One of the topics I find difficult discussing is the one on ethnicity, especially the tribal kind. I hate to imagine that my Kikuyu friends see me as a stinking fisherman whose foreskin oozes white dry pus accumulated after a week out in the Lake trying to catch a bagful of small fish that may not even be enough to buy a second-hand ox-plough.
But on this Bondo heckling, and the unnecessary noise that has come with it, I will.
What was meant to be a state sendoff for Fidel Odinga turned out to be a bedlam of chaos. Ambassador Raychelle Omamo was escorted out of the podium with low-flying projectiles effortlessly launched from the crowd. Uhuru Kenyatta shouldnâ€™t, surely, have sent her to Bondo. The daughter of Kaliech should have been left twenging to Gen. Karangi at the Defence Headquarters while reviewing defence plans on Kenya’s invasion of Somalia.
Among the Luo, speaking through the nose is a treasonable act. If you do not have a physical deformity, do not try it at home. The Luo consider it a mark of braggadocio, and it is even worse if your father spent his political career snitching to President Moi on Jaramogi. The Omamos are seen as traitors, and their daughter was treated as much. Every society have their Omamos – Martha Karua is not highly regarded among the Kikuyu establishment, and so on and so forth.
I have seen newspaper columnists asking Raila Odinga to stop allowing his public gatherings to be used to spread anti-Kikuyu hatred. Before this point escapes me, I want to let Ngunjiri Wambugu know that Luo Burial ceremonies are not personal gatherings. And, also, that Raila Odinga is not an anti-Kikuyu hate-monger.
The Late Solomon Kiragu Thande was the Langâ€™ata CDF chair when Raila Odinga was MP. I mention his name here because the guy refused to offer me a bursary despite producing all the necessary documentation to prove my neediness. Did I see him as a Kikuyu? No. Did I curse Raila Odinga, a Luo, for appointing a tribal archenemy to the head of Langata CDF? No. When I went to see Raila Odinga at Transom House (when he was Roads Minister) over the same, I told him, through his GSU guard, that I had no time running around begging for something I wont get, and that I would, from then on, focus my energies elsewhere, to see my education through. And I did.
Mr. Thande died in 2013, and had I been in Nairobi at that time, I would have made the short trip to Limuru to see him off. Ida Odinga went to represent her husband together with Dr. Evans Kidero, another Luo. You can go check your records if you want.
I bring this up because this Luo-Kikuyu bullshit will go down someday, and I can tell you Kenya will burn to itâ€™s lower phalanges. Because all people like Ngunjiri Wambugu can do is concoct machinations to seek political relevance.
When Kikuyus stole our elections in 2007, I was in Miwani. Did you hear any Luo kill any Kikuyu? I can tell you for free they were advised to run away because our Nandi neighbours from Aldai were coming to raid the police stations where they had taken cover in. Luos were brought up to vomit at the site of blood. Even when our brothers and sisters were being set ablaze in Naivasha by Kikuyu ruffians, we kept calm, and did not revenge. Revenge, the Luo believe, is best left to the oracles. And I have seen people get struck by lighting in broad daylight. Si uchawi, ni Karma.
Love is an individualâ€™s prerogative. Fidel Odinga fell in love with a Kikuyu woman and decided to make a home with her. Her father and mother supported him, because if they didnâ€™t, those two would never even had settled down. That is the way it ought to be done, parents always want to bless unions before they take off. Baba Fidel and Mama Fidel did just that. Shiru was accepted in the Odinga family, and, I want to imagine, she assimilated herself in for the period they were together. They did make themselves clear of this, that Fidelâ€™s divorce with Shiru was mature and amicable. There were no hard feelings.
Why, then, is Dr. Oburu Odinga blowing the dust over this issue?
A brief understanding of how Luo funerals are organized may help us throw in some light. For the Luo, a funeral is not a mourning session, it is the last opportunity to celebrate the life of the dearly departed. It is the last opportunity to say everything you, ever, wanted to say when the dead were alive. Traditionally, a departed Luo man is expected to spend the last night at his compound before burial the next day. The Luo do not bury their sons in public cemeteries away from home, we consider it throwing the body away. They just lie in state. The dead listen to the living, and the eulogy exists to pacify their souls and let them rest one last time.
It is exactly what Oburu Odinga sought to do. And it reminded me of one of the events leading to the burial of one my uncles in Seme when we were kids.
When it was time for the widow to speak, she rose up and said these words; â€œThe people of Seme, I want to thank you for turning up today to give my husband a decent sendoff. I am aware that some of my brothers-in-law are now parading to inherit me. I have no problem with that, I respect your culture. However, I want to make it clear that if you have any intentions of doing so, let it be known that my husband died of HIV/AIDS and he infected me, as well.â€
The crowd went silent, you could hear a pin drop. Those were the times people living with the disease were treated as lepers, no one would touch you even with a six foot pole. But here was my aunt risking the public’s wrath laying the facts bare as unpalatable as they were. HIV/AIDS was considered the worst form of witchcraft, no witchdoctor would undo the damage. But my aunt knew that saying anything less would make her bury her husband with a lump still on her throat. She cleared the air, the monkey was off her back, the publicâ€™s murmurs about what might have caused my uncleâ€™s death had been shut down, once and for all. It was, now, upon my uncles to use the information however they deemed fit.
When you bury a loved one, you bury everything associated with them. The lies, the truths, the misinformations. You start life anew. Because everything you wanted to say about them when they were alive were all finished during their burial. The Luo would have it no other way. Foreskin or not.