The most fascinating tale my dad has ever told me is the one about his trip to Nairobi from Machakos on foot through the bushes, sometimes in the dark. It happened around 1943 or thereabouts and my father was barely 5 years old.
His uncle was carrying some tobacco from his small shamba to sell in Nairobi and the environs. It took them about two days to get to Nairobi. On their way back they were “loaded” with cash and so they took a bus. The highlights of that trip was that he saw a car for the very first time in his life and children back in the village could not get enough of that story months and years later.
The point is that the Akamba people pioneered in many things and started traveling far and wide very early on. They were mostly traders and sometimes sold the produce of their farms when famine did not hit. If other communities had gotten the kind of opportunities they got, there is no doubt that they would have utilized them and gotten very far.
Indeed the Kamba started getting a reputation of “not being ambitious”. They would dutifully work for an Asian for decades without it ever crossing their minds that they could duplicate the business and set up their own. The only kind of business that seems to be populated by many from Ukambani is the one of selling car tyres. Don’t ask me why because I have no idea.
The Kambas were trusted in the military because they would never dream of being disloyal let alone overthrow the government.
Sadly it is also true to say that one of the reasons why many Kambas are terrified about progress is because of the fear of being bewitched by jealous friends and relatives. In other instances they are actually bewitched or seem to believe that they have been bewitched and that is the end of the road for them. In other instances the crab mentality creeps in and a fellow Kamba works hard towards their downfall which then becomes inevitable.
This is an attitude that will have to be tackled head on by the new governors who will have jurisdiction over counties in Ukambani. The big challenge is finding ways and means to overcome this mindset and to encourage people to work and exercise their talents.
There is no doubt that the Kamba are generally very talented people and anybody who unlocks their potential will be utterly amazed.
So what is the way forward? How can the Kamba break from the terrible bondage of the past into a glorious new future?
Sadly as the voting patterns from the referendum proved this will be very difficult in the foreseeable future. Cheque book politics, it seems, will continue to rule in most of Ukambani.
Still there is a little light at the end of the tunnel. From progressive constituencies like Kangundo (where Johnsone Muthama is MP). Many who have visited the place for the first time have quickly said that they did NOT believe that they were in Ukambani. It does not look like Ukambani they have emphasized. Interestingly this is the same constituency that was ruled with an iron hand by one Paul Ngei for years.
You will find plenty of cash crops and development in Kangundo and you will notice a lot of stone houses as opposed to grass thatched huts with “extreme poverty” written all over them.
Constituencies like Kangundo give me a lot of encouragement that Ukambani can change for the better.
See interesting tale about how Paul Ngei's friendship with Kenyatta enabled him to get away with test-driving a Mercedes Benz for 20 years.
Previous articles in this series:
Part 1: What future for sleepy Kenyan community?
Part 2: What is the true origin of all the suffering?
Part 3: Dangerous votes from Ukambani
Part 4: Terrible crab mentality that rules the Kamba
Part 5: Kamba athleticism and other deadly talents
Part 6: Kamba constituency that is very different from the rest
Part 7: Predictions of a coming Kamba president?