When Francis Muthaura, Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, offered a monthly
allowance of Ksh 400,000 to the wives of Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Ida took her time to respond because she had not yet received official notification from Muthaura.
When she did early this week, she rejected the offer although she appreciated Muthaura’s understanding of the cumbrous responsibility she carries along by dint of being the Prime Minister’s consort.
When Bonny Khalwale, the Ikolomani MP, finished digesting Ida’s pleasant rebuttal of Muthaura precipitant overture, the reigning Ikolomani Chieftain rushed to the media with alacrity to praise Ida for her “commendable” decision to snub Muthaura. But Khalwele did not stop there. He urged Mrs Pauline Kalonzo, VPs wife, to follow in Ida’s footsteps and reject the offer.
Probably, my constipation triggered by Khalwele’s outburst could not have advanced into a pain in the azz had Charles Kilonzo, MP for Yatta and Kiema Kilonzo, MP for Mutito, not joined in the chorus with even new compositions – that the Ksh 400,000 allowances “were a waste of money”.
Kenyan MPs are the last crooks who should be delivering public lectures on allowances which amount to wastage of public funds. This is because by virtue of their million shilling salaries and huge allowances they awarded themselves in January 2003, Kenyan MPs are the biggest robbers of the Kenyan Tax payer.
Once the MPs of the 9th Parliament were sworn in on 9th January 2003, their first task was to embark on the amendment of the National Assembly Remuneration Act No 9 of 1975 in order to increase their salaries and emoluments to sickening levels.
When they entered Parliament, MPs salaries stood at Ksh 395,000. After the amendments, the new salary was Ksh 495,000. They voted for a housing allowance of Ksh 70,000 on top of Ksh 8 million which every MP is entitled to for house purchase. The amendment also went with a car grant of Ksh 3.3 million and a monthly car allowance of Ksh 75,000 (Ksh 900 per year). After every year, the MPs proposed a winding up allowance of Ksh 300,000 which totals to Ksh 1.5 million for every MP during a sitting period of five years. Multiply that by 210 MPs and the extent of looting of Tax payer’s money begins to take shape.
As part of the new deal worked out exclusively by the MPs, the Honorables got entitled to Ksh 60,000 entertainment allowance, a monthly “extraneous allowance” of Ksh 30,000, and a sitting allowance of Ksh 3,000 per sitting. The Assembly sits four times a week and so the total amount of weekly sitting allowance stood at Ksh 12,000 ie more than the monthly wage of an ordinary skilled worker in Kenya.
To top it up, the MPs voted for a monthly “Constituency allowance” of Ksh 1.6 million per month (Ksh 20 million per year) managed by a Committee hand-picked by the MP from the assembly of sycophants they run in the village. The increments converted Kenyan MPs to some of the best paid in the world but for the MPs, this was acceptable even though the country was staggering under a foreign debt of US$ 7 billion.
The greediness was so aggressive that the MPs got paid for days when they had not even become MPs. They were sworn in on 9th January but according to their recommendations, the new emoluments were back dated to January 1st 2003, time when they were not MPs. This defrauded the Tax man of over Ksh 52 million for the 224 elected MPs, nominated and ex-officio Members of Parliament who were paid 8 days salaries before they took oath of office. Recommendations and amendments went through the four mandatory stages in a record 30 days after which the new President endorsed them on 16th April 2003. The new arrangement caused the National budget to shoot to Ksh 54.1 billion.
Once they entered Parliament this year, the MPs refused to pay taxes even though the Kenyan worker is burdened with a heavy taxation system. Kenyan MPs of the Khalwele type may be thinking that Kenyans forget quickly. They should be the last people seeking cheap publicity with Ida’s welcome rejection of Muthaura’s offer because they are practicing legalized looting of the Kenyan economy.
As Head of Public Service, Muthaura should well have understood the incongruent nature of his bizarre offer to the two women, given that their husbands are millionaires who should be in a position of taking care of their women’s financial needs regardless of whether the undertakiungs are government or private. Who told him that Raila is broke?
In any case, who gave Muthaura powers to single handedly decide the amount of money PM and VPs wives should be entitled to since Kenya is not Muthaura’s family empire? In case he used any law, such laws should be changed immediately because the fate of Tax Payer’s money of the magnitude Muthaura talked about should not, under any circumstance, be decided on by one man sitting in an office under any capacity.
I am writing to thank you for your efforts to keep on defending Kenyans in Diaspora whenever need arises. I wish to mention that not much needs to be added to your comments regarding the attack aimed at Kenyans in Diaspora
As you well know, I am part of the Diaspora although most of the times I am in Kenya, trying to advocate for meaningful and ideological changes in politics through our Party the Chama Cha Mwananchi (CCM).
For Clay Muganda to lump all Kenyans in one basket and accuse them of interfering with Kenyan politics as if they are not Kenyans, is a sign of stupidity and ideological bankruptcy. This man forgets that Kenyans abroad are more likely to better understand how their leaders are doing things back home.
They have information from their relatives and friends back in Kenya. They visit Kenya regularly as I do and see things as they are. Kenyans abroad are more ideologically aware of how politics in Kenya is conducted and from this position, they can tell what is being done wrong and by who.
Osewe mentioned that we, Kenyans in Diaspora, are doing many good things back home with the money we work hard for abroad. With our own money, we even send the bodies of Kenyans who die abroad to rest, regardless of their tribes thereby saving their families back home from such expenses.
We have opened schools for the orphaned while we also send, on a regular basis, medical equipment for free to various hospitals in Kenya. We have been sending money to help maintain Kenyans who returned to Kenya to try to bring sanity in Kenyan politics. We have been sending money to help buy medicine for political prisoners in Kenyan jails. We are daily sending money to relatives in IDPS. Recently Kenyans in Stockholm sent about a quarter million Kenyan shillings to assist the displaced. I wonder how much Muganda has spent on IDPS since his money does not come from dish-washing.
