to whip ministers, literally, back into shape.

As a young boy seated by the fire side with my grandfather, he would narrate how Mzee Jomo Kenyatta would grind his political enemies to smithereens. Dissent during his reign, especially when a bunch of youthful zealots tried to annex a part of Northern Kenya, was met with total annihilation. Now they are not only trying to annex a portion of our land, the camel is already inside the tent running the show. Sometimes I doubt whether you’re a chip of the old block because you’re given to too much diatribe which is unfortunately succeeded, not by action, but by more diatribe.

I remember that moment you were so mad at a political Rally in Ruiru that you nearly sent the microphone scampering for safety in a fit of fury against the ICC. In that short-lived act, I was indeed scared that the Jomo DNA strand in Uhuru was reasserting its dominance. That gene that got you banging the table at press conference would come in handy right now because I don’t believe the rigours of a campaign or charges at an international court have diluted the gene pool.

I know so because of your fiery speech in front of Africa’s heads of state at the Extraordinary Session of the African Union where you told off your detractors Jomo-style. I quote “Thus the imperial exploiter crashes into the pits of penury. The arrogant world police is crippled by shambolic domestic dysfunction. These are the spectacles of Western decline we are witnessing today.” Holy Moses! Just stop doing those Presidential adverts already.

The new series of adverts warning that the big brother is watching through some omnipresent cameras doesn’t scare me, and believe me Mr President I scare easily. If you were to use me as your yardstick, then I can guarantee you that the terrorists aren’t quacking in their boots. If any of your security advisers says he has seen the terrorists shaking in fright, that uncoordinated gyration of hips and wobly creep walk is their pathetic version of a victory dance.

I have heard that the opposition has warned you about some gathering storm which they have predicted with amazing precision to the minute and the day when it will hit the Kenyan shores; July 7th, 2014. I hope your metrological department and the state-run National Disaster Operations Centre is ready. Storms have an uncanny ability of thrusting items in the air and dislocating matter. And what is this rumour that the Mpeketoni is attack is part of a gathering storm; let the Government lay the facts bare and stop the pussyfooting courtesy in which many of its statements on security are cloaked in. And hey, quit with the polemics, just do it Mr President. It is what Mzee Jomo Kenyatta would have DONE not SAID.

CONNECT OR DIE

CONNECT OR DIE

How To Survive In A Music 2.0 World

Debunking myths about the Kenyan Hindu Community

By Thiong’o Nick

The Hindu Council of Kenya has made considerable socio-economic contribution to Kenya’s development for more than 30 years. Vanraj Sarvaiya speaks about the council’s legacy and debunks myths about the Hindu Community.         

Kenyans of Asian origin, in this case Hindus, have a sharper understanding of xenophobia, a dislike or fear of strangers or foreigners. Despite their tremendous contributions in various disciplines such as medicine, grammar, dance, mathematics, they are still predominantly associated with their “esoteric” spiritual practices.

Yet, history is replete with their contribution to knowledge such as the concept of zero, the modern numerical and decimal system, area of a triangle, quadratic equation and trigonometry. In medicine, The Sushruta Samhita (600 B.C) is considered the first detailed text with decisive description of surgical procedures and instruments which, with modifications, are conceptually used today.

Closer home, their role in the economy cannot be overstated. But because they are perceived as a peculiar lot by a section of Kenyans, they have gradually developed a siege-mentality which has made them reclusive at times.

The Hindu Council of Kenya (HCK) was formed shortly after the Ugandan-Asian crisis of 1973 when Asians were given an ultimatum by the late dictator Idi Amin Dada to leave Uganda. “We started the HCK because we didn’t have a collective voice to air our problems to the Government,” says Vanraj Sarvaiya, the national chairman of HCK.

Amin perceived the Asians as ruthless exploiters and a drain to the economy of the East African State. The post-election violence rekindled these memories of recrimination; Asian businesses lost an estimated KSh0.5 billion in Kisumu during the violence that succeeded the 2007 general elections.

If it is of any consolation, the violence did not target them as a community this time round. Their economic success has often evoked envy. A section of indigenous Africans often associate their business success to tightly guarded ethnic resources and community networks that lock out the rest.

Asian businesses are critical to the Kenyan economy; they range from small shops to expansive multinationals in the manufacturing, retail and construction industry among others. Stereotypes that abound about their culture of hoarding money have made them tread cautiously in enterprise.

A renowned business columnist of Asian extract once lamented that they are viewed as “strange people, with funny ascents, penny-pinching ways and strange gods.” These misconceptions, says Sarvaiya, “inspired the creation of a body that would coordinate their social, religious and cultural activities in Kenya”.

