I lost my uncle last week so I had to travel for the burial (which took place on Wednesday, 7th May). Being the first born of my uncle’s elder brother it behooved me to attend, however far I was.
My uncle lived at Ongata Rongai and he was a former production manager at Bomas of Kenya.
I arrived a day before the burial and found the burial committee praying in the main house. The leader of the prayers was a luo woman. After the prayers she encouraged the children of the deceased to know that they are not alone or should not consider themselves as out and lost; But that they had a shoulder to cry on.
It was a time charged with so much emotion. After the luo woman, there stood another luo woman and thereafter a luhya man, each saying things of utter import during that trying time for the family.
As I sat listening and thinking, I was mesmerised by the beauty of it all (the pain of losing my uncle notwithstanding!). Never before had I thought that I would ever see Kikuyus and Luos working towards a common goal, hand in hand and peacefully.
Some of these luos and luhyas worked under my uncle at Bomas. They heaped praise upon praise on my deceased uncle saying how good he’d been blah…blah…blah..
When the committee was through with its business, most people went outside. I was left in the main house talking to my cousins. In mid-conversation, a bespectacled old man (in his sixties) came to where I was and extended his stiff hand. I took it and responded to his greeting.
He sat down next to me and asked whether I was the cousin who lived in (…!…). I answered in the affirmative.
He told me that his first name was George (and a luo from Nyanza). He added that he had travelled all the way from Nyanza to attend the burial of his friend, my uncle.
He told me the far that he and my uncle had come. I was mesmerised at how fondly he described their friendship. Throughout the talk, I did not detect any trace of hypocrisy in George.
On Wednesday we travelled to Kikuyu country (a certain part of Murang’a) for the burial.
The Catechist who led the burial ceremony was a luhya. He simply amazed me when he decided to use both Kikuyu and Kiswahili in the leading of the service. His Kikuyu is so good that he could pass for a Kikuyu who was born in Luhyaland!
On the bus to Nairobi, after the burial, my mind was abuzz.
Does the “cure” to tribalism and tribal hatred lie in pulling down the stereotypes that we have of others? (The thought that screams out loud saying that this is what I think you are and nothing, whatsoever, can change me to think otherwise! )
Honestly, the present state of affairs is not the kind of environment I would like my children to grow up in. But what can I (we) do?
I am confused…
P.S. Kumekucha is mentioned at Kenya Imagine
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