We do not only send money to Kenya but we also help keep watch on what politicians are doing when they travel abroad. I remember one time in 1997 when the current President visited us in Sweden through our invitation and we told him our minds and gave advice on the Kenya that Kenyans wanted. I hope Kibaki still remembers what we told him.
Raila also visited us in Sweden and we gave him a piece of our minds. I hope he will do as he promised – to make Kenya a better place for all. Many other politicians whom Muganda finds hard to meet always meet us while abroad and sit with us not as bosses but as fellow citizens.
Personally, what I have witnessed is that Kenyans abroad are most likely, going to be the only voice of reason this time since there is no opposition in Parliament. Kenyans will need to know what their leaders are doing or not doing for them. As Osewe rightly said, we do not only send money to Kenya but are also trying to put some sense of responsibility in our leader’s minds. Angered by what we saw after claims of rigged elections, we find it important to create ideologically oriented parties that will work hard to change the negative thinking among ordinary Kenyans and the likes of Muganda who can’t see beyond the length of their noses, leave alone criticize their tribal chiefs.
I was in Kenya the whole period of elections but I did not catch the first flight back to Sweden after chaos erupted. I remained in Kenya the whole of December, January and part of February, visiting IDPs and giving them any available assistance from CCM. I am still in Kenya to be part of the change we need in our country. We have a long way to go before Kenya returns to lasting sanity.
I have little hope that things will be alright soon for poor Kenyans, but at the same time I hope that Kenyans at home will not go back to cutting each other’s throats.
It’s my hope that as time goes by, Kenyans abroad will increase their resources in other areas such as politics to support true changes. We now have about three parties led by Kenyans who lived abroad just less than five years ago. We have CCM, in which I am Secretary General with Koigi being the founder, SDP with Mwandawiro Mghanga as the Chairman and ODM which Raila leads. He was once in exile too.
As Osewe said, life abroad is not easy and people like Muganda are just making very wrong conclusions. If he gets his way, Muganda would like all Kenyans abroad to shut up and let the Mugandas and his likes active in Kenyan politics spill venom against innocent and hard working Kenyans abroad.
I appeal to all Kenyans not to be intimidated by “frog-noise”. Just go on doing the good work you are doing and let actions speak for you. Have a nice Easter.
Dick Kamau in Kenya
Well put Mr. Osewe! Many critics of Kenyans abroad often expose their ignorance of life abroad in their so called analysis of how Kenyans fare in the diaspora. I would suspect that the majority of these critics have never even ventured out of the country and yet purport to be experts of living abroad. Kenyans may not be aware but the fact is menial jobs are a means to an end in the developed world. Many people combine studies with these jobs to enable them to go through school and the mentally of parents paying for their way through life does not exist in their minds.
Sadly many Kenyans are of the opinion that the jet set life style comes on a silver platter, handed down from affluent parents. Granted, this may be true for a tiny percent of the Kenyan populace but the majority have to sweat blood and tears to get there, if ever. Many Kenyan tycoons did not suddenly wake up one day with the riches they have, some may even have pulled a mkokoteni before making their billions! If these critics were to ask the many scholars and corporate leaders in the west, they would be shocked to learn that many of them had menial jobs when they were in school.
This proves that having a menial job does not diminish your intellect or make you less of a person as implied by Clay Muganda. Perhaps Kenya would be a better place if the likes of Muganda had a change of attitude and realized that one has to get their hands dirty in the process of self development and in pursuit of excellence.
A Kenyan national working for Ambassador Purity Muhindi as a cook has been fired by the Ambassador after he went to hospital and was told that he is suffering from diabetes. According to a source, the male cook, who is in his 50s, was also informed by the Ambassador that he will be travelling back to Kenya next Saturday following termination of his duties at the Ambassador’s residence.
The cook is reported to have paid an unspecified but huge amount of money at the hospital where he had gone for a check-up. It is was not immediately clear why the cook is being deported on Saturday by the Ambassador soon after the discovery that he was sick and needed serious medical treatment.
A possible explanation is that the Ambassador or the Embassy may be avoiding to foot the cook’s medical bills, given that the treatment of diabetes may be a life-long and expensive operation which requires constant medication.
Another explanation could be that the cook was working for the Ambassador outside the Swedish Labour laws which stipulates that workers have medical insurance to shield them financially in cases of illness while ensuring that they get proper medical attention. If he did not have insurance, then either the Ambassador, the cook or the Kenyan government is under an obligation to sort out his medical expenses.
The firing of the cook and the plan by the Ambassador to deport him despite a new diagnosis linked to diabetes demonstrates the brutality of the Ambassador in her handling of ailing Embassy personnel.
Last year, Mr. Cheruiyot, a former Treasurer at the Embassy, was rescued from a dirty plan to hijack him from Karolinska hospital and deport him to Kenya despite the fact that he was bed ridden at the hospital and suffering from a debilitating disease. It took the action of a group of Kenyans who organized and physically stopped the deportation after Embassy staff arrived at the hospital to help pluck Mr. Cheruiyot from his hospital bed to transport him to Arlanda International Airport.
After the story came into the public lime light, the Ambassador dropped the plan as Cheruiyot sought political asylum in Sweden on humanitarian grounds. He is currently receiving treatment as a refugee in Sweden.
We have been told verbally and in writing that the late Mzee James Wuod Maggero never liked the idea of bodies being transported to Kenya for burial because of the huge wastage of money in the process. According to Dagmar, Maggero’s wife:
“James felt very strongly about not sending bodies of deceased persons back home. Those who knew James would know that…. He felt that it was wrong to collect lots of money just to send home a body with the result that nothing remained for those back home in Kenya.”
In 1982, a Kenyan Engineer from the Luo community called Obiero Onyango died at Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm. After the announcement of his death was delayed by Barbro Onyango (his Swedish wife) with one day, the woman decided that the late Obiero would be buried in Sweden.
When the late Maggero heard about the plan, he immediately swung into action, not just to stop the burial of Obiero’s body in Sweden but to ensure that the late Obiero’s remains were transported to Kenya. At that time, Kenyans met repeatedly at Ropsten to discuss the case. In the end, Maggero’s group won and Obiero was eventually transported to Kenya for burial. His body was collected by Dr. Nyawanda Onyango who came all the way from Kenya just to pick up the body. If some people on the other side of this debate had been present in Sweden, Maggero could have been in big trouble.
