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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Kamba constituency that is different from the others

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.

A section of the crowd during the historic promulgation of the new constitution 27th August 2010

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?

14 comments:

Mwarang'ethe said...

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.

xxx

If Machakos was the capital city of Kenya, things would have turned out very differently.

When the value of land in and around the major city goes up as we see in Nairobi since 1963 due to taxes paid by Kamba people, the ABSOLUTE owners of that land get very wealthy.

With rising land values, the owners of this land in and around Nairobi, can go to the bank and get loans and

(a) buy matatu's, which will carry Kambas as they go to work for Asians,

(b) build major buildings on the same land which they rent to Kambas, Luhyas, Luos etc.

In simple words, wealth concentration in few hands.

Now, if your land is in Kitui, how will it rise in value? And, even if it rises, at what % compared to one in and around Nai? And, even if you build a house there, how much rent can you ask?

Now, if we you take into consideration who was in control of the CBK from 1963, you must begin to see how a community in control of these two crucial factors must grow wealthy at the expense of all others.

As concerns the Kambas working for Asians, there is nothing wrong with that. However, the wages they get will never go up to make them rich because of the army of the unemployment.

As concerns developing constituencies like Kangundo, we salue that.

However, the idea that, you can develop the nation in patch up system, is a delusion.

When you finish school in Kangundo, where will look for work? Even if you manage to raise wages in Kangundo, which will never happen, workers from Kitui will flock there and lower the wages.

The question remains as usual, when wages go down as productivity goes up, who benefits? As usual, the land owners. In other words, if we think we will run from these issues, we are wasting time.

Anonymous said...

I have also wondered why the (used) tyre biz is over populated by Kaos even inside Kikuyu heartlands. Can someone pliz explain why? When we look at individual people, not many highly skilled in various jobs are Kambas or even wealthy. Look at Kalonzo, he's 'extremely poor' politically speaking both in wealth and political networks (compared to his buddies). He lacks enough funds to bankroll a presidential campaign and will have to rely on very rich Kikuyus like Michuki or Munga of Equity Bank to bankroll him. Yet we find he has been in senior political seats for most of his life. I have also traveled far and wide around the world yet despite meeting many Kenyans hussling all over the place, I have never ever met a single wakwito. It's seem Chris is damn right that most of his fellow tribesmen are not daring enough, they are not risk takers or go getters. Sadly their women are only famous for bedroom gymnastics (rightly or wrongly). It seems then lots of witchcraft phobia is very much alive in that community which makes my heart bleed.

Anonymous said...

I have also wondered why the (used) tyre biz is over populated by Kaos even inside Kikuyu heartlands. Can someone pliz explain why? When we look at individual people, not many highly skilled in various jobs are Kambas or even wealthy. Look at Kalonzo, he's 'extremely poor' politically speaking both in wealth and political networks (compared to his buddies). He lacks enough funds to bankroll a presidential campaign and will have to rely on very rich Kikuyus like Michuki or Munga of Equity Bank to bankroll him. Yet we find he has been in senior political seats for most of his life. I have also traveled far and wide around the world yet despite meeting many Kenyans hussling all over the place, I have never ever met a single wakwito. It's seem Chris is damn right that most of his fellow tribesmen are not daring enough, they are not risk takers or go getters. Sadly their women are only famous for bedroom gymnastics (rightly or wrongly). It seems then lots of witchcraft phobia is very much alive in that community which makes my heart bleed.

Anonymous said...

For many people who have never been to Ukambani, one of the most striking thing you will see there is rampant alcoholism and plenty of illicit brew. There are so many bars all over the place some of which are illegal drinking dens. The local authorities and other leaderships have completely failed to check on that menace which is slowly destroying families. Most of the fake and illicit brew produced in Nairobi finds it's way in Ukambani, the biggest market. Yet they have gone ahead and legalized Chang'aa a very important issue ignored here in Kumekucha. That reckless action will have severe efects in Kenya and especially Ukambani. By yesterday, Saitoti seemed to have hit a U-turn on Changaa issue.

Mwarang'ethe said...

Anonymous said...
For many people who have never been to Ukambani, one of the most striking thing you will see there is rampant alcoholism and plenty of illicit brew. There are so many bars all over the place some of which are illegal drinking dens. The local authorities and other leaderships have completely failed to check on that menace which is slowly destroying families.

xxx

eheheh, ahahhaa, what about this one?

Chief whips chang'aa brewer?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbL9TvLjEWc&feature=PlayList&p=944F545DD26C273D&index=81

or

http://is.gd/eUVWx

Anonymous said...

Chang'aa, (muratina, kwete, mnazi, kuapila, ndindiza, macore, busaa, kangata, kangara, etc) is a blight that has had a nationwide chokehold on Kenyans.

What's afflicting the alcoholics of Ukambani is not any different from what's maiming and killing Kenyans in other regions of the country.

Alcoholism is a severe national desease, getting well is our problem.

