London, Monday 9 October 2006
More than 100 Luhya from the United Kingdom met in London over the weekend in a historic gathering to discuss the launch of a community organisation to serve their welfare and economic interests here in the UK and back home in Kenya.
The ceremony held at Wembley, was attended by Hon Musikari Kombo, Minister for Local Government and Mr David Were, Assistant Minister for Information and Communication and Mr Barrack Muluka, a media consultant based in Nairobi.
Dubbed the Abeingo Community Network, the organisation seeks to recruit members from the Luhya community, friends of Luhya and organisations that identify themselves with the ideals of ACN. It was formed to provide a forum where Luhya people can meet to discuss and share issues specific to their community, explained Mr Shadrack Bulimo, the secretary general.
In his keynote speech, chairmn, Dr Musa Ndengu lamented that lack of unit has been the bane that has relegated the community to the backwaters of development ladder. To climb it, he said, Luhya people need to learn to pull together to address local issues effectively and stake their rightful claim to economic resources and opportunities. “I believe that control and ownership of our socio-economic assets is best served by forging united front,” he said.
The chairman outlined two routes that will deliver results. One would be a charity arm that will mobilise resources to address issues of social exclusion and integration here in UK and back in Kenya. The second phase would involve the incorporation of a cooperative movement to target business and investments here in the UK and back in Kenya.
He chairman took cognizance of the “unity” talks currently sweeping Luhya land and paid tribute to Hon Kombo for willing to offer himself as a sacrificial lamb for the sake of Luhya unity but challenged him to spearhead the drive to mobilise the grassroots for economic activities rather than just politicking.
In response, Hon Kombo who is also the National Chairman of Ford Kenya and MP for Webuye, said that although economics is important, he believes that political unity is the ultimate because that is what impacts on overall development. “Seek ye first the kingdom of unity and the rest shall follow,” he declared.
“Although Luhya is the second most populous community in Kenya, you are not going to exercise any meaningful power if the vote is split at which point your numbers become irrelevant and inconsequential as a tool to fight for the common good of the Abaluhya people,” he said. He said that he will not tire in fighting for Luhya unity but if the community does not endorse him for presidency, he’ll support whoever is. In the same vein, he said, he will expect support from the whole community if he is the one chosen.
He likened the birth of Abeingo Community Network to sowing a mustard seed which grows into a big tree that can then provide shelter to millions of Luhya people. He cautioned that problems will emerge but urged members to have faith in those entrusted with running the organisation. He urged Luhya to think of entrepreneurship and investing at home.
In his contribution, Mr Were said that Luhya people should not be afraid of politics of unity and urged that Abeingo Community Network should never be allowed to disintegrate. He welcomed the idea of devolving ACN activities to the constituency level.
Mr Muluka welcomed the idea of branches worldwide and offered to start one in Nairobi; an idea that was supported by Mr David Zalo, a prominent music teacher, who said that involving local people in Kenya is key to success.
The meeting was also addressed by Beth Romeo Khasiala, a teacher from the Caribbean island of Montserrat who, using her pension built Romeo Academy in Khayega, Kakamega.
Members welcomed the idea as long overdue and pledged to support the initiative.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Luhya is a group of 18 sub tribes in Kenya, four in Uganda and one in Tanzania. The Abeingo Community Network steering committee consists of the following officials:
Dr Musa Ndengu – Chair
Mabel Mark – Vice Chair
Shadrack Bulimo – Secretary
Neccy Kikaya - Treasurer
Aggrey Kikaya – Organising Secretary
John Baraza – Projects Coordinator
Juvenal Shiundu - member
Shabanji Opukah – member
Topi Lyambila – member
Solomon Mugera – member
Boni Wanda – member
Dorisilla Mwendwa – Member
Helen Watakila – member
Praxides Odhiambo – member
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LUHYA UNITY: DREAM OR REALITY?
London, Friday 6 October 2006
The Luhya people in the United Kingdom are meeting this Saturday 7th October 2006 in London to address the thorny issue of “Luhya unity” and deliberate on ways and means of bringing socio-economic development to Western Province, one of the most disadvantaged regions of Kenya.