In 1987, Evans Angiela, a Kenyan, died of aneurism of the aorta in Stockholm. Funds were needed to transport his body to Nyakach in Kenya for burial and once again, Mr. Maggero was in the thick of things. Maggero was the Chairman of the “Angiela Funeral Committee” and one of the meetings was even attended by the late Andrew Ngumba, a former Kenyan MP who was by then in exile in Sweden.
As the Chairman, Maggero was not only instrumental in ensuring that enough funds were raised to transport the body of Angiela to Kenya but also sent a clear message that burial “at home” was part of the Luo culture which needed to be respected. During mobilizations for the fund raising, it was Maggero who sent out letters to Kenyans (SMS had not been invented), a responsibility which underlined his solidarity with the Angiela committee’s agenda and also demonstrated the late Mzee’s commitment in what he was involved in.
When Mr. Opwapo Ogae died, Maggero was once again catapulted into action, taking over as the Chairman of the “Opwapo Ogae Committee” which then embarked on a hectic fundraising to transport the late Opwapo’s body to Kenya for burial. This time round, Dagmar was present and Mr. Maggero donated 2.000 kr at the harambee. This was a huge amount of money to have been donated by an individual who was opposed to the idea of bodies being transported to Kenya for burial.
Instead of positioning himself as “Chairman” of the Opwapo and other Committees, Maggero could have created a debate by using Opwapo and other deaths to argue that the practice of transporting bodies to Kenya should be abolished.
Maggero was very outspoken and addressed issues from a position of authority and great wisdom. The Mzee had ample opportunity to convert harambees for dead bodies into platforms for cultural reforms but did exactly the opposite by supporting them.
The Mzee’s participation and contribution in the Opwapo and other harambees undermines claims that he was opposed to the practice of body transportation to Kenya for burial unless some new logic or empirical data can be introduced into the debate by protagonists who have painted him as a radical cultural reformist who endorsed his own cremation after banning the viewing of his own body.
The petrol that has been fuelling this debate from a different point of view opposed to that of Maggero’s Swedish family has been spewing from Maggero’s own actions when he was alive.
After the death of Mr. Opwapo Ogae in the early 90s, a new generation of Kenyans (the multi-party generation) was also arriving in Sweden. It is members of this generation that picked up from where Mr. Maggero and company had left using the same methods of fund raising which Maggero had helped establish.
A HISTORY OF COMMUNAL INVLOVEMENT IN KENYAN FUNERALS IN STOCKHOLM
When Mamma Colins died in a mysterious train accident, critical issues were raised around her death, just like in the Maggero case. Kenyans contributed money so that his brother, Samson and son, Colins, could travel to Sweden to attend the funeral and they did. Kenyans traced Colins (whom nobody new about) and who did not even exist in the Swedish data base. If a parallel could be drawn, Colins is the equivalent of Maggero’s son in Kenya with the difference being that Maggero’s son is well known.
Although he was “lost in Kenya”, Colin’s father was a British national and it took me four years to convince the British government (with documents) that Colins was a British citizen before he was granted a British passport. He now lives in London.
Mamma Colin was buried in Sweden without a finger being raised about her final resting place because her family was present and there was an agreement within the family that she be buried in Sweden even though she was never officially married to her white spouse. We were involved, not as meddlers in a family affair but as mourners after death struck within our community. The family managed the whole show and everybody was comfy.
When Mwangi (a Kenyan who was working at the Canadian Embassy) died, his wife and son traveled to Sweden to collect the body. Kenyans met and contributed cash for them to travel. The family decided that the body had to be taken to Kenya and this wish was respected without arguments. Members of the Kikuyu community were leading the campaign to get their next of kin to Sweden and to raise funds. There was no controversy.
Two Kenyan ladies who died of illness in Stockholm were buried in Sweden because that is what their families wanted. There were serious consultations with their families in Kenya and relatives in Sweden in the run up to their burials. One of the ladies was married to a Swede and the family gave the Swede a go ahead to bury her in Sweden in accordance with Lhuya culture which dictates that a woman’s burial place is in the land of her husband. Kenyans sent Gerry Midenyo to consult with her mother in Kenya and she gave a written consent that her daughter be buried in Sweden. Kenyans met and mourned collectively. There was no haranguing.
When Achacha (who worked at Karolinska hospital) died in Stockholm in 2004, his coffin was STOPPED on its way to the grave at Järfälla (in Stockholm) by the late John Peter Omiti after the church service. The family in Kenya had not agreed that he be buried in Sweden although this is what the son and daughter (next of kin) wanted. After pleading with the two children in one of the most dramatic cases to have been witnessed in Stockholm in recent times, Achacha’s burial was cancelled and the body was driven back to the mortuary AFTER the last prayers in church. Two weeks later, Achacha’s body was transported to Kenya and buried in his ancestral village. We met and discussed the circumstances collectively, not at Continental Hotel but in Achacha’s house.
Before the death of Maggero, Arther Opot passed away in Sweden. Kenyans brought his wife all the way from Kenya to pick up the body. The community raised cash and Opot’s body was taken to Kenya. We met, discussed the circumstances and mourned collectively.
When Ajigo ( a Journalist) died, his remains were taken to Kenya because both the family members in Kenya and Ajigo’s Swedish wife came to an agreement that his body would be taken to Kenya. She followed the body together with Ajigo’s son and buried her husband. We never heard of Ajigo’s wife undergoing any rituals currently being peddled by dregs of the online universe because her Swedish culture was put into consideration and respected accordingly. Ajigo had no will that he be buried in Kenya. Ajigo’s family was happy that his Swedish wife had respected their most important culture in the situation by accepting to bring the body home. I don’t have to mention the case of Ayieko Singoro and the case of Rose because the main point needs to be made.
