Commentary: Late Maggero’s Case A Lesson To Kenyans In Diaspora

An elderly and well respected Kenyan dies in a Stockholm hospital. His white Swedish wife sits on the news for four good days. A Kenyan discovers (by chance) that a fellow member of the community has died and begins to break the news. As the shock begins to send Wakenya into a state of reflection, it emerges that the Kenyan is not only facing cremation but also his family in Kenya cannot attend the funeral in Sweden.

To worsen the situation, news filters across that the Kenyan’s family has also not been informed about the death although plans for his cremation have already been finalized because in Sweden, death is a “private family affair”. If you don’t expect controversy in such a mix-up of strange events, then probably, it is time for a mental check up.

The current controversy surrounding Maggero’s funeral could not have cropped up if there was no vibrant Kenyan community in Sweden. There are about five hundred Kenyans in Stockholm out of which about 100 are socially active. This puts Kenyans in Stockholm at the extreme end of a “minority group”. Even then, members of the community have not hesitated to register their distaste at what has happened to one of them and they are even organizing an alternative memorial service for Maggero on the 3rd February to underline their disappointment.

The cremation of Mr. Maggero is something very new within the Kenyan community in Stockholm. The incident has placed interracial marriages (especially between Kenyan men and Swedish women) into sharp focus. Kenyans married to Swedish women have been put into a very uncomfortable situation because whenever the Maggero thing pops up, these Kenyans will be viewed as possible victims whose bodies might easily head for the hot furnace in the event of death on grounds that it is the woman who decides.

A joke is already doing the rounds within Wakenya that you could call a Kenyan man married to a Swedish woman only to be told that “I am sorry. He died five weeks ago and the body was cremated”.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I am sorry but that is what he wanted. He did not want people to collect money for his body to be taken to Kenya. He hated his body being viewed and I just acted according to his wish”. Heavenly smoke!

Secondly, It has suddenly downed on the Kenyan community that a white Swede could easily keep the death of a Kenyan top secret and then proceed to cremate the body before emerging with an announcement that whoever is touched can have “two days of mourning”. The bitter pill is that not even family members in Kenya could be considered for “leakages” that their son has kicked the bucket, leave alone being allowed to attend the funeral because they have no money for an air ticket after all! In such situations, are Kenyans supposed to retreat into their sitting rooms to watch CNN or what are we supposed to do?

Then another bitter pill comes up. Five Kenyan girls surface (some with romantic links to Swedish men) to say that the cremation of the Kenyan was perfect, the news black out was super, the blockage of family members in Kenya from attending the cremation was fantastic and that the noise Kenyans are making is irrelevant because African cultures are primitive and should be abolished because Kenyans need to be “liberated”. They take the position that funeral arrangements are internal family matters and that those in the opposition are stupid, ignorant and backward.

As the African saying goes, “In every village, there is always a mad person”. Juxtaposing this saying to fit into the situation in Stockholm, it seems as if we might be having a bunch of “mad Kenyans” amongst us although it is not for me to judge because I could also be mad by writing this piece! Honestly speaking (and I could be wrong), I am slowly beginning to look at the possibility that we could be having some “mad girls” in the village and the question is how mental treatment can be organized.

Let us not make mistakes here. There are white skinned, blond haired, blue eyed Swedish men and women who think that what has happened in the Maggero case is abhor able. These Swedes do not agree with what Maggero’s Swedish family has done but their frustration is that they do not want to come out in the open because this is not the Swedish way of doing things. There are Swedes who have been in the streets to protest against attacks on the welfare system and attended street demonstrations on the question of A-kassa (compensation upon losing employment). The A-Kassa issue is national while the Maggero crisis is a tiny thing within tiny Wakenya in stockholm.

Those who have interacted with Swedes will agree that they deal with controversies by talking about them in their houses before forgetting about them altogether. The point is that not all Swedes are on the side of the Maggeros. When Ajigo died in the mid 90s, his body was not only transported to Kenya for burial but his white Swedish wife together with Ajigo’s son accompanied the body to Kenya. They respected the African culture even though Ajigo had no will. A blanket condemnation of Swedes is therefore uncalled for.

We are dealing with a unique case in which, according to Mrs opwapo, “the guru” of Luo culture in Stockholm has been cremated even without the benefit of his family attending the cremation. Then, to add salt to injury, he is scheduled to be buried next to his mother in law, a dastard act which will send many Luos into the toilet, not to pee but to weep.

In fact, almost all Kenyans have been affected and a Kikuyu guy married to a Swede has called KSB saying that they are having hot debates about the circumstances that led to Maggero’s cremation and that they have clear differences although he says that he is safe from cremation because his wife has agreed that the worst case scenario is burial in cold Sweden.

The Maggero issue will never go away as some people are requesting. It is like saying that people should forget about historic events like the first or the second world war. This is not possible. In fact, the Maggero case could be the Kenyan “Sunami in Stockholm”.

The controversy surrounding the case is normal unless Kenyans in this city have become zombies who can no longer react to this kind of “earthquake”. The case is a lesson to Kenyans in Diaspora especially those who are married to white women because what has happened in Stockholm could replay itself anywhere where circumstances are the same. The Maggero debate will, most likely, continue in Sweden and beyond. 

Okoth Osewe