The Luhya are perhaps some of the most culturally-vibrant of the Bantu communities across Africa. Populous with an estimated five million people, little is known about the Luhya outside their own community primarily because although officially classified as one tribe, the Luhya of Kenya belong to 18 different sub tribes with dissimilar and varied tongues. There is a further five Luhya sub tribes scattered in Uganda and Tanzania.
These differences have in the past been exploited by the ruling class in colonial-style divide and rule and signs are this will continue for the foreseeable future unless the Luhya can start believing in themselves.
United, we shall match hand in hand like the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land. Unity will provide us with a strong sense of belonging and identity and we shall fear not to tread where the lions roar because if one of us is attacked, there will be five millions soldiers ready, willing and able to protect him. The spirits of Nabongo, Were, Masinde and Mudavadi are watching over us.
We shall achieve our aims using a two-pronged approach. First, we shall have a charity that will address welfare and issues of social exclusion here in the UK through programmes that will target health, education, employment, skills training, information, guidance and advice.
We will also seek to mobilise resources to replicate these efforts back in Kenya. In that regard, a representative will be appointed in each of the 22 constituencies to research, identify and suggest needy areas that need immediate intervention in conjunction with the local Member of Parliament.
For better coordination, we shall have regional assemblies where our people live in the 33 boroughs of London and 95 counties of United Kingdom. In the long term we hope to roll out to the rest of the world.
Secondly, we will have a cooperative which will target business and investments here in the UK and in Kenya. Members will be invited to buy shares and an investment committee appointed to advice on profitable sectors for investments.
Western Province lacks any tangible economic assets to absorb the bulging army of young ones pouring out of schools and colleges in search of economic livelihood and jobs. Instead, they flock like lost sheep to the urban slums of Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa and Kisumu where they are destined for a life characterised by destitution and abject poverty; eking out survival in the backyards of their “slave” masters either as yayas (house girls), cooks or watchmen.
This has engendered a culture of fatalism, hopelessness and lack of self belief. It has been estimated that for every Luhya person employed his dependency ratio is 1:10 leaving him with very little room to embark on accumulation of wealth through savings and investment. By comparison, the ratio for Kikuyu is just 1:3.
But help is on the way. In America, a Luhya organisation known as Halala is making commendable strides in marshalling resources to invest in Western Province to alleviate poverty and rebuild dilapidated structures. There is also Andimi again in the USA working towards similar objectives for the Maragoli sub tribe. There may be others in Kenya and all over the world that promote these ideals but most are likely to be of a sectionalist, or clanist texture but they are commendable efforts nonetheless.
ACN would like to build on those gallant efforts and sensitise all Luhya that we cannot wait for “Godot” to build our house. We have been waiting far too long. We must do it ourselves. We must regain the initiative to control our destiny.
We feel that the 18 sub tribes actually complement and enrich rather than conflict with each other. They are a source of rich cultural diversity. They co-exist side by side sharing similar cultural totems and symbolism. Ingwe (leopard) is a symbol of Luhya courage and fearlessness; we all indulge in the pulsating sikuti and lipala dance; we all love obusuma ne ingokho. We all are all peaceful, milembe people. We have more that unites us than divides us.
In the current government, one of our own, Dr Mukhisa Kituyi is the minister for trade and industry but you’ll be hard stretched to see a Luhya among the people queuing to see him in his office for licenses and trade matters.
The Luhya have friends all over the world that may be sympathetic to our cause and may actually put forth resources to help us but they are not going to do so if we appear argumentative, divided and directionless. A house divided can hardly weather the storms. Unity is strength. We all know it. Hardly anyone argues against this altruism. Abana befwe, we have got eyes. Let us see. We have got ears. Let us hear. We have got legs. Let us use them to run. To run for our lives.
We have got hands too. And brains. And skills. And professionals. Let us join hands and support one another. We believe Abeingo Community Network provides a forum for Luhya people to come halala (together) and find ways and means to build and clean our house and mobilise resources for investment in businesses and development projects in the Diaspora and in Kenya to set us on a path of economic revival.