Kenyans have died in Stockholm before and Kenyans have been involved in the discussions so the Maggero case is not new. To try and muzzle the Kenyan community from discussing the Maggero case or to try and declare Kenyan meetings on the Maggero issue “illegal” is patently otiose.
When a Kenyan from the Kikuyu ethnic group passes away, members of the Kikuyu community take the lead in the discussions because they understand what the culture says. The same applies to a Lhuya, a Kamba and so fourth. It is not therefore surprising that Luos have taken the lead in the Maggero case.
In all the above cases, there has been no controversy (except in the Achacha case) because all families have been involved in the decision making process.
The involvement of Kenyans in the Maggero case is therefore not a novel idea that was born when Maggero passed away. This is the “tradition” in Stockholm. For the umpteenth time, the Maggero discussion is not about his final resting place, cremation or infringement of family privacy. It was about his “next of kin” in KENYA who were shown the “red card” when it came to discussions about his funeral as if this family did not exist.
The late James Wuod Maggero, the great story-teller, has left behind him a legacy (albeit a sad one to some) which will be used as a point of reference in the future by Kenyans in Sweden and elsewhere in the Diaspora. His passing on has whipped up emotions from a cross section of Kenyans, Africans and Swedes, exhibiting both support and distaste for matters concerning death, taboos, customs, interracial marriages/relationships, gender and so forth.
It is normal that when a Luo passes on (especially a male elder), people sing praises and air criticisms during the funeral and burial. The anticlimax of Wuod Maggero’s saga came when KSB moved its readers to “THE CENTRE” of the debate. Suddenly all the critical voices, especially those that have been supporting the exclusion of Maggero’s Kenyan family from funeral arrangements went mute. The fangs of these wannabe writers stopped spitting venom waiting to refill again, probably if rattled.
Revelations from KSB’s now famous “Moving the Centre” articles dealt a shuddering blow to “Unilateral cremationists”, because it raised some hidden cultural perspectives which they had never anticipated.
For example, those supporting what Dagmar did, never knew Wuod Maggero’s real marital background, yet they insisted blindly that his immediate Swedish family should have remained the sole decision takers during his funeral arrangements. Instead of changing tactics to address the new reality after the facts were laid on the table by KSB, they simply fled from the battle ground with a few side-kicks from one or two distant sympathizers, who have mainly specialized in personal attacks against me and Mr. Okoth Osewe, while avoiding the heavier cultural issues raised in this debate.
Wuod Maggero, the polygamist, never divorced his first African wife (Nyar Ugenya), yet had legally married Dagmar (his Swedish wife) and built a family with her. Who else could have done this, but a “Guru” of Luo customs and traditions as Mrs. Hellen Opwapo wisely dubbed him. As Maggero’s legacy lives on with hard and sensational facts filling cyberspace, loud-mouthed critics who rushed to the front lines with machetes have been demobilized after being disarmed. They are probably wondering whether they will be haunted by Maggero’s ghost due to their overt cultural insensitivity during his controversial funeral which saw his body reduced to ashes by a section of his family.
REFLECTIONS AND CONFESSIONS
Mr. Osore Ondusye stated in a recent video interview uploaded by KSB, that Wuod Maggero was the most sophisticated Kenyan in Stockholm. This could be correct given the developments being experienced since his departure. Because of him, a minority group has called for the rejection of Luo funeral customs which they claim, are repugnant.
It is also because of the immature sentiments expressed by the anti-traditionalists that some of us have been tagged sexists and racists. I have been told anonymously that I belong to Kenya and not to Sweden which, according to the threat, is famous for its fairness and tolerance. Ironically, the threatening SMS sent to me was signed “AMEN”, leaving a lot to be desired on who is actually the intolerant person in this case.
Because of Wuod Maggero, some people have written notes in cyberspace about death and confessed for not having been present during his last days. During this period of reflections, Mr. Clay Onyango has written to KSB asking for forgiveness from all those he had ever wronged. I could not help laughing about this, so I called Clay to ask whether he had become religious. He answered that life is too short and we all need to show love to each other.
I recall Mr. Maggero’s rib-cracking story of how his mother cooked and packed him chicken and “ugali” (maize flour meal) to eat during his flight to Europe in the 1950s. He was quite an unassuming and astute businessman, who welcomed people at his former travel agency (Recemarknadcenter) in Stockholm city. I bought a few tickets from him, thereby getting a chance to listen to some of his numerous stories. Maggero also never minced words about his dislike for certain politicians in Kenya, a fact that made me respect his own struggle for democratic space in Luoland.
I also attended a few funeral functions presided over by this cultural guru and recall that he was a generous donor (always giving between 500-1000 kronor). He once invited me to a function organized by KESFA (the Kenya Sweden Friendship Association) and he introduced me to Dagmar and one of his daughters. They may not remember me now because of the on-going war of words, but we chatted briefly.
MAINTAINING CULTURAL IDENTITIES IN SWEDEN
I would like to ask the anti-traditionalists and their supporters that if Maggero detested many African habits as they allege, why was he the leader of KESFA for many years, an organization which, among others, was trying to unite Kenyans and Swedes along cultural lines? Why did Maggero move back to Kenya after attaining his retirement age? It has even been whispered by some people that he had intended to travel back to Kenya if he ever regained his health.
As indicated in my earlier article, Mr. Maggero belonged to the first generation of Kenyans in Scandinavia. It has been proven that he practiced traditions that are unknown to many Luos and even his mastery of the Luo language was exceptional, despite having lived in Sweden for so many years. His now famously quoted duoko nyako (returning the girl) events, have left veterans like Mrs. Opwapo wondering whether he could have really shunned his Luo traditions during his last days to an extent that he could have recommended cremation.
Those pushing for African cultures to be discarded have left me pondering upon their imagination of how some Luos in Stockholm might have conducted Maggero’s funeral. In their small brains, they probably imagine Luos running amok, rolling on the ground (sometimes with crocodile tears) screaming “uuuuwiiii”, storming Dagmar’s apartment at Hellenelund with spears (if they are available in Sweden), ransacking and grabbing Wuod Maggero’s clothes and furniture, while demanding that the Maggero family purchase bulls to be slaughtered for them to eat. Or do they imagine the horrendous and unthinkable wife-inheritance?
