...although we have walked a thousand seasons from you and are yet to walk a thousand others to get you, we have to start somewhere, to get to the Nation of Africa

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The trouble with tribe politics

Someone wrote a list of names of loafers in Bulanda junction and took it to the police.
Now from what I gathered, the more responsible citizen, did not like it that the men calling themselves Bulanda boys sat at a small shed called the ‘yard’ did nothing all day but managed to eat, wait for it, meat without working. They also managed to get drunk everyday without jobs. So I guess the assumption would rightly be they were stealing.

The yard, is a small wall-less shed under tin iron roof that has been rented by Boda to sell timber which he stores at a closed shed besides it. Boda, an unassuming Luo lets them sit there perhaps only to show solidarity or have them on his side in case of political temperatures. It is a sentry point as you approach Bulanda on Okamari’s property where the Bakhone clan younglings watch fortress against the advancing town. Here I sat with them to get to know their daily lives, to be part of this brotherhood of the neighbourhood and they welcomed me.

But someone put a list of them, men who call themselves boys and boys who were joining the ranks of this notorious group of youths in my home area and took it to the police to probably investigate them. Mark you these youths who are on the national watch list of criminal gangs that were read out by the Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery ahead of the elections warning them that the long arm of the law was dangling above them.

I later found out who did it, but could not get his motivation, had he been sent or was he just your upright responsible citizen. How I found out is that the police or one among their ranks sold him out. We will come back to him in a bit.

Well I managed to eat the meat and this ritual not only convinced me that the gang status they had was either overrated or they had taken fancy of my naivety and a sense of wanting to belong to the boys of my neighbourhood. Firstly, most of the made money though Sports betting and during this time of the elections cycle as political crowds. Some were remnants of the dying smuggling trade, or worked customs or were local masons and carpenters hoping for periodic jobs. The centre of power was around Ombiji, a muscle by every sense of the word asked all of us to contribute to buying of the meat and we did. There those who afforded Sh50 to those who graciously gave up to Sh500. Once the kitty was complete some of the money was set aside for meat, Uganda Waragi satchets and Mrija the porridge like traditional beer native to Uganda and Western Kenya.

My idea of a gang was probably more fancy like Sons of Anarchy type of shit. But this gang was primarily made of lack of work. Ombiji a felon was a calm composed muscle who rose from selling ice to kids into the gym and made his name during the reign of the previous MP Chris Okemo. He was among the fiercest ‘body guards’ or goons so to speak. During that time elections or party primaries were indeed violent times and getting a certificate to run or actually winning an election would only require enough muscle to throw out your opponents, hijack the certificate, hijack the returning officer or even ensure some polling stations at your rivals strongholds did not vote by raining chaos.

The other Centre of power was Kakaya, now bowed and calm as if contemplating oncoming death. He was famed for being a gun totting robber in his days. Now he only attracts reverence in his calm respectful ways as someone who had no fear left in him. The boys pay homage to him, they listen to him they like to hear him reminisce of his days in the dark and his usual assertion that he may still have ‘the metal’.

I met a new or maybe the future centre of power or a peripheral figure to Ombiji. Padiri, a corruption of a catholic priest by Luhyas, his reputation was that he was muscle with little sense of afterthought. He is famed for being able to make all the people in the junction scuttle. “That one all of them fear, he stands up with a club and calmly walks to the junction and suddenly there is no one and all shops are closed, you cannot tell it with him, he might be calm but  the next thing he is whipping you clean,” was the way one described him.

All these characters and the lankier ones trying to prove their mettle are the sons of the soil, Bakhayo, trying to protect what is left of their ancient homesteads swallowed by the town. They want invaders to pay homage and politicians to pay rent during this period.

That is why they have an animosity with the list writer, Baba Caro, aka Mjaluo. When we settled in Busia Bulanda was a vast emptiness spreading on either side of a cross junction looped into greenery.

There were only three shops at the time one which was a furniture shop, a fast consumer goods shop and a salon at the front of a row of buildings set up by Mzee Okamari the biggest land owner in the area. But as people settled in and bought land more buildings were set up overlooking the road and Majluo set up a retail shop. At the time my father also set up Jolodos, a retail shop and a posho mill but a bit in the interior since hi land was not next to the main junction.

 Now the first shop, kwa Nyanya, was not braced for competition since it was more often than not understocked and due to monopoly overpriced and was quickly overran. And the new settlers were soon in control of business. I say this to let you understand that in this case we, me and my family, are also considerably settlers.

But Mjaluo who was quite successful even managed to purchase several parcels of land and diversify his business to selling maandazi that were most popular at the time. He was convinced by his customers that he should use this popularity to vie for a council seat which he did and lost. Now elections are not a good thing as people tell it to your face what they think about you so he got to hear all manner of things including how they would turn him out of the property in the slightest chance.

Fast forward to today he still bears differences of opinions with the locals and speaks his mind. Now when Raila Odinga’s ODM party held botched nominations that saw the incumbent governor Sospeter Ojamong win on contested votes, some claimed that Luo’s supported him even threatening not to support Raila’s presidency. So you understand Mjaluo’s anxiety swamped by dissenting Luhyas who have albeit threatened him anyway. So he does a list of those who have probably threatened him maybe in hope that the police would protect him in case things went south.

But that now has isolated him as he is now accused of writing the list and they want to go to the owner of the building and ask him to turn him out lest they burn down the building with him.

This whole country has taken up a sad turn towards those considered alien. If you settle all they would want is that you should lie low like an envelope and pay homage. You should not be successful in business and you should not have a political opinion which is a sad state of affairs. The whole idea of being settler is to look for untapped opportunity and utilize it where people with bountiful resources have not enough exposure to know that such opportunities exist.

Say they burn down Mjaluo’s shop, mark you my father closed his down, and discourage other people to set up. Will they go back to Nyanya’s understocked and overpriced alternatives?

My father thinks that the current hunger killing this country is not just that the rains delayed, or that army worms attacked farms, but that well-meaning Kikuyus, known agronomists were turned out of their Rift Valley farms during the 2007 post poll violence and no one has been able to take up their hoes after them and plant maize.

We are too quick to follow mindless political overtures for tribal exclusivity to understand that the basis of this country is not driven by overlords but by small settler commerce and small settler agriculture that is intertribal and comes undone at the cost of the communities politicians claim to represent.