The realisation that interaction with various indigenous communities and religious organisations would foster understanding, nudged them to initiate religious and cultural training programmes open even to non-Asians.

Hindus migrated from India, mostly at the turn of the century, primarily as construction workers on the Kenya Uganda Railways and as traders. Often, their success in entrepreneurship is traced to favourable social-economic position when they set foot in East Africa.

At the onset, Asians were able to produce account books in their own languages. Their ability to read and write and hence communicate gave them a head start over African traders. They were therefore used by the Arabs and the British to avail credit and trading facilities in the East African region.

They participated in the Kenya independence struggle through involvement in the MAU MAU movement. Despite being a predominately black-white struggle, India through its high commissioner, Appa Saheb Pant and the Kenyan freedom fighter, Pio Gama Pinto gave strategic and material support to the movement.

When they eventually settled down after independence, they formed social groups or associations on ethnicity, geographical background and languages. At one time the Asian population in Kenya was approximated to be 70,000; it has since dwindled as the younger generation continues to migrate to developed countries for education and in search of greater fortunes. “The older generation decided to stay and grow their businesses.”

These groups built social halls, temples and centres for performing arts to carter for the social, religious and cultural activities for preserving Hindu ethos. In the recent past, Hindus have made indispensable contributions in civil service, trade union movement, and educational, health, legal, construction, political sectors.

In the political sphere, says Sarvaiya, they have been lobbying the Government to create a good environment for them to participate in governance. “Asians are good in trade; we would perform well if we were in charge of the Ministry of Trade.”

Through the HCK and its member institutions, Asians have over 100 years of legacy in various institutions and sectors of the Kenyan society. Sarvaiya, 67, has witnessed this enduring legacy from its early onset.

The mild-mannered engineer was born during the colonial rule when racial segregation and bigotry were a norm rather a social ill. “Fig Tree Hotel in Ngara, my birth place, was then an Asian maternity home. Nairobi Hospital then catered for Europeans only.”

He attended City Primary School and sat for his primary examination in 1954, the preceded to Duke of Gloucester, now Jamuhuri High School. Four years later Sarvaiya got his first job with the Kenya Post and Telecommunication Company. He was still working for the parastatal when he studied for Diploma in Electronic Engineering from City & Guild.

Sarvaiya left his first job in 1966 to join the Voice of Kenya (KCB), Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. Indeed, one of his most memorable moments was the 1982 attempted coup. “I was the engineer in charge of the sound studios and I can remember people hiding under anything that would have covered them.”

Contrary to the perception that Asians are born with a silver spoon in their mouths, Sarvaiya had to toil to eke a living. Sarvaiya  nurtured his saving culture as a teenage. While in high school his family lived in South B, Nairobi and kids used to pay 25 cents bus fare to Duke of Gloucester, while adults parted with 50 cents. Sarvaiya would alight at Fig Tree just to save 5 cents everyday.

Apart from financial prudence, Sarvaiya picked up other lessons in his childhood that have moulded his character. Apart from being an engineer, he is an ardent sportsman. He developed his interest in sports in school. He has been an elected the member of the national sports council foe the last 22 years.

During his tenure as the chairman of Kenya Lawn Tennis, he took the Kenyan team to unprecedented international heights. With the help of the Standard Chartered bank he publicised his team’s success, this saw Kenya host several international tournaments. “We have never scaled such heights again.” Indeed after his exit, “corruption made the game fade”.

Sarvaiya joined the HCK in 1986 as a sector trainer; his experience with VOK saw him take charge of the council’s publicity before becoming a vice chairman and eventually the national chairman which is an elective position.

During the interview, his knack for oscillating effortlessly from a chat about politics to a spiritual conversation about Karma is almost palpable. “What goes around does around. It’s good to treat people kindly because you never know what they are going through.”

But it has not escaped him that the present generation rarely acts kindly without a personal profit motive. “Times have changed; nowadays people treat you suspiciously even when you are genuinely kind.”

The council has entrusted him with the coordination of over 150 organisations that comprise the HCK, 65 of which are in Nairobi. It has established branches in major towns such as Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret and Mount Kenya to cover all provinces where Hindus have a significant presence.

For last 30 years, the umbrella body has been headquartered on Murang’a road, Nairobi before finally settling on its own property on Kusi-Lane in Parklands, Nairobi. HCK participates in various local and international forums important to the country’s social development.

It is represented or works with Ufungamano—Joint Forum of Religious Leaders, National Anti-Corruption Plan Steering Committee, Fast Tracking East Africa Federation, National Aids Control Council, Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, Hindu Council of Africa and African Council of Religious leaders among others.