I have read through the words of the anti-traditionalists in cyberspace and concluded that they have a personal ambition in this story but want to discredit Luos, whom they see as “backward”. I feel for them because some of us are not yet in the era of disbanding our cultural identities because of new life-styles adopted in Sweden. Some of us have succeeded (after many years in Sweden) as Africans, by building our personalities to remain just Africans, yet integrating to fit into the Swedish society. Some of us will maintain this and will never borrow the catchphrase “Coconut”, which describes black South Africans who think they are white because of moving into white neighborhoods. It is important to observe that many Europeans living in Africa have never disbanded their original identities, but strengthened them to fit realities there.
Many Kenyans have echoed that culture is dynamic and therefore, unnecessary traditions are abandoned as communities progress. There will be no speedy and radical shift in the socio-cultural settings of the Kenyan community in Sweden, but a gradual one, as its population grows and people become less attached to their original Motherland. When that time comes, it will be normal to bury or even cremate dead Kenyans in Sweden, without a word being raised by anybody. The Maggero debate is not just healthy. It is also interesting and should therefore continue.
James Wuod Maggero, whose real name was also “Otieno”, was a good story teller. He could glue his listener for hours with titillating tales, be they about his escapes in Kenya or his excursions in Sweden when he first came to this country.
When, one day, he went with Dagmar to his home village in Siranga, Aoko Nyar Bamba, Maggero’s late mother, was surprised that Dagmar was collecting snails which she wanted to cook and eat. Surprised, Aoko told Dagmar that she would have to cook the snails at the gunda (an abandoned home) and not at the home stead.
Dagmar got very angry and retorted that the home people were also eating ngwen (termites) and that she also had a right to cook and eat the snails. She could not understand why she could not be allowed to cook snails which she had picked up when eating of termites was allowed.
When my mother visited me in Sweden in May 2001, Wuod Maggero was the first person she visited at his house in Hellenelund because, for a long time, Maggero had been a very close family friend. Dagmar cooked chicken and rice for us. To be honest, Dagmar is a really nice cook and many Kenyans who attended Maggero’s ceremonies will attest to this.
On many occasions when Maggero visited Kenya, he used to call me to check if I had a message for Mom. He took his time and went to Kisumu to deliver my messages. When Maggero lost his son Owino, he spent a night at Geneva Guest House in Kisumu (which my family owns) together with his first wife, Nyar Ugenya, arguing that there was nowhere else he could sleep while in Kisumu. I have been contemplating publishing a picture my Mom took with Woud Maggero in Stockholm but I have to ask her first. But when Maggero started getting really sick, he stopped going to Kisumu while in Kenya and my info line to my family was also cut off.
When Maggero organized the duoko nyako (returning the girl) ceremony at Hellenulund (I can’t remember the girl who was being duokod), I was one of the impromptu speakers and a key point I made in my speech was that I did not know about the “duoko nyako” ceremony until I attended the function. I was later informed by some elderly Luos that they too did not know about it while some Luo women admitted that they were never duokod themselves. Maggero was a cultural person.
We arrived at the function with Mr. Mark Gaya and I remember congratulating Wuod Maggero for upholding the African culture and helping the younger generation to understand the meaning and value of African cultures which were on their way to extinction.
When Dagmar accused me of never having attended their functions and being a total stranger when she had actually cooked a meal for my mother and myself in her own house, I went to the archive to look at some of the nice pictures we took during the “life and times” of Wuod Maggero to reminisce and wondered why Dagmar was telling such horrible lies at a time when Maggero had just departed. The brutality of my articles as a result of concerns about what had happened to “Our elder” had expunged the good memories. But let’s get back to business.
WHY MAGGERO’S SOUL MIGHT NEVER “REST IN PEACE”
Culture is not static. It is true that today, Luos do not remove their six lower teeth because the exigencies of this practice has been overtaken by both science and technology that can facilitate the feeding of a sick person through intra-venous means if the patient is unable to eat food through the mouth.
In Stockholm, many members of the Kikuyu community have not circumcised their sons and daughters although this is what could have happened if their children were born in Kenya. Luos and other African communities no longer pay dowry in terms of goats and cows but accept hard cash as an alternative. Wife inheritance among the Luo is on the wane while the practice of Luos marrying outside the tribe is acceptable with more focus having shifted to whether the basic Luo marriage customs have been followed. Within the Luo culture, no marriage is valid unless dowry has been paid. Tero buru ( a ritual for the dead) among the Luo is facing extinction. In short, the law of cultural dynamism states that progressive cultures survive while retrogressive cultures diminish over time and this is a widely accepted rule in many cultures.
Africans stopped wearing skins long time ago because cultures are dynamic. Luo culture does not demand that a Luo man must be buried in his ancestral home as long as the man set up a new home elsewhere according to Luo traditions. In fact, some Luo males have been reported to have been circumcised for their own personal reasons although nyange (circumscision) is not widely practiced within the community ie there is even room to borrow from other cultures at the individual level.
In the current case of Woud Maggero, the question which could be posed is whether Luo culture (just like many African cultures) has evolved in a way that cremation could be accepted as a “normal practice”.
The hoopla around Maggero’s cremation is strongly linked to the novelty of the event among the Luo (and many Africans), the speed with which it was conducted without family participation in Kenya, the secrecy which surrounded Maggero’s death announcement, the failure of Maggero’s Swedish family to compromise on certain basic demands and, most importantly, the failure of Mr. Maggero himself to prepare his Luo and African counter parts for the event in case it was his wish to be cremated.
Maggero should have understood that his cremation had the potential of exploding into a controversy and, under the circumstances, it was his responsibility to “diffuse the bomb”, not just by informing his wife but also preparing his people especially his closest friends like Dr. Otieno Wariaro who could have acted as a “cultural front” in favor of Dagmar and her daughters to explain events to other Kenyans. This did not happen.
