COAST’S UN­SUNG HE­ROES, HERO­INES

His­to­ri­ans and politi­cians have lived to dis­re­gard the role and im­pact of the Mekatilili-led Giryama re­sis­tance. Nev­er­the­less, Mekatilili’s story is very much alive in the an­nals of global his­tory

The Star (Kenya) - - Voices - KAZUNGU KATANA Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor

There are many forms of marginal­i­sa­tion. The most common ones known to the Coast com­mu­ni­ties are po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic, and so­cial — as rep­re­sented in the lack of a uni­fy­ing po­lit­i­cal party, eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties, and land­less­ness. How­ever, there is an­other form of ‘marginal­i­sa­tion’ that was self-ev­i­dent on Mashu­juaa Day. This was the ex­clu­sion of he­roes and hero­ines from the Coast, and in par­tic­u­lar, from the Mi­jik­enda com­mu­nity. There are at least three names from this re­gion that de­served na­tional recog­ni­tion for the roles they played, and the im­pact they have on Kenyan his­tory. First is Ame­poho, the Mi­jik­enda prophet­ess who, like Soyki­mau in Ukam­bani, had fore­knowl­edge of to­day’s events.

Ame­poho pre­dicted the coming of the white man, the air­planes in the form of man-made birds fly­ing in the sky and the rail­way lines in the form of a mil­li­pede. She never pre­scribed to any form of re­sis­tance or ac­cep­tance on these events but what­ever she re­vealed to the com­mu­nity has come true in our day. Ame­poho is now in­terned at a shrine in Kaloleni sub­county, Kil­ifi county, where Kaya elders gather ev­ery year to cel­e­brate the Mi­jik­enda cul­ture.

The other hero­ine is Mekatilili wa Menza, the leg­endary Mi­jik­enda woman who led the Giryama re­sis­tance against the Bri­tish colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tion and its poli­cies in 1913-14. The rebellion was against the Bri­tish colonists’ bla­tant abuse of Giryama cul­ture by at­tempt­ing to dis­band Kayas — the Mi­jik­enda holy shrines. It was in these Kayas, which were also cen­tres of the re­sis­tance, that the Bri­tish bombed Kaya Fungo — the largest of the nine Kayas in Kaloleni sub­county.

Mekatilili also chal­lenged the colo­nial ad­min­is­tra­tors over forcible en­list­ment of Mi­jik­enda youths to serve on White and Arab plan­ta­tions and in pub­lic works. The rebellion was fur­ther fu­eled by forcible con­scrip­tion of Mi­jik­enda young men into the Bri­tish army at the ad­vent of the First World War.

Mekatilili was not only the first woman known to lead a rebellion against colo­nial­ism in the 1900s, she was also a role model to Kenyan and African women who stood up against colo­nial dom­i­na­tion and post-In­de­pen­dence op­pres­sive and sup­pres­sive regimes.

Kenyan his­to­ri­ans and op­por­tunis­tic politi­cians have lived to dis­re­gard the role and im­pact of the Mekatilili-led Giryama re­sis­tance. Nev­er­the­less, her story is very much alive in the an­nals of in­ter­na­tional his­tory.

The third un­sung hero in the realm of politics is the late Ron­ald Ngala, the founder mem­ber and leader of the first post-In­de­pen­dence op­po­si­tion party, Kadu. Ngala ad­vo­cated ma­jimbo, a form of fed­er­al­ism, to guard against the dom­i­na­tion of the mi­nor­ity by the ma­jor­ity. Fifty years later, Kenyans in 2010 ac­knowl­edged his ma­jimbo idea and voted for a con­sti­tu­tion that em­braced de­vo­lu­tion, a min­imised form of ma­jimbo. In­deed, in a fair and non-eth­nic democ­racy, Ngala’s name ought to be among on ev­ery se­ri­ous list of he­roes and hero­ine. Yet, this is what hap­pened dur­ing Mashu­jaa Day.

It is not just Ju­bilee that is cul­pa­ble for this omis­sion and com­mis­sion. The six Cord gov­er­nors in the Coast have equally failed to recog­nise the re­gion’s he­roes and hero­ines — whether on Mashu­jaa Day, or by way of nam­ing streets, roads, pub­lic build­ings or in­sti­tu­tions af­ter them.In this con­text, our gov­er­nors are not only di­lut­ing the spirit of de­vo­lu­tion, which Ngala helped build, but are part and par­cel of those ‘other lead­ers’ per­pet­u­at­ing marginal­i­sa­tion of the Coast.

IT IS NOT JUST THE JU­BILEE GOVERN­MENT THAT IS CUL­PA­BLE FOR THIS OMIS­SION AND COM­MIS­SION. THE SIX CORD GOV­ER­NORS IN THE COAST HAVE EQUALLY FAILED TO RECOG­NISE THE RE­GION’S HE­ROES AND HERO­INES

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