Besides working with NGOs, the Hindu community is the largest donor to charities through social and religious institutions of the Council feeding programs, medical camps, bursaries to students or distribution of learning material to needy population.

This is despite the fact that the Hindu ostensibly form the smallest population out of the 42 recognised Kenyan tribes.  The member institutions give donations to deserving charities regularly. Jalaram Satsang Mandal and Hale Krishna Temple feed hundreds of poor people everyday. Shah free eye and ENT camps are held every year. The camps facilitate hundreds of operations, give out over 4,000 glasses and spend KSh5 million each year.

According to Sarvaiya, HCK religious principles on nationalism are not just lip service. In deed, HCK played a key role in alleviating the suffering of internally displaced persons (IDPs) after the post-election violence.

The council donated food, clothes and medicine to Kenya Red Cross which was coordinating the relief efforts. The Hindu contribution through the various institutions working the ground amounted to almost KSh90 million.

Besides material support, HCK has also made modest contribution to the country’s knowledge base. The council has set up a public library with a unique collection of books on spirituality, philosophy, culture, astronomy, scriptures, mythology and yoga. The facility is open to any individual interested in these subjects for general reading or research.

Yoga and meditation are perhaps the most widely recognised spiritual contributions of Hinduism to the humanity. Hatha Yoga, the widely practiced system of cleansing exercises, is only one of the yoga disciplines that encourage spiritual, physical and intellectual advancement. Meditation, the process that calms and focuses the psyche, is essential to yogic practice.

Sarvaiya notes that apart from transcendental concepts of spiritual practice, Hinduism has been a wellspring for vast contributions to global civilisation spanning more than five millennia. As a religious practice aspiring to understand the eternal mysteries of existence, Sarvaiya explains that Hinduism has never been a regressive or closed dogma satisfied with history-centred interpretations of one holy book.

Jini shoga linalo wadhulumu Wazanzibari! Hili ni jipya kwa Wakenya.

Na Thiong’o Nick

Wakenya wanaposikia kuhusu majini, mji unaowajia mawazoni ni ule wa Mombasa. Lakini mchakato wa haraka wa kuelekea Shirikisho la Afrika Mashariki unapotia fora, hili jipya la Popo Bawa litawashangaza.

Popo Bawa ni Jini shoga lenye umaarufu huko kisiwani Zanzibar linaloaminika kuwafira wanaume wakiwa usingizini. Mwaka wa 2001, hali ya hufo na taharuki ilizagaa huko Zanzibar wakati habari za zimwi hilo “lililokuwa likiwanajisi wanaume vitandani mwao usiku zilienea.

Kwa mujibu wa wakazi wa visiwa vya pemba na Zanzibar, uwepo wa pepo hili hufahamika kwa harufu ya uvundo mkuu na moshi uchipakao pale jini hilo linapo ibuka. Shiriaka la BBC, miaka sita iliyopita mwezi wa Julai lilitangaza kuwa jini hili huwadhulumu wakazi wa visiwa hivi vya Tanzania, hususan wanaume, wakati wa uchanguzi. Wakati wa uchaguzi wa mwaka wa 1995 na ule wa 2000 unaosemekana kuwa na utata si haba, zimwi hili liliwahaingisha wanaume kwa kiwango cha kuwafanya walale nje kwa vikundi wakiota moto.

Hata hivyo, mnamo Julai mwaka wa 2001 Popo Bawa liliwashangaza wengi kwa kujitokeza msimu usiokuwa wa uchaguzi. Liliripotiwa kuwa kaskazini mwa Zanzibar na kati ya Pemba. Magazeti na majarida tofauti wakati huo yalijaa makala na vikaragosi vilivyogusia swala hili. Kikaragosi kimoja katika gazeti la Ijumaa kilionyesha mtoto akimuarifu babake aliota kuwa wamevamiwa na Popo Bawa. kwa gadhabu, yule baba alimfukuza mtoto wake.

La kustaajabisha ni kuwa, zimwi hilo baada ya kumnajisi mwanaume, huwa lina mlazimisha atangaze mjini kuwa lilimtembelea; la sivyo, litamtembelea tena na tena bila kusitisha. Watu waliofikwa na janga la kufirwa na jini hilo hukiri kujihisi kama waliogumbikwa na ndoto na kupumbaa wanapofanyiwa kitendo hiki cha kutisha.

Kila linapochipuka, wanaume hukosa kulala au wanalala kwa vikundi kwa kuhofia kudhulumiwa kimapenzi. Wengine hujipaka mafuta ya nguruwe yanayoaminiwa kulikera pepo hili. Huku watanzania wakiishi na uoga, shirika moja la habari lilimnukulu Sheikh Yahya Hussein, mnajimu maarufu nchini Tanzania, akidai kwamba zimwi hilo ni pepo la kishetani linalotumiwa na washirikina kuwadhulumu wapinzani wao.