The Kikuyu do not cremate. But when former Arch Bishop Manases Kuria was cremated in Kenya a few years ago, there was no commotion because the Bishop had prepared his people properly for the event when he was still alive. For many Kenyans who are now planning an alternative Memorial for Maggero, the Mzee’s cremation was the climax of a terrible clash between the Swedish/Jewish culture and Luo culture. The general view is that the white culture prevailed while the African culture was trampled upon with impunity.
The fireworks being witnessed in the Maggero case could be dismissed by the “culturally dislocated” as the product of interference of a private family affair but in reality, the persistent sparks are the product of deep dilemma which has struck some Kenyans in the wake of news about Maggero’s cremation and the expected consequences within the context of both Luo and African culture.
For many Luos who understand the culture, the call that Maggero’s soul should be left to “rest in peace” is anathema because since his body was never buried, Luo culture dictate that his soul will never rest in peace because his spirit will wonder “for ever” upon the surface of the earth.
The point of impact between this Luo culture and Swedish/Jewish culture is that for Maggero’s Swedish family, the status of Maggero’s soul is not affected by his cremation while for the Luo, whoever supported or contributed to Maggero’s cremation will have to pay by being haunted by Maggero’s spirit which will hold these people responsible for its inability to join the ancestors because his body is “at large”.
BURIAL OF ASHES NEXT TO MOTHER IN LAW WILL BE REPUGNANT
Luos who have been “making noise” over the issue have simply been trying to wash their hands from responsibility because after Maggero’s family failed to travel to Sweden to deal with the crisis, there was nothing else Luos in Stockholm could do because non of them was related to Maggero by blood. It was for this reason that the fundamental demand to Maggero’s Swedish family was for a family member from Kenya to travel to Sweden “to be part of the funeral process”.
The fear of the dead coming back to haunt the living within the Luo culture has, on several occasions, led to the clan “dumping Wills in dustbins” on grounds that the dead did not understand the real implications of their Wills when they were alive with the hope that the dead would realize their mistakes once they joined the ancestors, time when the living would also be vindicated. It is also for this reason that funeral arrangements within the Luo are the preserve of clan members whose leaders are expected to understand every minute detail in the situation. SM Otieno (for Kenyans who know about the historic case) wrote a Will but it was dumped, not by clan members but by the Court system in the Republic of Kenya which ruled in favour of the Luo culture.
If Mr. Maggero had died at war or drowned so that his body could not be found, a yago (the pod of an oak tree) could be buried (at the designated location of Maggero’s burial site) to represent his body in order to appease his spirit so that his soul could rest in peace.
The dilemma in the Maggero case is that although his body existed, it was deliberately converted into ashes by people who did not understand the implications so a yago cannot be buried to replace it. The consequence is that Maggero’s spirit will have to wonder “for ever” and those who will rest in earthly peace (free from Maggero’s haunting spirit) are those who had nothing to do with the disappearance of his body. If he had left a Will that he wanted to be cremated and convinced people in life, his spirit would not be in a position to haunt anybody because there would be nobody to take responsibility. This might sound a bit of “Latin” to white readers although it is what the culture says.
The “Jewish element” of the analysis above hinges on the fact that Dagmar is a “Swedish Jew” whose Jewish mother relocated to Sweden after the second world war. Real Jews don’t cremate although the practice is normal among “Liberal Jews”.
Dagmar’s mother was herself cremated and, according to Maggero’s Swedish family which made revelations at the Continental Hotel, Maggero’s ashes will be buried next to his mother in law’s ashes thereby provoking new and intensive cultural fireworks which Dagmar and her daughters might never understand.
The fact that Maggero’s mother in law was herself cremated also raises questions as to whether the cremation of Maggero was his wish or whether it is a family practice from the point of view of Dagmar’s Jewish heritage. Nobody has seen the will where Maggero says that he wanted to be cremated and what is available is hear-say.
If Maggero’s ashes are buried next to her mother in law as was planned, it will probably be the first time that a Luo has been “buried” next to his mother in law since the genesis of the “Luo nation”. There is simply no way of capturing the repugnancy in the situation.
COULD “NYAR UGENYA” THREATEN DAGMAR’S MATRIMONIAL STATUS?
Another point of cultural conflict is that Dagmar is Maggero’s second wife although she and her daughters took all the decisions about Maggero’s cremation. According to Luo culture, Nyar Ugenys should have taken the lead as Dagmar followed in her foot-steps. Nyar Ugenya could herself have been taking instructions from the clan. But that is irrelevant now.
Coming back to Sweden, the possibility of a second legal wife is “unthinkable” in Sweden and when we raised the issue, the key boards of many white Swedish contacts who have been sending private mails to KSB to try and discuss the matter simply went dead.
To get back to the point, Nyar Ugenya, Maggero’s first wife, did not even feature in the funeral process probably because if her profile had been lifted, it could have complicated the situation for Dagmar who stands as the sole inheritor of Maggero’s estate on grounds that she is the sole “next of kin”.
We don’t have to mention Maggero’s children, some of whom are unknown but who have a legal right to claim part of his estate. A typical case is that of Beatrice, Maggero’s unknown twenty year old daughter who studies at Stockholm university in Sweden and whose Finish mother was blocked from getting entangled into the “Maggero quagmire” by some Kenyans who did not want her to disturb the waters further and at a time when many pleas were being drafted to be presented to Maggero’s Swedish family.
If the issue of Nyar Ugenya came up forcefully, another issue which could have popped up is the marital status of Dagmar because if evidence could be produced that Maggero was in deed married at the time he married Dagmar and that he never divorced Nyar Ugenya, then Dagmar’s marriage to Maggero could be rendered null and void according to Swedish law which does not permit two or more wives at the same time.
To be precise, the status of Dagmar in relation to the law could be reduced to that of a “Sambo” (Cohabitant). The Swedish law dictates that Maggero had to officially divorce Nyar Ugenya before Marrying Dagmar and since this did not happen, Nyar Ugenya was in a position to claim Maggero’s estate if she could produce a marriage certificate that she was legally married to Wuod Maggero at the time Maggero married Dagmar.
