June 10, 2010
Theme; ‘Africa I live in’ Title; Hope in Africa The Africa I live is a continent of many faces. It is full of hypocrisy among its leaders, people who are tribalist, full of hatred, a continent of injustice and usually faced by natural calamities such as drought, hunger and epidemics such as cholera and other diseases. On the other hand it’s a continent of generous people, full of optimism and whenever faced with catastrophies they always join hands and come up with solutions. Africans are talented in sports and it’s a continent with the best runners in the world, best footballers and full of giants who have prospered in the field of academics. I was born 28 years ago in a small village in Uasin- Gishu district in Kenya and for the few years I have lived in the continent I have had my share of the ups and downs that the continent offers. My birth village was a cosmopolitan village which was a mixture of more than ten tribes. Since my childhood I benefited a lot from other tribes because I was able to learn most of their languages, shared their traditions and ate their delicacies. I was taught by my friend from the Kalenjin community how to prepare mursik (sour Milk) using charcoal as early as in standard four. I also learned to eat birds from a teso friend. I enjoyed the kalenjin traditional dances on pre-circumcisions ceremonies. Since I was born up to class five, even though I was still young to know about the political situations in the country, things were ok. It was until November 1992 when our relationship with our neighbours was never the same a gain. I had lived knowing that I was in our home and I did not know that we were different from our neighbours. Maybe my conscious before had been telling me that God created people and allowed them to live together like we had lived. I came from school one evening and found my mother packing our cloths and other utensils on sacks. ‘What is wrong mother?’ I asked. ‘We have to move from this place my son’ she replied. ‘Why mother? I asked. ‘We have to go to your father’s place of work because we have been told to move out of this place by the locals’, she answered. I was shocked when I learned that we had been living in a foreign land and I was ten years old. It was the first time in my life that I come to know that tribe was not just the language as I thought before. Since I was young it was just fun to me when I assisted my mother in packing and I couldn’t know the seriousness of the matter. The vehicle that my mother expected to take us to fathers’ place failed to come and we had to unpack so that cooking was to continue as usual. That 1 Amon mwangi night we were visited by our neighbours from our tribe and that is when I learned the reason that we had to leave out of that place. I listened to the talk in the house and heard Kenneth Matiba who was a presidential aspirant a member of our tribe was challenging the then president who was the same tribe with the locals. It was from the chiefs baraza that day when the new area chief was being introduced to the people that in his address he said that ‘tutatoa madoa doa’ (we shall remove the stains). The stains were the tribes that were not supporting the government of the day. As a young child I was depressed when I saw how my mother was stressed and not knowing the next move. I felt that of I had power I would have convinced matiba not to challenge the president because people were suffering at the grassroots. It was a night I slept hating matiba with a passion and I did not even wait the visitors to leave. At around quarter past one I had a loud scrim uuuuiii!! Uuuuuii!! Wake up! Wake up my mother shouted. It was our distant neighbors who were shouting for help after their house was set a blaze .We didn’t even know where to go. My mother was holding our hands me and my brother and we ran to a near by hill. The light from a burning house filled the air and we would see even the attackers moving towards a different direct. When we reached the hill we found a person there and mother pulled us to a different direction running. When I turned I saw the person running to the opposite direction. We ran towards our primary school but before we reached we met a crowd of people with their luggages in sacks moving towards where we were coming from. A man in that crowd gathered courage and asked us where were going, but mother did not respond. After a minute of silence the man said ‘join us we are running away just like you’. My mother was able to identify the man’s voice and they started talking. They agreed that we run toward a mission church. The crowd was of more than five families and they had their children’s. I identified my classmates and we were relaxed as we moved towards the mission church in the opposite direction of the attackers who were still torching houses. As we ran towards the mission church, it was a sad moment for our parents who were counting the losses and how the government had forsaken them, but to the children we were narrating the experiences and making fun out of it and we couldn’t comprehend the seriousness of the matter. It was the first time to meet my classmates at such a time of the night and therefore to us it was memorable moments and fun. For the children we were not afraid possibly because we were young and innocent and didn’t know the dangers that could face us. We led the group running and the others followed. There was only one man in the group and the others were women.I latter learned that the man was a coward that is why he kept on singing in Kiswahili.’ Watoto mbele watoto mbele! Watoto mbele watoto mbele! Wamama nyuma! wamama nyuma! 2 Amon mwangi Wazee katikati wazee katikati walinde usalama.( Children to be at the forefront! children to be at the fore front! Women to be at the back front! Women to be at the back front! Men to be in the middle! Men to be in the middle front to provide security). I latter discovered that the man had played his cards well because he was at the safe position in case the attackers were to approach from any side. We arrived at the mission church at half past three. We were received well served with tea and bread. After the tea the priest made a prayer and we were given the blankets since majority of the families had mattresses and we slept in the church. The night was very long and tiresome and we just slept less than four hours. The following day we went back to our village and it was not the same again. All the houses of the ‘foreigners’ as they said had been torched, animals stolen and every thing else had been reduced to ash. The neighbours from the attacking communities were very hostile to us and they couldn’t even greet us. All they told us was to go to murang’a which I did even know where it was. The hostility and hatred that engulfed the village could be cut with a knife. We had no alternative apart from leaving the place to unknown destination. There was no time to say goodbye, every family disappeared hurriedly after seeing a pool of ash in what used to be their homes. The picture of what used to be our home left a permanent scar in my brain that was to follow me many years after. Before we left my mother made an emotional prayer that I still remember word by word up to date. The good thing with that prayer is that she prayed God to give our enemies an inner understanding to know that Matiba was not her relative and she didn’t know him for her to suffer because of him. On our way to the fathers place we reached a roadblock that was mannered by youths some of whom were my schoolmates. We were afraid at first but when I identified them I told Mother that I was to talked to them and nothing bad was to happen on us. When we reached them they were so apologetic and they told my mother that it was not their wish, they were working under instructions. In the course of their conversation with my mother, our school headmaster who was from our tribe came riding his wife with a bicycle. The good school mates turned wild, ‘catch your toes’ they told the old man. Initially I thought the youth would run away the way they did in school but they didn’t. They had found an opportunity to cane the headmaster when he was catching his toes the way he used to do to them school. The old man was caned seriously before his wife as I helplessly watched. My mother pulled me before I had said a word and we left. I did not have an opportunity to know what happened to our poor headmaster latter. 3 Amon mwangi As a young boy I felt bad and asked myself where the world had gone wrong for such a reversed role to happen in broad day light. I promised my heart that I will never be a teacher only did I know that I was to end up being a teacher as I am today. We arrived at the fathers working place so traumatized that none of my brother’s had courage to revisit what we had gone through. The following day my father organized our migration to central province where he had bought a land. We had not salvaged anything and therefore the migration was easy. After the general the then president was re- elected and things went back to normal but my mother vowed never to return back to the former land. I continued with my education in the new environment where everybody in the school was from the same tribe. The secondary school was the same with same few teachers and students from other tribes. When I join the university, I was happy again to meet people from allover the country .I had a chance to meet and share joy with people from tribes I was reading on books. It is in the university that I joined Omidyar network which was an on-line network. We would share discussions with people from allover the world, and it offered me an opportunity to meet new friends from Rwanda, Zambia, and Ethiopia among other countries in the world. I learned from the friends that Africa as a continent has experienced same troubles which from their narrations resembled what I had gone through. I learned from my Rwandese friend the pains he went through during the genocide in 1994. He narrated to me how he witnessed his father and mother being hulked to death as he watched. He also told me of the tight measures that the government had put in place to prevent the recurrence of genocide. I learned that it is a crime to identify oneself as either Tutsi or Hutu and even as we met in Omidyar conference and our communications up to date he has declined to tell me if he is a Tutsi or Hutu despite my assurance to him that I will never tell anybody that he reveled to me his tribe. They have lived as a nation and they used Nyarwanda to communicate. In 2007 the Omidyar network sponsored us to attend a conference in Gulu northern Uganda, that was organized by life in Africa Kampala and charity for peace in Gulu.In the Northern Uganda things we worse than I imagined. I learned a new vocabulary that was not in my dictionary that