Japo ripoti za Popo Bawa zimekuwa za kawaida huko Zanzibar kwa miaka si haba, hakuna mtu anayekiri kuliona pepo hili ana kwa ana. Mtanzania, Salim Hassan anayeuza nguo za mitumba hapa Nairobi, Gikomba anadai visa hivi vya Popo Bawa-yaani popo aliye na mabawa-zimekuwa ni kama desturi. “Kwa kaiwaida wanaume wakisikia jini hilo limeonekana, wao huwasha moto nje usiku na kujibanza pale. Kama wapinga niambie nikutembeze kule kama utakuwa na ujasiri wa kulala kitandani,” aeleza Hassan.

Inaaminika kuwa baada ya Zanzibar kupata uhuru, uhuru huo ulikuja kwa dhamana kuu. Hiyo dhamana ilikuwa kiumbe kisichoeleweka chenye umbo la popo na ume wa inchi 18 kilianza kuwatia uoga wanavijiji. Ushirikina na majini na ma maswala yanayowaogofya sana wakazi wa sehemu hizi. Ushirikina pia mi moja wapo ya tamaduni zinazoaminika vitongojini nchini Tanzania na hata Kenya. Kwa mfano, mti wa mbuyu huaminika kuwa una mizimwi, hasa Taveta, Kenya, mji ulio mpakani mwa Tanzania na Kenya.

Katika maeneo haya ya uswahilini, watu hadi waleo huvalia njuga kama njia ya kujikinga na hila za warogi. Na katika mazungumzo ya akinayahe mtaani, maneno yanayoashiria kuwepo kwa ushirikina, pepo na mizimwi huibuka kwenye mazungumzo ya kawaida. Kwa mfano, ushirikina ndio kiini cha msemo, ‘wangu (mpenzi) humpati hata kwa dawa.’

Taking Kiswahili to the world

Map of Kiswahili speaking regions in Africa

By Thiong’o Nick

Omar Marjan Babu, a Kiswahili author and scholar at Cologne University, says he is impressed by the growing use of the language

Language can either polarize or unite a society, in the case of the Kiswahili language, its unifying power is not in doubt. This trait has seen the East African Community tap it as a resource for mobilizing support for the East African regional integration process. It is estimated that more 10 million people speak Kiswahili as their native language. Overall, over 120 million people speak the language.

It is the lingua franca of the greater East Africa and the Democratic Republic and the only language of African origin among the official working languages of the African Union. Omar Marjan Babu, popularly known as Abu Marjan, says Kiswahili’s popularity is on the rise.

Mr Marjan, 42, is a Kiswahili author and lecturer at Cologne University, Germany. “This is the language of choice in Africa.” Indeed, a past survey, the July 2009 Kenya Audience Research Foundation (KARF) research conducted by Synovate, indicates that Kiswahili radio stations have eclipsed their vernacular counterparts.

While Kiswahili radio stations have 48% listeners, English and Vernacular radio stations trail with 38% and 14% respectively. But it’s not only in Kenya and the wider East Africa where other languages are being upstaged by Kiswahili, about 66 million Congolese are said to speak the language and it is now starting to rival Lingala as the most important national language of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These are the kind of statistics that put a knowing smile on Mr Marjan’s face. It is not only because the increase of these numbers are important to his livelihood, but also because he is one of the agents that have played an integral role in popularizing Kiswahili. According to Mr Marjan Kiswahili is not only important in keeping East Africa’s social fibre intact, but is also critical to the region’s economic development.

Indeed, according to the University of Nairobi (UoN) Department of Lingustics, one of the ways Kiswahili “establishes and reinforces unity among the diverse ethnic groups of East Africa is through cross border trade.” This cross border trade is largely conducted in Kiswahili which is a common language among the region’s economic agents. Far from the statistics, Mr Marjan’s quest to promote Kiswahili started with an unbridled passion for the language in his early childhood.

This passion has seen him accomplish feats; from lecturing Kiswahili in Ohio State University, US and Cologne University, Germany, working with Deutche Welle, to recognition of his literary work locally. Marjan was born in Chuka in 1967 and raised by his uncle after his parents separated. Having been brought up in mainland Kenya, which the Swahili deride as Bara, as opposed to Coast, he has quashed the myth that Kiswahili is a preserve of the Coast province indigenes.

