By Gab Oguda
I see some Kenyans masquerading as ‘civilised’ mocking the Bukusu cultural rites about to be be performed on Jacob Juma. I see them say it will be of no consequence to the killers, and that an ‘urbane’ Jacob Juma do not need those ‘sideshows’.
Let me tell you something.
I have lived in the village long enough to witness these things, so I will try explain this like I am doing to a one-year-old.
There are two reasons those burial rites will be performed on Jacob Juma’s body. One, and most importantly, is to appease his disturbed spirits.
A dead person talks, be under no illusion about that whatsoever. Dead people have a way of connecting with the still living (we shall get to that shortly). Jacob Juma did not die a natural death, and so, his soul is not at peace. Meaning that for his soul to ‘rest in peace’ – a cliché most of you say without fully knowing what ‘peace’ in this context entails – some Bukusu cultural rites must be performed on it. This is important to pacify his soul, and let him accept the fate that has befallen him. Because if these rites aren’t conducted, he will come back to haunt the living, who are mostly his nuclear family.
Let me give you a personal experience.
Jimo village – in West Seme Ward, Seme sub-county, Kisumu County – is approx. 45 mins off Ralayo Beach in East Asembo, where we used to go swimming and buy raw fish. If you have ever been to the Market of Akado, down in Seme K’Adinga where our area MP comes from, those guys are part-fishermen, part-agriculturalists. When their soil is dry and hoes weak, they migrate to the beaches of Lake Victoria to eke a living from there.
Every occupation comes with it’s own pre-installed hazards, but fishing is the riskiest of them all. Fishing sardines is done dead into the night, on featherweight canoes mostly lumbering from side to side. The nearest high-density fishing ground from Ralayo Beach is 2hrs in deep sea; once in there, you’re literally inside the belly of the beast. If anything happens to your canoes you’re stonewall dead meat, because their amateur tools of trade does not accord them luxury of safety and comfort. They purely rely on appeasing the spirits of the Lake for them to return safely to shore the next morning. Many of these fishermen have died in there while on a fishing expedition – mostly when the Lake is furious.
Now. One time, when I was still young, an uncle of mine went fishing with one of his buddies. It was a normal expedition just like any other. But he never returned home the next morning. The boat they were in capsized and he, together with his other buddies, drowned deep in the sea.
Because fishermen hunt in a pack, the other canoes came back the next morning and reported the incident to the shore. A search party, of deep sea divers, was immediately spread out to go see whether they could come back with the body of my uncle. For four days, and five nights, they were fruitless in their dangerous quest.
And just when our clan had converged to organise for the burial of a banana stalk in his place; for the memories to go away, the wife of the deceased, my auntie, came back the next morning with breaking news. In her sleep the previous night, the man had come to her in a vision narrating what had happened and where his body was lying. Apparently, their canoe had hit a rock in high tide and his body had been washed to the edges faraway from the main shore where they had set out. He even gave the wife the directions to where his body was still floating alongside some hyacinth weed.
These things were not new to me, so I wasn’t entirely shocked. And when another search party, mostly comprising of his peers, were sent out to go chase those leads, the man’s body was found in the same place he had described in her wife’s sleep, floating between thick papyrus reeds and covered mostly by the water hyacinth weed. He said he wanted to go back home, because he wasn’t feeling safe wherever he was in the wilderness. His body was brought home, and was, subsequently, accorded a decent burial.
The second reason the Bukusu have to do all these things they want to do on JJ’s body is for his family, and friends, to set him off in peace.
Jacob Juma’s death was not due to natural causes; and because traditional belief systems are not nurtured to interpret conventional pathology, it is incumbent upon ‘traditional pathologists’ to help the villagers unravel the mystery behind JJ’s death. One of the most used quote in the Anthropology of Death is that ‘African sons do not die, they are killed’. It therefore goes without saying, that if African sons do not die, they are killed, it is incumbent upon the Bukusu cultural gatekeepers to help us know JJ’s killers, and, perhaps, depending on their level of cultural sophistication, the motive behind the killing.
At this point you may ask, that “If the dead can speak to the living, why cant Jacob Juma just appear to his wife in a dream and tell her who killed him on that fateful evening?”
He can’t, for the obvious reason that he may not have seen them. Those guys could have taken him out from a sniper range and then brutalised his body and car (to appear like a normal accident) later. The exact place where JJ was murdered is still a mystery, so the Bukusu cultural gatekeepers cannot assume that JJ knew who pulled the trigger and, in effect, will say so in a dream. I have had a chat with witchdoctors down in the village, most of these skills were passed to them down generations, and they tell me the first lesson they learn in school is “Never take chances”. They learn to seal all loopholes at that tender pupilage age, which is like the holy grail of their trade.
* * * * *
This thing they will perform on Jacob Juma may not nail the financiers behind those who killed JJ. From what I have seen in the village growing up, the ‘medicine’ those jujumen will apply on JJ will only affect those who performed the real act. Again, I must hasten to add, it entirely depends on the level of sophistication of those who shall be called upon to perform these rituals. Most of the time when local magicians do not posses the level of skill necessary to take out everyone involved in the murderous food chain, they always outsource such services. In the village, I once witnessed a ‘foreign’ magician send lightning to strike down a culprit who was like way down the murderous food chain. That thug was just walking on a sunny day with his pals then out of the blues lightning picks him out from the crowd and burns him to smithereens. These things are possible.
I foresee two scenarios.
One, the guys who bankrolled JJ’s murder will take this seriously and bribe those magicians to do something that will only be effective up to the real guys who pulled the trigger. It’s like going to a doctor, and asking for a drug that is not as strong as to allow you to continue with your normal breadwinning duties. And you shall get one.
Two; that the magicians will not do something that will ‘kill the killers’, but instead perform a burial rite on JJ’s body that will protect his family from being taken down by an assassin, like their father was. This second option is always done to protect the lineage of the man who has since died so that his children (especially the boys) could take up his place and carry on with the anti-corruption torch. It makes JJ be his family’s defender, even in his death.
Whatever the Bukusu magicians decide to do, today, one thing we can be sure about is that the murderers will not be having any peaceful nights anytime soon, because, depending on the outcome of this cultural pathology, Jacob Juma’s body can be exhumed again by those Bukusu magicians and a potent portion be redone for the killers to come down. Even if after 100 years.