A Brief History Of Kenyan Organizations In Stockholm

There is a myth being peddled in the Internet that Wakenya in Stockholm cannot do anything, they are useless, they cannot organize themselves and a host of other accusations. Another myth that has become fashionable is that Kenyan organizations in Stockholm are always collapsing due to poor leadership, disagreements, squabbles and power struggles. But what is the truth?

When I first arrived in Sweden long time ago, there was no active Kenyan organization on the social front. From Stockholm’s Carlslund refugee center, I moved to a camp in Sundsvall where I was later joined by Daniel Mwaura, Patrick Mwangi (Manto) Githuku wa Muirani among other Kenyans. At the camp, we noticed that Sweden was violating the Geneva convention and that we would be deported to Kenya to be killed by former President Moi if we did not enter into struggle. We discussed our common problems with other Africans in the camp and soon after, we managed (as Kenyans) to convince Africans about the need to form an organization to drive the African struggle because we were tired of seeing Africans being picked up in the camp by police one by one. We set up the “Organization of African Asylum Seekers in Sweden (OASIS).

We joined mainstream political parties as an organization because we could not struggle on our own. We organized demonstrations which not only articulated the rights of African asylum seekers but also attacked the racism and discrimination that was rampant within the asylum process and which had resulted in Africans not being granted asylum in Sweden. A year after OASIS was set up, Swedish Neo-nazi organizations began to threaten our members. We were constantly in the local Newspapers and TV stations in Sundsvall. When the Neo-Nazis put my name on their death list, OASIS and other political contacts decided that I should move to Stockholm. Later, Mwaura, Manto, Kamau (now in the US) also moved to Stockholm while Muirani moved to Enköping before moving to Stockholm. Sani Yongi moved to Holland to continue with his struggle. OASIS had outlived its usefulness and it was put to rest.

At about the same time that we were moving to Stockholm, Mwandawiro Mghanga and Alex Wagunya were in the process of setting up a Human Rights organization. However, there was a problem. Three Kenyans led by Mr. Njenga Gikanga (former member of Mwakenya) were blocking the process because Mr. Gikanga did not agree politically with Mwandawiro. As refugees who were still in the struggle, we were also seeking to set up a new organization of Kenyans. We decided to join hands with both Mwandawiro and Alex to defeat Gikanga and company so that an organization could be formed. This collaboration led to the setting up of Kenya Human Rights Organization in Sweden (KHEROS). Mwandawiro became the Chairperson, myself the Secretary while Dick Kamau became the Treasurer. KHEROS led several struggles related to human rights violations in Kenya and the violation of asylum rights of Kenyans in Sweden.

Around March 1996 tens of Kenyans arrived in Sweden to seek asylum. By then, both Muirani and myself had been granted asylum status. KHEROS organized a historic meeting in Skarpnäck to look into possibilities of setting up a political Movement in Sweden. The meeting was attended by key Kenyan exiles in Stockholm and over 20 Kenyan asylum seekers who had just arrived in the country including some well known names in today’s Stockholm. When nothing came out of the meeting (which exists on video), myself, Martin Ngatia and Githuku wa Muirani teamed up with other Kenyans to set up the Kenya People’s Democratic Movement (KEPEDEMO-Mapinduzi), a political outfit. Majority of members of KHEROS were asylum seekers who later dispersed in different directions to “look for papers” through other means because they believed that their asylum cases would fail. Not every Kenyan in Sweden could join KHEROS or KEPEDEMO because they were only open to Kenyans who were political.

At that time, “ordinary Kenyans” feared politics which was mainly associated with “dissidents”. They were afraid that if they joined these organizations, they would be unable to travel to Kenya because they would be arrested at the Airport. The birth of KEPEDEMO created some friction in KHEROS which was still defending asylum seekers. KHEROS did not collapse but continued to be under the control of Alex, Mwandawiro and Dick until Mwandawiro and Dick returned to Kenya. Today, Alex is in charge of KHEROS although the organization is inactive.  As I write, KEPEDEMO still exists and is one of the organizations which forms Kenya Scandinavia Democratic Movement (KESDEMO) headed by Mr. Martin Ngatia and which has affiliations in Norway and Finland. This is a very brief summery of events and there are several stuff that cannot be expanded here because of time and space.

The first major Kenyan organization that was non political and which was open to all Kenyans was Kenya United Welfare Association (KUWA) which was set up in 1996. During its seven years of existence a lot of achievements were realized through the organization. More than 70 harambees were organized to help Wakenya with different types of problems. The idea of Grand Nyama Choma was born in 1998 and there was not a single year that the event failed to take place, time when over 700 kg of meat was consumed.

Nyama chomas were free followed by all night parties at Nosborg Musikhuset with free entrance. The organization emerged as the only African organization that was producing a monthly Newsletter (KUWA Bulletin) with 57 issues having been published in total without a miss. A “Club House” was opened at Rågsved where Wakenya used to meet every Fridays and Saturdays. It was an experimental Club and remained operative for more than 2 years. Wakenya used to receive information about the organization via mail “on the door”.

Throughout its existence, KUWA received 282.000 kr and the breakdown is as follows: 1998: 50.000 kr, 1999: 58.000 kr, 2000: 100.000 kr and 2001: 74.000kr. This cash was being managed by the Committee which comprised nine people and Swedish authorities released funds only after previous funds had been well accounted for. Every time KUWA was funded by the State, the news grabbed the headlines in KUWA Bulletin. There was nothing secret.

The Committee used to be elected every year at the AGM. Swedish authorities had their own Auditor who used to go through the organization’s accounts (for State funds) and who used to be paid 5.000 kr for the job. Cash that was generated at parties were pumped back into the Association through the purchase of assets in preparation for further development.

The organization bought assets (see the Annual General Report of 2002) in preparation for movement into a Lokal (bigger meeting place for Kenyans) before an internal conflict erupted in June 2002 (See the 26 page “KUWA In Crisis” Report). The conflict was sorted out at an AGM which was attended by 45 members in October the same year (The Annual General Report delivered at the AGM exists including a video footage of the meeting). All previous Committee members were re-elected and the person who announced names of the new Committee was Mr. Jamlik Muritu. “The opposition” was counting votes.

After their re-election, the new Committee continued to run KUWA in 2003 while at the same time reflecting on what had happened in KUWA after many years of good work and achievements. At the end of 2003, many Committee members decided not to run for Office because they wanted to take a break. Some were getting busy while others had just started building families so they needed time out. When information was sent through KUWA Bulletin for candidates to bring in their names in preparation for the 2004 AGM, no names came up. The outgoing Committee then transformed itself into a “Care taker committee” because it could not just disappear. Publication of KB was stopped. This is the situation today.

Those who sat in KUWA Committee at any point in time during the life of the organization like Mr. Jared Aroka, Joseph Goga, Kenneth Aroka, Mark Gaya, Laban Mberi, Wyckliff  Odiwuor, Peter Gitau, Pastor Beatrice Kamau, Moses Trubadur, DJ Steve, Antony Adiwa, Kenneth Wamburi Munge, Enock Otuga, Meshack Otieno, Jacob Opande and many others deserve sincere congratulations.

Like any organization, KUWA had its own difficulties but this did not prevent the organization from making progress in many areas. We had our own wars but these wars will never erase the fact that KUWA was one of the most successful Kenyan organizations to have emerged in Sweden in recent times.

The whole history of KUWA cannot be told here. The distorted history of the organization being presented by personalities who were not at the scene ignores the fact that KUWA’s activities were “over-documented” in KUWA Bulletin and other documents creating no room for opportunists to make political capital through distortion of the organization’s seven-year history.

Okoth Osewe