comes to be official ion Kenya after the general elections in 2007. ‘The IDP’ In my life I had not seen what I saw in Gulu. Four out of ten people you meet in the streets are missing one of their body parts. Some had even their nose chopped off. The IDP camps’ were congested with uncountable thatched houses lining up. It was unbelievable to see graves surrounding the grass thatch houses because people are congested and there is no space to burry the dead. I couldn’t believe sleeping in a house where a dead person has been buried in next to the perimeter of the house. I some houses the graves were next to the door. 4 Amon mwangi Unlike the clashes in Kenya affected few communities the Uganda case was different because the rebels cause panic to the whole village. Every body lived in fear and even the children were not sleeping in their homes they were coming to sleep in the charity for peace ground. The most encouraging thing was the hospitality of the Ugandans in Gulu. I was hosted by one family for a night and I couldn’t believe that I was in a foreign land. I ate sweet potatoes, posho and greens. I was treated as one of their own I couldn’t understand why Africans fight yet they are such generous and kind people. That evening I was briefed about the insecurities in the northern Uganda, the abductions and other heart breaking news from the area by my host. In the charity for peace where we were hosted where we were hosted life was interesting. We were more than fifty people from different countries in the world aged between 20 and 35 years. We entertained the children up to midnight and gave them hope to move on, we allowed the children to share their experiences to us and it help them to cope well for a problem shared is a problem half solved. The children were freer with us after sharing their experiences and they saw us as a blessing to their life. We lived and shared our life experiences and discussed different approaches of bring peace in the region. It is in the conference that we discovered that African minus their corrupt, tribalist and power hungry leaders are wonderful people. We like the wonderful African cultures not forgetting the Ugandan women who were kneeling when greeting us. As Kenyans we were so embarrassed we were not used to seeing women older than us according us such respect. The advocacy of the conference was humanity before politics and therefore it came a time to give the Gulu people the present from the omidyar family. The present was in terms of cash that was to be used to benefit them all. There were many suggestions of opening a business, revolving fund, buying a boda boda bicycle. What carried the day was the opinion of one old lady who wanted the cash to be shared among the members. When asked why she thought so she said that age is catching up with her and she didn’t think that the profit from the business was to find her a live. We had to vote and the idea of revolving fund carried the day. The group contributed some many and we gave the old lady and she really appreciated blessed us all. After the conference I visited several places in Kenya on business mission since I had completed my studies at the University. One of the interesting parts of my mission is when we went to Suswa to transport maize. We had to spend the night with the lorry driver because the place had rained during the day. Our host had two wives, one was instructed to cook the meat while the other ugali and within few minutes the supper was ready. I was surprised to see how the two wives coexisted well in that homestead. 5 Amon mwangi I appreciated that culture which was different from what I was used to. When I reflected the good life we lived in the University as students and the generosity I have found in Kenyans, the commitment of the people towards peace building and reconciliations and economic development. I also join hands that the leaders are the problem in the continent and that all is not lost there is still a better tomorrow. Despite the corrupt leaders in our continent, past and present injustices Africans are optimistic and hopeful that a better day is coming and they will live happily and exists for the sake of each other for existing for the sake of each other is a fundamental principle of the universe. By his wisdom God created world of being in such away that subject and object partners have to live for one another in order to bring about true love, true happiness and true peace. The ups and down falls of the continent has produced a new generation of people who are ready to die for the sake of bringing a sustainable peace in the region. The differences of culture among the Africans is a resource that when exploited positively will boost the economy of the Continent. The experience I have gone through has made me love all the mankind and appreciate their divergent views and accommodate divergent opinions. As a teacher and teaching in Uasin Gishu a region that has experience post election violence in the past I teach my students to be peace makers. For the holy scripture in Mathew 5;9 says that ‘blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the sons of God’. That is the Africa I have lived in. The continent of challenges blessings and all sort of experience’s that has entered in the books of history featured in the world news but life has to go on despite the odds. Words (3015) 6 Amon mwangi
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