Mr. Marjan started his education at Chuka Township where he schooled from 1974 to 1980 and proceeded to Moi High, Mbiruri, Runyenjes from 1985 and 1986. After form six, he attended Iruma Secondary School where he studied religion, history, Kiswahili and social studies for six months before joining UoN. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Kiswahili and proceeded to Ohio State University to pursue his Masters. He has also studied mass communications and international relations in India.

Having grown up in a Muslim community, he says Qu’ran recitations, which are replete with elements of poetry, influenced his love for Kiswahili. When he joined high school, one of his first acquaintances who are etched in his mind is Kaimenyi Marete, a Kiswahili teacher who spotted his talent in arts and helped him nurture it.

The young Marjan would recite poems to national levels, but his most memorable moment is when he was invited to recite a poem for the erstwhile President Daniel Moi. “The recitation moved him and he bought us a school bus, I was elated.”

To date, he has written over 500 poems, which have been published in Taifa Leo. After mentorship from friends like Ken Walibora, who is renowned for his Kiswahili novel Siku Njema, and Dr. Mwangi Iribe, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, he has written short stories like Ndoto ya Samani in Damu Nyeusi, which is a collection of short stories and Pendo la Siri in Alidhani Kapata. He has also written 11 poems in Diwani ya Karne Mpya, a collection of poems.

Mr Marjan has also edited several books, one them is Ken Walibora’s relatively new novel, Maisha ya Almasi. “I have several manuscripts which are with publishing houses waiting to be edited and published.” His work is paying off, when he recently came to Kenya to visit his family and friends, he coincidently came second runners up in the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature Award (Kiswahili Adult Fiction 2009).

Nothing about Mr. Marjan’s appearance betrays his stature in the society and he frowns at titles such as Ustadh and Gwiji wa Kiswahili (loosely translated as Kiswahili expert). But he undoubtedly has an in-depth understanding of the Kiswahili language that few can rival. In the Kiswahili circles, his prowess in old poetry is indisputable. Mr. Marjan is married to Fatma Ghalib and has two children.

He believes that the agents for the spread of Kiswahili are not only lectures in academic halls but also musicians, poets and journalists among others. Indeed, he speaks with a lot of adoration for Remmy Ongala, the late Marjan Rajab and Mbraka Mwinshehe. Besides Benga, Mr Marjan acknowledges that Taarab has played an even more critical role to the spread of Kiswahili.

Taarab Music is a fusion of Swahili tunes sung in rhythmic poem spiced with Arabic or at times Indian melodies. The Swahili Taarab often moved with the Swahili people when they traversed the region, hence it permeated areas as far as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and even the remote parts of East Africa. In the Persian Gulf, Dubai and Muscat often play host to many groups of Taarab.

Mr. Marjan says one of impediments to the spread of Kiswahili is the perception that the language is difficult. “Often, there people who use difficult Kiswahili vocabularies to perplex others. This often scares even the most eager of learners.” Mr. Marjan says he is proof that Kiswahili is not rocket science even for Kenyans on the main land. Passion and interest, he says, play an important role in learning a language.

Interest, he says, is the reason he can speak, Kiswahili, English, German, and a little bit French, Kikuyu, Meru, Kisii and Kamba. The lecture has a few examples of people who have excelled in Kiswahili despite having been brought up in the Mainland of Kenya. According to Mr Marjan, his friend Ken Walibora first set foot in Coast Province as an adult.

Mr. Walibora, he explains, excelled in Kiswahili as he was an ardent listener of Radio Tanzania and Sauti ya Ujerumani. He points out that Zuhura Swaleh, a renowned taarab musician, is originally from Nyeri but was brought up in a Muslim environment. “She speaks with a pure Mvita accent and few can rival her talent in Taarab.” Mr. Marjan notes there people who have “light tongues” easily take to new languages.

“The late first president of Senegal, Leopold Sedar Senghor learnt French to the extent that the French involved him in their constitution review process.” Top on the list of challenges that hamper the progress of Kiswahili is the fight for positions among the luminaries that are supposed to promote the language.

He says Tanzanians, especially from the mainland, try to discredit Kenyan lectures in order to get positions in international higher education institutions. “Tanzanians want to create the perception that Kenyans don’t know Kiswahili. But the Kenyan Coast is source of Kiswahili; poems from the Kenyan coast made Kiswahili popular abroad.”

Undeniably, the Mombasa-Tanga-Zanzibar triangle is the navel of Kiswahili, indeed the word Kiswahili means the coastal language in Arab. But despite the fact that Kiswahili shares origin between Kenya and Tanzania, efforts to form one East African institution to promote Kiswahili have not been successful. Mr. Marjan laments that the Tanzanians wanted other countries to dissolve their Kiswahili organisations but keep their own.