We urge the “Liberated Young Kenyans” and other “disco critics” to join the debate at another level instead of engaging in personal and unrealistic attacks against those who are trying to honestly shed new light on the Maggero crisis.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART THREE
First and foremost, I send my condolences to the Maggeros on the passing away of Mr. Wuod Maggero. Secondly, I take this opportunity to respond to the so-called “Liberated Young Kenyans in Stockholm” who have signed a strongly-worded “e-petition” on the African Press in Norway (APN) website, challenging matters published on the Kenya Stockholm Blog (KSB), pertaining to the late Mr. Wuod Maggero.
I am pertubed that the liberated Kenyans chose to pen their thoughts on a website hosted in Norway and not on KSB, given that the events in question are based in Stockholm. I have decided to respond here and not in the “Norwegian cyberspace”, with my full names and not just as a “concerned Kenyan”. To Mr. Okoth Osewe who owns KSB, I say “kudos for keeping a large section of Kenyans updated on occurrences within Stockholm”.
The news of Mr. Wuod Maggero’s passing was first broken to the public through Mr. Osewe’s text message and an article on KSB. His passing has triggered a public debate that now pits the once “muted and shackled” yet now ardent liberated Kenyans, against the “conservatives”, who still believe that an African beholds his/her identity from birth unto death, depending upon how many generations have passed in the Diaspora.
I am glad that these liberals show that the Kenyan Stockholm community has writers willing to engage their “intellectual” prowess on matters pertaining to Luo traditions, gender and race, which have vexed them with regard to this funeral.
Being a contributor and a loyal reader of KSB, I have been keenly following the debate surrounding Mr. Maggero’s funeral. I was part of the crowd that met at the Continental Hotel on January 10th, 2007, and wish that these so-called liberated Kenyans were present then, to challenge, in this case, the conservative Kenyans. As usual, despite a mass SMS inviting all, they did not show up. Instead, they are now shouting in the virtual world, accusing Mr. Osewe of biased reporting about this funeral and so forth.
In my opinion, Mr. Maggero represented the first generation of Kenyans in Sweden, so events surrounding his funeral are unique. His case might have been different in the UK or the USA, where Kenyans have lived for many years, and some have severed traditional ties with their roots. As Mr. Osewe clearly put it in an earlier article, this might be the beginning of a radical shift in our perception of death abroad.
I wish to remind these liberals that according to Mr. Osewe, KSB is “… dedicated to News and events happening around Kenyans in Stockholm”. I have cited some Internet definitions of the term blog, to explain its meaning:
• A short form for weblog, a frequent and chronological publication of comments and thoughts on the web. They usually include philosophical reflections, opinions on the Internet and social or political issues.
• A public website where users post informal journals of their thoughts, comments, and philosophies, updated frequently and normally reflecting the views of the blog’s creator.
• A weblog or internet diary. Weblogs enable users to publish short comments and ideas instantly for other people to read. Blogging can be an effective communications tool for small groups of people to keep in touch with each other.
• A “web log” or online diary. Blogs have been identified as an increasingly popular source of online publication, especially regarding political information, opinion publication and alternative news coverage.
These varied definitions of the blog, clarify that it is a Web space for opinions on socio-political or other matters, either from the blogger or other contributors. It is continuosly updated: a key aspect about the blog. The liberated Kenyans accuse Mr. Osewe of not getting certain facts correctly, but do not acknowledge that those so-called falsified facts have been systematically corrected by KSB, and elsewhere in the cyberspace by the late Mr. Maggero’s wife, Mrs. Dagmar Wuod Maggero.
Since these liberated Kenyans want to keep things “intellectual”, I would like to ask them to cite word for word, all the fabricated stories on KSB, instead of blowing hot air with their e-petition which has so far attracted their mates only, yet it is posted on a website concerned with African matters. Have they asked themselves why their so-claimed a large section of Kenyans who are against KSB are not responding?
Randa, a contributor to the e-petition, claims that KSB should cease its unprofessional reporting. I challenge this group to open its own blog that can independently bash KSB by fully citing its mistakes, then market it to all Kenyans and the rest of the world. As a matter of fact, the credibility of KSB has been upheld through the citation of its news, by reknowned journalists on the websites of The Kenya Times and the Kenya London News.
I believe that a blanket condemnation of KSB without any proof is enough show of malice and twisted thinking, and only perpetuates what I often brand as “cheap feminist attacks”. I know my words will ruffle feathers and get labelled a “sexist”, but I am ready for an intellectual critique on this, as long as it remains civil and not personal.
I will refer the young liberals to a case that shocked Africans in Sweden and elsewhere, in 1995. This was the cremation of a young asylum seeker from Ivory Coast, named Gérard Gbeyo, who had been brutally murdered in Klippan, a small town in Sweden. Due to claims of delays in transporting the body and high costs incurred to preserve it, he was cremated in Sweden by the State, without the consent of his Ivorian family.
I urge the liberals to fetch a television documentary featured in one of the Swedish channels, and see how shocked Gérard’s family was, when their son’s ashes were transported to Ivory Coast in a box. As most Africans expect, burying a body and not its ashes is the norm. The liberals claim that since cremation is not a part of the Luo burial customs, then it is not a taboo. That is neither here nor there, because certain habits do not have to be explicit. KSB confirmed in an interview with Mrs. Dagmar Wuod Maggero, that Mr. Maggero did not write in his Will that he should be cremated.
To cite the liberal Kenyans, “the cremation decision was in fact Maggero’s as is captured in his WILL and not his wife’s and daughters”. If they have read the Will, how come Ms. Hellen Wuod Maggero (Wuod Maggero’s daughter) had not seen it by last Wednesday, when she met Kenyans at the Continental Hotel? In this case, the young liberals are merely rumour-mongering and biased. Can they publicly cite words from that WILL confirming the cremation of Wuod Maggero? Hell NO!
