kenya, politics, sikhs

one indian’s kenyan nationalism


if you are looking for an alternative take on kenya’s indian community, speak to zahid rajan, editor of awaaz, a magazine focusing on historical, political, and cultural issues in the south asian community in east africa. the local indian community traces its roots to the late nineteenth century laborers imported by the british to build the uganda railway and grow sugarcane and to the generations of traders who settled along the indian ocean coast in mombasa, dar es salaam, and other port towns. the indian community quickly prospered and became managers instead of laborers. in short order, indians built businesses, hired black kenyans to do the work, and banked their considerable profits.

today, the community in kenya is perceived, not without justification, as wealthy and aloof. rajan is critical of what he sees as the community’s lack of engagement with kenya’s many challenges. ““the south asian diaspora in kenya is completely nonpolitical,”” he says. ““it stays behind its security fences in [the nairobi suburb of] parklands.”” Continue reading

kenya, politics

kenya – a love letter


by mukoma wa ngugi

inside looking out, snow is falling and i am thinking  |  how happy we once were, when promises and dreams  |  came easy and how when we, lovers covered onlyby a warm eldoret night, you waved a prophecy  |  at a shooting star and said, “when the time comes  |  we shall name our first child, kenya” and how i

laughed and said “yes our child then shall be country  |  and human” and we held hands, rough and toughened  |  by shelling castor seeds. my dear, when did our

clasped hands become heavy chains and anchors holding  |  us to the mines and diamond and oil fields? our hands  |  calloused by love and play, these same hands – when

did they learn to grip a machete or a gun to spit hate?  |  and this earth that drinks our blood like a hungry child  |  this earth that we have scorched to cinders – when we

are done eating it, how much of it will be left for kenya?  |  my dear, our child is born, is dying. tomorrow the child  |  will be dead.

mukoma wa ngugi, a kenyan poet, author of hurling words at consciousness and co-editor of pambazuka news, shares with us a poem commissioned by the bbc world service on the ongoing crisis in kenya.

kenya, politics, sikhs

makhan singh: the forgotten son of two continents

makhan-singh.jpgMakhan Singh, an unsung Sikh hero of Kenyan and Indian freedom struggles, who has been forgotten by Kenya, India and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), has been portrayed in a play Mungu Comrade (Mungu is a Swahili word for God), by noted playwright Atamjit.

Few Indians know Makhan (1913-1973) and other India-born persons who had made sacrifices in the freedom struggle of Kenya. He was born at Gharjakh village in Gujranwala, a Sikh majority area in the province of Punjab (now in Pakistan). At the age of 13, he moved with his family to Nairobi in 1927. In 1935, Makhan Singh formed the Labour Trade Union of Kenya and in 1949 he and Fred Kubai formed the East African Trade Union Congress, the first central organisation of trade unions in Kenya.

A Sikh by faith and true Communist leader, Makhan Singh was the founder of East African trades union movement. He spent 17 years in prison during the struggle for Indian and Kenyan independence. Alas ! Makhan has been virtually forgotten both by India and Kenya after their independence. Continue reading

kenya, politics, sikhs

kenya’s minority report

kenya-sikh.jpg i awoke this morning, looking forward to yet another challenging day at the office, but found myself turning back halfway through the journey. what appeared to be impatient drivers on the highway who were turning back, ended up in breaking into the sad turn of events that again created tensions in the city of nairobi. the road i was using – around 8.30am – was suddenly clamped close by the anti-riot police who turned out of nowhere. it’s only when i got home that i saw on the news that just after midnight this morning, an elected opposition m.p. had been brutally shot dead right outside his home. this led to the city erupting into chaos – roads and schools and offices getting hurriedly shut. what an interruption of life we are now going through. what used to be africa’s most stable country is now on the verge of collapse as the politicians continue to bicker for their own selfish ends. the plight of the common man is now in the hands of God.

when an oak tree like kenya begins to burn, it’s the smaller leaves that tremble first. Continue reading