“We can’t break our national Kiswahili organisations to form an international one, if one country wants the privilege of keeping its organisation.” He equally observes that most institutions meant to promote Kiswahili, such Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili (TUKI) in Dar e salaam, are not headed by the “right people”. Often, while researching Kiswahili vocabularies, says Mr. Marjan, the heads of these institutions don’t use proper Kiswahili dialects.

“Instead they fall back on their languages such as Hehe, Zaramo and Haya. I have heard professors make big grammatical errors and their students take after them unwittingly.” While the Kenyans envy the Tanzanians because of their fluency in Kiswahili, Mr Marjan cautions that they have pronunciation challenges depending on their first language.

“Tanzanians benefited because when the East African Federation split in 1977, the committee that was in charge of developing standardised Kiswahili in the region was left in Zanzibar.” While the Late Tanzanian President, Julius Kabarange Nyerere went ahead to promote the use of Kiswahili, Kenyans fell back to their first languages and were hence polarised by tribalism. “If Kenyatta (The first Kenyan President) had done the same, we would be far ahead of Tanzania.”

He however says that the use of Kiswahili is on the rise in Kenya, and this he attributes to growth of Kiswahili broadcast media and the proliferation of Kiswahili literature. “I have heard a Tanzanian professor complain that while Kiswahili is on the rise in Kenya, the language is ebbing in Tanzania.” In fact, Mr Marjan explains there are many Kenyan books in use for both Tanzanian and Kenyan Kiswahili syllabi.

For instance, Dr. Kyalo Wamitila’s books are used in Tanzania. Dr Wamitila is a Kiswahili lecturer at University of Nairobi who was recently recognised as Msomi Bora wa Afrika Mashiriki (Best East African Scholar) by TUKI, which is based in Dar es alaam.

Though most Kenyans are more likely to understand something when it is communicated in Kiswahili, the language has remained an academic relic “due lack of a concrete language policy.” But Kiswahili has also not fared well in academic circles. In a recent Kiswahili conference held in August this year, which Mr Marjan was in attendance, one of the main observations was that UoN, one of the oldest higher learning institutions in East Africa, has no Faculty of Kiswahili.

One of the aims of the Chama Cha Kiswahili cha Taifa (CHAKITA) conference was to push for the establishment of a Faculty of Kiswahili at UoN. However, the key goal was to explore the contributions of various institutions in the development of Kiswahili. UoN only has a Department of Linguistics and African Languages, in which Kiswahili is a central subject.

The Department was established in the Faculty of Arts at the then University College of Nairobi in 1969; prompting the establishment of more departments which focus on teaching and study of Kiswahili language and literature in various Kenyan universities. Mr Marjan says Kiswahili has critical role to play if nationalism is to be realised in Kenya. Indeed, nationalism was the key goal behind the teaching and study of Kiswahili in Kenya.

The Ominde Commission of 1964 saw an opportunity in Kiswahili to unite Kenyans beyond the primordial ties of the family and the locality. The language was supposed to form wider bonds and create a movement that would stress the unity of a culturally diverse population. The launguage was to serve as a tool of communication in a modern state where there is a search for newer and efficient solutions.

Though various initiatives by different Kiswahili institutions are not coordinated to achieve a singular goal, Mr. Marjan says the scattered efforts nonetheless promote the language. Some of these efforts include the Kamusi Elezo project, which seeks to translate Wikipedia into Kiswahili, the development of Kiswahili Windows and Office Programmes and the ongoing translation of Facebook among others.

Equipping today’s leaders

Mr Ali Mfuruki, the Chairman Africa Leadership Initiative

By Thiong’o Nick

African Leadership Initiative is equipping emerging leaders in Africa with the knowledge tools needed to lead in the globalization era.

What do Gavin Bell, the managing director of Kengele’s Managament Group, Patrick Obath, the special projects manager in the Shell Africa office, Linus Gitahi, the managing director of Nation Media Group, Francis Okomo-Okello, the chairman Barclays Bank Kenya, Muchiri Wahome, the managing director of Deacons and Julie Gichuru, the group digital manager, Royal Media Services have in common? They either were in first class of Africa Leadership Initiative (ALI) or are in its second class.

This coterie of top business executives is a part an Africa-wide network comprising some of the most distinguished problem solvers in business in Kenya. A network whose efforts have in the past drew admiration from the former US President Bill Clinton. Ali Mfuruki, the Chairman of ALI who doubles as chief executive officer Infotech Investment Group Ltd, was handed a certificate of commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit in 2005 in recognition of ALI’s work.

