By Dr David Maillu
The Akamba community of Kenya occupies the Eastern part of Kenya. It is bracketed by Kenya’s biggest cities, Nairobi and Mombasa. Also it is bracketed by Kenya’s two biggest mountains, Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. Its population is nearly four million people, bigger than the population of Libya ad slightly less that of Israeli.
Historically, the Akamba form the most recognized community internationally. The first person to recognize Akamba was the German missionary, Dr Kraft in 1840s, who used to give reports to the European world regarding the people of “Kenia.” Kraft version, Kenia and Akamba’s name for Mount Kenya, “Kinyaa,” was the birth of the name, Kenya.
Another Whiteman who recognized Akamba was the famous Swedish scholar, Lindblom. He wrote an appreciative big book titled, “The Akamba People of the British East Africa,” published in 1910. The book remains today as an invaluable reference work to scholars.
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Lindblom outsmarted Akamba by stealing one ‘kithitu’ (oath) object, which he transported to Sweden for dissection to find out the contents of that most mysterious and famous religious object. No modern scholar in Akamba can proudly tell you the contents of kithitu. Future Akamba scholars will have to travel to Sweden to study its contents.
The other scholar who appreciated the Akamba community was K. Jackson, who wrote an invaluable work titled, “The Dimensions of Kamba pre-colonial History,” includd by Professor Ogot in his book, “Kenya Before 1900.” Wilson’s appreciation of the community has it that in around the years of 1500s, Akamba were the mightiest community in this region. He wondered why they had not employed their might to colonize the surrounding communities.
Next, the Akamba community is best known internationally for wood carving and curio sales. They have been selling their wood curving everywhere in the world.
So, what ails the community today? It appears that Akamba have been engaged in a pattern of falling from grace to grass? What happened? As of today, Akamba is one of the most ravaged community in Kenya. They are best known for suffering from eternal famines.
They were mighty during colonial days in the sense that they dominated in armed forces. The British, it looks, exploited their military skills and honesty in rendering public service. Even today, Akamba sense of being honesty is exploited nationwide. In places dealing with cash Akamba are the most trusted community.
They dominate in Indian shops, and in many other financial institutions. They produce the best domestic workers in the nation. They have made a name as the most peaceful big community. Akamba are enemies to no one politically.
The misfortune of Akamba, primarily struck them when they were dislodged from their traditional social order and got thrown into a foreign governing structure.
In that new order, they surrendered to be colonized until Kenya became independent. Jomo Kenyatta, the first President of Kenya, exploited their loyalty and enjoyed their dominance in Armed Forces, but he did the least for them if not laying down strategy for further exploitation.
It was in the new social order when the vulnerability of the Akamba was discovered by non-Akamba governing forces. The discovery plunged Akamba into the curse of lacking forceful foresighted leadership. They submitted to the government the way they had submitted to the British whereby Akamba leaders became puppets of the state.
Poverty started eating into Akamba and going deeply even into the bones. This can be expressed by the fact that, since the Independence Day, struck by famine, Akamba remain the biggest consumers of government food donations. Today, over half a century since Independence, Akamba need that food donation more than ever because their population has increased, with no sight of salvation in the future.
They have resigned to fate and plunged into the manufacture of home-made poverty. They have accepted poverty as way of life. In churches they express their religion interpretation saying, “It’s the will of God for things to be what they are.” But, God forbid, is nothing else the community should have done or can do to bring salvation to it?
Directly or indirectly, Akamba leaders, in the name of politicians, have contributed, if they aren’t the causers of poverty, in the home-manufacture of poverty. This they have done because they have all been bankrupt in creativity.
They have been blind in seeing the plentiful Akamba natural resources in the land. Akamba are surrounded by incredible opportunities, which the leaders don’t see because they, sharing the mood of their community, they have accepted poverty as way of life. Then they engage in-fighting to make their community poorer and dependent upon the government and foreign ideas.
The Akamba poverty is generally blamed on their arid environment, whereas, actually, it should be blamed on their leaders’ bankruptcy of creativity. Israel hasn’t got the rainfall enjoyed by Akamba land, yet Israel, with a population of about five million, can feed Kenya. Israel imports water to irrigate their land which is worse than Akamba land.
In fact, the position of Akamba land, the environment and the natural resources the land has, if creativity was used, could be and should have been the food basket of Kenya. Akamba are sitting on golden mines, yet they, together with their leaders, are crying for the God of Israel to come to save them.
The community enjoys a unique climate between uplands and lowlands. Akamba land is famous in Kenya for growing any kind of fruit. While farmers in uplands have only one-year harvest, the Akamba climate gives twice harvests and, if irrigated, the harvest becomes continuous.
All the biggest rivers and small ones in Kenya pass through Akamba land. Waters pumped into slopes of Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya can virtually irrigate every corner in Akamba land.
Akamba are hard-working but without visionary leaders. Their leaders can’t see beyond the political door and are at their best in leading the community from prosperity to poverty. No one can deny little positive efforts which, in any case, are a drop of hope in the desert of poverty.
Nobody doubts that Akamba people are gifted in Arts. For example, by today, Wamunyu, the centre of wood carving in Ukambani, should have been given an extraordinary face lift by leaders in modernizing the wood carving industry of Akamba.
They should have constructed big workshops and buildings which hold wood carvers, with a big store, a museum, learning institution, which would promote the products to every corner of the world and poor wealth into the industry. By now Wamunyu should have become a great institution capable of bringing learners and tourists from everywhere in the world.
Has any leader ever thought about that? No. Is it because Akamba do not have brains? They have brains but they don’t use those brains in creating wealth for the community.
The waters passing through Ukambani can irrigate all farms in Ukambani. Akamba land is a golden mine in producing building sand. Most Nairobi city has been built with sand harvest in Ukambani. What have the leaders been doing about that resource?
Ukambani rivers and ridges produce invaluable sandstones for building. Where are the leaders to see and exploit that? The Akamba land produces the best clay for pottery. Imagine how much fortune could have been made from pottery industry? Akamba soil produces the best building bricks. Where is the brick industry and where are the leaders to create them?
Akamba art of dancing is breathtaking everywhere in the world. Where are organized professional Akamba dancing to entertain worlds? Akamba people are gifted in music and could easily produce world celebrities. Where are the leaders to promote music industry in Ukambani?
Substantial part of Akamba land is mountainous, led by the three prominent mountains: Kilungu, Mbooni, and Iveti with Machakos at its feet. These are positions which could be employed to distribution irrigation water using gravity. Nobody has stopped Akamba people from even building homes and towns under those mountains.
The Akamba have, unlike their cousins, Kikuyus, have a lot of land. In fact, it is unheard of for any Mukamba to own NO piece of this planet. What more blessing do Akamba want than what they already have?
Akamba do not have to import leaders. They have potential leaders in their homesteads. The only problem is how to identify them and promote them and make Akamba prosper and earn respect. Even those Akamba who want to be the of Kenya president have literally no creative ideas regarding how they could abolish poverty in Ukambani.
Instead they are thinking it is their time to lead the nation and start flying overeats for the too-many benchmarking and expensive trips using citizens’ money, building mansions, driving big cars, demanding being called honorable or excellency. Honorable in producing poverty, and excellency in eating excessively citizens’ funds.
The Akamba curse is self-made. It is lack of vision and creativity – ideology. I think nobody should expect God to give Akamba more than what they have been given. Instead, Akamba should exploit the plentiful God-given goldmines in Ukambani. Failure to doing that they should perish. The Akamba could make Kenya proud if only they could produce visionary and creative leaders.
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