I recall very well that the following were the pleas from Kenyans to Ms. Hellen Wuod Maggero, on January 10, 2007 as cited on KSB:
1. That the funeral process of the late Maggero be delayed until his family can arrive from Kenya to attend the burial.
2. That the cremation of Mr. Maggero be delayed so that Kenyans can have the opportunity to view his body and pay their last respects.
3. That the family allow for Kenyans who knew Maggero to mourn the late Mzee in accordance with Luo culture.
The Continental Hotel discussions were also recorded on video and there is not a moment when anybody disrespected the issue of cremation. I personally asked Ms. Hellen Wuod Maggero whether it was her father’s wish to be cremated and the instant answer was “Yes”.
I therefore wonder what these young liberated Kenyans are whining about. I will not use this platform to comment on their perception of a woman’s role in decision-making and their counter-claims on interracial marriages. They are free to discuss these issues in whichever way they deem right, just as Mr. Osewe equally presented his opinion and that of the public he interviewed.
Let’s hope that the “Liberated Young Kenyans” will show their faces on Friday meeting at Continental Hotel to face Wakenya instead of engaging in peurile and empty attacks on KSB under anonymous tags in cyberspace.
I am shocked to hear that the murderer of the late Juliet Kavinga is free for lack of evidence. It’s so sad that the family back home in Kenya will never get justice for losing a loved one.
The main reason why lam writing these few lines is because of the way she died. Juliet, being over seven months pregnant, could still be alive if she had the right information as to how things work here in Sweden.
Many Kenyans in Sweden know the legal status of a pregnant woman and how the law operates when a guy with Permanent Residence Permit (PUT) or citizenship impregnates a woman in this country.
Why do people come here and go through hell hiding themselves from fellow countrymen ? There is no way the Swedish government could have deported Juliet after five months pregnancy. The Swedish law says that a woman cannot have an abortion after four months. In the circumstances, Juliet had the right to go to clinic every month because she was carrying a child whose father was a Swedish citizen.
She could have been issued with a Permanent Resident Permit because of her baby. Juliet didn’t need that guy while there was no reason for her to go underground. My question is: didn’t her so called friends enlighten her by giving her this information?
Even if the guy didn’t want the child, probably to avoid taking responsibility which is obligatory in Sweden, she could still have made a deal with the father. For example she could have signed an agreement that the dad will be paying an amount of money monthly, quarterly or yearly directly to her thus avoiding the Försäkringskassan (State insurance) which is more strict and bureaucratic. In that way Juliet could have had both her precious baby and Residence Permit to live and work in Sweden with no further contact with the guy. This kind of advice should have come from Kenyans.
It is so sad that Kenyans who are “underground” fear fellow Kenyans more than the Swedish authorities. I ask: Why? All over Kenya, there are millions of people who can do anything so that they can send their children to the Western world to make some money to help them back home.
Some even take loans with the small piece of land they have to pay for the ticket and other expenses for their children to make it here. I am very disappointed that these countrymen later find themselves in the camp of “illegal immigrants” then hide from Kenyans because in the past, many of them have been sold by Kenyans to police and deported or betrayed by the same people whom they hoped could advise them.
When they are deported back home, they don’t have a life anymore while their siblings or parents also suffer from many draw-backs. Those left behind at home had looked upon this person to help them pay school fees, settle the bank loan and so forth. What happens to these families after losing the only piece of land they own to the bank because a Kenyan betrayed a fellow Kenyan? l say: Stop this behavior! You don’t have to help someone with money or a place to sleep. What this Kenyan needs might be a few kind words and right information so stop selling each other!
Nobody owns Sweden. What you do to people will eventually affect you because what goes round comes around. Let us be happy that there is another Kenyan trying. Let us be happy and help one another. The worst part is the negative mentality of some people who say oh, l can’t help this person because him /her might succeed more than me!
I think that’s cheap and petty because what God has written is definitely yours. It is too sad that there are those who could have a heart attack because someone else has been doing better than them! Lets not forget that nobody controls the air we breath. The only person who does that is God (if you believe in Him). If he takes away the air you breath, your time in this world is over.
Peace and love to all Kenyans. Let us unite because in this country, we are all visitors, just like those who are in the “underground”. Let us give our fellow countrymen the support they need.
Mr Odero, if I may ask: How many organizations have Kenyans in Sweden started or established with Committees, Master planning and have flopped? They are many as you also know. Who said that if you want to organize a party, a wedding, a fundraising or form an organization you always have to have a Master plan and elect a Committee?
In fact, do you know why our organizations in Sweden fail? Because of too many Master planners. I believe in recruiting serious members, have an agenda, discuss and then lay down all the rules. Why do we fundraise in case of death and then dance there after? death is also a huge issue. As for the case of the regime change in Kenya, who said there couldn’t be a regime change in the whole of Europe, leave alone Sweden? A regime change could lead to people being forced to go back where they came from. The account issue is to be agreed by the members.
Thanks a lot Mr Okoth Osewe for the healthy discussion. The idea is not just to build apartments but to invest in Kenya in any other good venture. Contributing 100 kr does not mean that that’s the money we will rely on. Once we have a good number of serious members, we could agree and raise the contribution to even 1000 kr per member per month. As I said earlier, there is money from the drinks and food that will also be deposited in the same account.
This money from Alby parties that you are talking about could be little but do not forget that kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba. In the case of Nyama choma parties, each party sometimes could raise between 5000 to 6000 kr. This is still little but it is something. The main motive of tomorrow’s party in Alby is to recruit members and not to fundraise.
I do not think we should sit down and form a Committee without having a good number of members. We should get the members first and then lay down all the rules and even elect the Committee as members. As for the account number, it’s so sad that you cannot even rely on your own Embassy or government to help you out.
The account issue will be upon the members to decide ie where and how to save their money in case they feel that they cannot rely on the Embassy. Yes, property in Kenya is expensive but how did those individuals acquire them? Not necessarily through corruption but loans or maybe, they started small businesses that turned out to be big. That could be the case with Thurderbolt! However small we will be, we will have to begin from somewhere. Let us keep debating on this issue. It is a very healthy debate.