After a long period of centralised “command and control,” leadership in Africa, government leaders are now vouching for market-led economic growth and community emancipation without an elaborate understanding of the changes required from them. A section of business leaders are also unfamiliar with new norms such as public-private cooperation; and have operated only as profiteers with little regard for social responsibility.

Civil society leaders often lack a clear understanding of the need for business and government alike to satisfy different stakeholders for sustainable development. ALI is trying to bring together the next generation of leaders from all the threes sectors to achieve socio-economic development.

Despite the piling legions of MBAs in the region, Mr Mufuruki says there is still a crisis of leadership in Africa; in both public and private sector. Though the bigger portion of the crisis has been in governance and political leadership; the private sector has not been spared; various cases of corporate mismanagement in the private sector are proof of this.

ALI seeks to develop a new generation of value driven, community-spirited leaders—primarily businesspersons between the ages of 35 and 40-in Africa. ALI is a joint program of the Aspen, the international development agency TechnoServe, the Letsema Foundation of South Africa and leaders from several African countries.

“Our objective is to nurture leaders with energy, the skills and the commitment to tackle the foremost challenges facing their countries and continent,” explains Mr. Mufuruki. Often, the thought of leadership might wrongly conjure a romanticised version of an elite sportsman, a religious icon or a celebrity. But leaders have different traits; and successful ones are often determined by the action of their followers.

Apart from technical expertise and problem solving skills, trust and accountability are critical characteristics of leadership. Trust is either earned through a leader’s empathy, a sense of leadership through a command structure, or a respect for their knowledge of a subject. Mr Mufuruki Says ALI is not trying to redefine leadership but has a criteria for choosing those who are enrolled for its fellowship.

“They have to have achieved significant success in their fields, demonstrated their potential for leadership at the highest levels of corporate, government or civic responsibility.” ALI them helps the participants address their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, and challenges they face in a rapidly globalising society. At ALI, they share and refine their visions of “the society they would wish to live in”.

The ALI fellowship is a 36 month-long rigorous leadership development program modelled on the immensely successful Henry Crown Fellowship of the Aspen Institute of Aspen Co. USA. For about 60 years, Aspen Institute, a non-partisan crucible where the world’s greatest minds meet to exchange ideas, has attracted ambassadors, businesspersons, scientists and Nobel Laureates among others. The initiative, says Mr. Mufuruki, is a clear response to the crises of leadership in Africa.

ALI creates a network of peers to monitor and mentor each other. He says the absence of effective leadership in Africa is due to lack of networks that act as each other’s conscience. “Mugabe, (the Zimbabwean President) has no shame because he has no peers to reprimand him. Often, if your actions are subject to evaluation by your social network, you will be careful of your deeds”

According to Walter Isaacson, the president and chief executive of the Aspen Institute, which works closely with ALI, a close network of associates is critical in moulding leaders. “…we are working with our partners around the globe to reach an expanding number of motivated young people to develop enlightened leaders; often the missing ingredient in struggling societies.”

Candidates who are nominated are not after self-aggrandizement. “We often evaluate candidates’ conduct in public and private life.” Most important of all, explains Mr. Mufuruki, the candidates must be keen on moving beyond self. “ALI is not an initiative where one comes to improve their CVs; it is for people who are at their peak.”

Indeed, the ability to look beyond self is said to be one of the most important traits of a leader. According to Jodi Taylor, the vice president of Centre for Creative Leadership, across industries, one significant factor distinguished the upper quartile of the most successful managers from the lower quartile of unsuccessful managers: Caring. Empathy has also been cited variously as the number one practical competency for leaders.

Often, leadership in Africa does not exhibit empathy. The ideological war between the East and the West helped prop up a corrupt and selfish breed of leaders in Africa. The continent was the pawn of superpowers as they tried to impose their ideas on Africa; this in turn spawned subservient leaders who implemented impractical political and economic policies at the behest of their masters.

Some introduced failed Marxist policies without the consent of their people, or allowed their mostly poor countries to engage in senseless proxy wars and looted national treasuries to enrich themselves and their friends. Others pursued western economic models, but at the same time subjected the citizenry to severe hardships through economic exploitation and political repression.

This is in fact the genesis of accumulated foreign debt, which has slowed the economic growth of African countries. Multiple questions surround the debt issue; how it was incurred and whether lenders are to some extent culpable for the burden poor countries are presently shouldering. “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) use debt relief to protect banks that gave out loans recklessly, in some instances even after having anticipated defaults.”

He observes that the implementation of debt relief is flawed and has a high probability of failure. Mr Mufuruki says debt relief is structured to make the debt of poor countries manageable using a description of poverty that is only comprehended by IMF and WB. Though there is a great difference between manageable debt and sustainable debt, the current debt relief programs attempts to deal with the former.

