The joLuo, a lady friend said, are in a renaissance. I disputed that and waited and nothing special happened. It was after the 2013 general elections. My expectations were unaffected if not for a little hope to be proved wrong for my ‘pessimism’, which could as well be substituted by my perception as ‘realism’.
Renaissance by the way was ‘the revival of art and literature under the influence of classical models in the 14th-16th centuries’. It is also a ‘renewal of interest in something’. Based on this oxford dictionary definition I maintain my position. The latter part cannot stand the general view of these people; they have never failed to interest and attention never seems to veer away long enough from them. For the former part I will concur up to a point since it is for a few notable talents of Luo descent in fields of sports and entertainment that my friend made her observation/declaration?
Somehow people find it hard to wrap their praise around the person of Barack Obama. To an extent they can live with his father being ‘from Kenya’ and ‘ Kogelo clan’ but what’s hard to swallow is his being a joLuo. That magnitude of achievement is unfathomable and Solomonic wisdom to judge between the world and the joLuo is to be called upon. It’s nothing; a storm in a tea cup. However, it raises more questions rhetoric on my part.
My objective is to talk on the history of Kenya vis-a-vis the antagonist aGikuyu and joLuo. I begin with the stereotypes of the aGikuyu as farmers and merchants and the joLuo as craftsmen and scholars. All if not most encounters with the Imperial British government led to changes in lifestyle. It is up to you the reader to find out in what other ways the clash of cultures was resolved beyond my narrow drive and dive into agenda and propaganda.
This is my thesis; the aGikuyu and the joLuo had different experiences with the occupying power, the British. In the lands of the aGikuyu, now the ‘white highlands’ they witnessed the aristocracy in their summer homes, ‘wild west cowboy’ ranches and not very noble habits. In fact, it was a point of debauched humour,’ are you married or do you live in Kenya?’. On the other hand the joLuo saw the administrative side; orderly, clean (starched and pressed khaki) and spiritual (missionaries). Of course the aGikuyu saw this too but it was tempered by brutality and oppression. I doubt the joLuo were herded into reserves similar to those of their fellow ‘sufferers’ and to the same effect; loss in life and livelihood.
As international politics contributed to the shape of the country, its direction was to be determined by the then governor and his government. Our antagonists were about to be birthed and nurtured. Two titans step onto the arena, Jaramogi Odinga Oginga and Jomo Kenyatta. One’s higher education was in the United Kingdom whilst the other completed his in the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Let us highlight their beginnings.
Culturally, the aGikuyu are predisposed to Darwinism’s ‘survival of the fittest’ and independence at an early age is encouraged like the eagle nudging the eaglet from the safety of the nest. This survival instinct and detachment is what makes them great entrepreneurs and is why they have a foothold all over the republic. On the other hand we have the joLuo whose kinship and sense of duty is not restricted to the immediate/ nuclear family. This is gleaned from unschooled social science not my own but it sets the stage for the plot to unravel.
The sun never set on the British Empire. ‘One thing led to another ‘when the first ‘sacco’, the East India trading company begun operations overseas. It was all about spices and other innocent exchanges in local arrangements with individual maharajas. The business was booming and like the recent quail-craze every nation wanted a piece of the action. Different ‘saccos’ from different European nations descended on India and there were skirmishes and the business men needed protection. The queen allowed them guns and muscle and when the boys couldn’t get the work done mama stepped in. Take note boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen; with economic dominance political influence follows.
Fast forward to IBEACO Imperial British East Africa Company… There is nothing new under the sun, its how it has been and how it will always be. Be it Britain, America, China and their nana’s and no-no’s; ‘there are no countries, only economic realities!’
After the World War II the colonial government seeing its overheads reach over its head they decided to fold up. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was approached with the offer of taking over but he turned it down in favour of the still incarcerated Jomo Kenyatta. I understand he was counselled to avoid making a regrettable decision and as history has it he had his way. Then the inevitable; personalities and cultures came to a head and was reduced to a debate on capitalism and communalism in some quarters.
“What do you have? (so and so) has a big house and farm!”, is how Bildad Kaggia was castigated for ‘making noise’ in the name of the people, the common man; the ordinary citizen, by the president Jomo Kenyatta. J.M Kariuki’s “ten millionaires and ten million paupers” quip killed him quick and so it seems T.J Mboya’s threat of ambition did him in…
Ever since the recognition of this former crown land as a country there has been a pervading sense of unfairness in sharing of the ‘fruits of independence’. The ruling class in the tradition of the ‘founding fathers’ have sullied the dream of emancipation. It is no surprise therefore the whimper for a ‘revolving presidency’ even in the presence of the much touted salvation by devolution.
Capitalism isn’t a foreign concept, it is the charade of democracy that is. It is our duty to defend, amend and make it work for the queen, the princes, the paupers and the court jesters. We all know that the system is rigged in the favour of the house, by what devices do we make it of service? Ponder that putting people before and over profits
My friend says that ever since Agwambo returned, her efforts at conversations on renaissance with her joLuo counterparts, bloggers and thinkers have come to naught. I smiled.