Show me any single region that is free from the vice and I will show you a public cemetery?

The prohibition era never caused a dent in the production, transportation and consumption of moonshine, it only increased the demand for the same in the USA, and ended making so many brewers wealthier and wealthier.

Legalizing chang'aa may end up saving many lives and people from taking the dangerous brands that have became so popular among the low income populations.

As Chris has mentioned, the Kagundo approach, call it rural gentrification if you will, may become one of solutions for changing the whole region of Ukambani for the better.

While we are still at it (Kamba constituency that is ddifferent from the others), let's give credit to the thirteen native sons of Ukambani, who have served with distinction in the US Army Special Forces and didn't blemish our "name" nor "image" during their tour of duty in various regions.

Another credit be extend to over thirty-five nurses and several physicians (all Ukambani natives of course), who have served on the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort with flying colors. Thanks for the job well done.

My two favourite Yathui and Ndithini ladies are the twenty something helicopter pilots who have served on the USS Boxer with honor, courage, strength and personal pride.

De Oppresso Liber.

A heavy Kamba presence at the CDC since the 1990s is a topic for another time and place, or for Chriss or someone else to dig into.

luke said...

Chris,
I would like to take offence On the behalf of the many indignant Kamba people including the Kambas among your faithful loyal readers of this popular widely read family blog. i'm not a Kamba but your weekend posts have portrayed them in a rather poor light than they deserve to be seen in

Us Kambas are not afraid of progress just because we sell car tyres.At the time it was probably the best economic activity we could most excel in and who knows had kenya gone a different direction after independece we all would have been driving cars with tyres made from Ukambani. In addition to this there is no sweeter honey or grape juice than the ones found in NorthEastern county and this will be a big boon to locals once the devolution takes place


You'd also be surprised to note that bewitching, "crab mentality", sabotage/undermining downfall of fellow tribesmen was and is found in all 42 tribes of Kenya.we're not so different us Kenyans!

I always took exception to President Kibaki's rallying call of a "working nation" when NARC came into power in 2002-it was rather ambiguous and i didn't know if he meant he wanted the country to function properly or that Kenyans were lazy and needed to work. Either way,all 42 tribes have always been hardworking and using their talents to fish, raise cattle, farm and yes even CON but they never needed encouragement to work hard

PS: let us leave the skeletons of this blogs past e.g. KiokoBC in the closet lest we angrily wakeup from hibernation the following list of missing in action:-
the 55year old pensioner, Sayra, ShikoMSA,Mama,UrExcellence,Oscar,....
the list goes on

Joe said...

What hogwash!

Anonymous said...

This piece is only painting the Kambas in bad light. There is a good side too. Kambas are handsome/beautiful, social (seen by the high intermarriage index), peaceful (never engaged in post election violence aggression or retaliation) and creative (they don't only sell tyres, they also carve them into akalla shoes, car bushes, rubber ropes, mats etc. They also make excellent wood carvings which tantalize Kenyans and non-Kenyans alike). They are very adoptive and hence are to be found living harmoniously with every tribe and terrain in Kenya. Please give it to them.

Anonymous said...

Kambas make very loyal friends and the men are gentlemen.the women who have married into our family are humble yet very hardworking,we are thinking of importing more of them into our area.its reaaly unfortunate that someone would pick on kambas.

Anonymous said...

Chris,

Ukambani counties will need the type (breed) of governors and county leaders who have vision (not tunnel vision) and the real best interests of Ukambani and it's people at heart, if there is to be any tangible transformation in the region as well as change of attitude among the Kamba in general.

The Kamba can be describe as are a very resilient people due to the fact that there are very few other communities in Kenya who' ld have gone through what the Kamba have over the decades and emerged unscald.

As for the rest of other Kenyan communities, they should be very thankful, grateful and glad that at one point in time, the Kamba kind of developed the quasi-reputation of "not being overly ambitoius".

Otherwise they would have colluded with the mighty slave traders of old and sold off millions and millions natives from the hinterlands of Kenya, as was the case on the Gold Coast of Africa and Northern Africa.

Mwarang'ethe,

Machakos was "the capital" in the late 1800s.

Anonymous said...

Born n raised in Ukambani. Still, I would not trade my life for any body's. U wi kivetani nduthekaa ula wii iko.

Anonymous said...

very interesting article- Being a kamba i could not but take offence but that would be missing the point the writer was trying to make- that stereotyping is common and i guess we have to tolerate it so long it does not incite or demean!!!!.

Anonymous said...

being a woman ...
being a man ...
being an african ...
being a kenyan ...
being a christian ...
being a taxpayer ...
being a kamba ...
being a ...


and so on and so forth ...

i could not but take offense ...
i take offense with ...
i ...


blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah!

when will people learn to view issues for what they are without reading too much into them or out of them through the prism of their own insecurity or whatever backgrounds?

be thick skinned. live and let live.

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