During the 1970s and 1980s, most African economies experienced dramatic economic decline. Currently, majority of countries in the continent are struggling with the challenge of multi-party democracy, globalization, HIV/AIDS and abject poverty. Malaria and HIV/AIDS epidemics are arguably the greatest threat to the viability of most African economies. They presently set back the continent billions of dollars in gross domestic product annually.

Many of Africa’s current leaders seem to be either completely helpless or are fomenting the strife to hold on to power. High levels of poverty in the continent have helped dictators hang on leadership through economic manipulation. Mr Mufuruki says poverty often drives the wrong people into the field of politics, and on the other hand, makes it extremely difficult for the poor masses to remove or change their leaders when they fail to deliver, even in a multi-party democracy.

Though the business fraternity can help provide leadership in the field of economics, politicians opt to control even the economy ignoring the council of experts. However, Mr Mufuruki believes that by creation of wealth, African business fraternity can contribute to the creation of a society that is less prone to political bribery, and consequently a society in which the quality of leadership will become a prime issue.

Indeed, the origin of ALI goes back to the quest to establish “what constitutes a good society”. It all started when Peter Reiling, one-time president and chief executive of TechnoServe, an international organisation promoting market-led economic growth in Africa and Latin America , invited 20 East Africans to a conversation at a hotel in Zanzibar.

Over a period of three days, they pondered over a “good society” by exploring various perspectives of different thinkers on the issue, as well as their own. After debating the ideas of thought leaders such as Nicolae Machiavelli, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Aristotle, Plato, Alexander Hamilton, Milton Friedman, Julius Nyerere and John Stuart Mill among others, the group realised the answer to this question varied and is inescapably a function of many influences such as society,  religion, culture, economics and politics among others.

“Mr Reiling is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute and the Zanzibar conversation was part of his community leadership project as a Henry Crown Fellow.” The Aspen Institute, established in the 1950s, is a global forum for leveraging the power of leaders to improve the human condition.

The Henry Crown Fellowship programme was established by the Institute in 1997 and seeks to establish the next generation of community spirited leaders, providing them with tools necessary to meet the challenges of corporate and civic leadership in the 21st Century. In 1998, Mr Reiling was named to the Millennium Class of the Henry Crown Fellows.

Like his classmates, he was asked to execute a community project-designed to put into place values-based leadership. He decided that his project would be to bring the message of the Aspen Institute to Africa, where he had lived and worked for more than two decades. In 2000 and 2001, with the assistance of Keith Berwick, executive director of the Henry Crown Fellowship program, and Beth Brooke, inaugural Henry Crown Fellow and vice chairman of Earnest & Young, TechnoServe sponsored executive seminars for business, government and civil society leaders for a few African countries.

The executive seminar, the flagship of the Aspen Institute Seminar uses the writings of some of the world’s greatest minds to prompt dialogue on each participant’s vision of “the good society.” The seminars were a success, proving that the Aspen methodology is transferable to Africa and spurring serious discussion on the respective roles of business, government and civil society in economic and social development.

“Our deliberations on the good society question challenged our personal values and beliefs through intense scrutiny by fellow participants.” According to Mr. Mufuruki, ALI drives participants to confront the reality of their existence not only as successful individuals, but also as leaders in their respective communities. “The initiative is aimed at injecting thoughtful action, ethics, tolerance for varying views, fairness and pursuit of knowledge.”

He explains Economics comprises almost half of what participants study at ALI. “The reason why Adam Smith is one the thinkers we explore is because the root of Africa’s problems is inequitable distribution of resources.” Indeed, poor resource allocation and management spark most of the conflicts in Africa. In a speech delivered at the Strathmore Business School, Mr. Okello, an ALI fellow and Chairman of Barclays Bank Kenya ponders why Africa should be experiencing low rates of wealth creation and yet the continent is “so resource rich”.

Prof. B.N. Ayittey in his book: Africa in Chaos notes that Africa is a continent with immense untapped mineral wealth. It has 40% of the world’s potential hydroelectric power, the bulk of the world’s diamonds and chromium; 30% of uranium in the free world, 50% of the world’s gold, 90% its cobalt, 50% of its phosphates an the largest percentage of unexploited land on a per capita basis.

But the continent is still in a grip of violence from Congo, Guinea to Darfur. After a decade of relative calm, Africa exposed its ugly side once again, with Kenya’s disputed elections degenerating into massive blood-letting and displacement of about 350, 000 people. “In ALI we challenge our fellows to stand firm and face the leadership challenge with confidence that is inspired by knowledge.”

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