The costal Kenya is believed to be where East Africa’s history of civilisation, colonisation and evangelism began. Tourists feel their journey for leisure is complete when they visit the region.
Mombasa and Malindi are the perceived Miami or Rio de Janeiro of Africa. But Lamu is the mother of them all. Insecurity has turned it a forgotten treasure and a no go-zone.
The beauty of Lamu, UNESCO World Heritage site, is beyond human imagination. The single main street town, supported by a number of two-metre-wide others, are the first attraction a visitor will always admire.
But off course, one has to be careful of donkeys as they and handcarts are the main transport in the town.
“Lamu is a small paradise on the Indian Ocean, and it has everything for research, leisure, business and even making friend,” a teacher Mohamed Osman said.
Besides being one of the oldest towns in East Africa, Lamu has two cars. Handcarts and about 3,000 donkeys are used for transportation of goods.
Lamu, about 350Kms north of Mombasa or 850Kms from Nairobi by road, is the headquarters of Lamu Archipelago, comprising Lamu, Manda, Pate and Kiwayu and several small islands.
Historians believe the town, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, has been there from the 14th or 7th Century. Over 160-historic houses of similar ancient Arabic designs built of coral stones and mangrove timber, with ornate carved wooden doors, are some of the evidence making Lamu an historic site.
It has a diverse history of Chinese, Portuguese, Indians, Omani and others. Trading of mangroves, slaves, turtle shells, ivory and rhinos’ horns was done here.
During his visit to Kenya, US President Barrack Obama expressed his wish to visit Lamu after leaving the office.
“Lamu is a place I would be interested in visiting again, it is top on my list. I went there with Michelle after our engagement and I remember taking the dhow to fish, and cooking the fish right at the beach, it was remarkable,” Obama told Capital FM Radio.
Opposite Lamu town is Manda Bay, where the ruins of Takwa, a 17th Century holy city for Muslims, are found. All the doors of Takwa faced the Mecca. Also in Manda are the ruins of a Great Mosque and a pillar tomb, dating back to centuries.
Pate Island, comprising Fazah and Shanga, is one of the Swahili settlement schemes of great cultural heritage since the 8th Century. It has several historic sites, including coral walls, tombs, and three palaces.
It is in Pate where a Chinese navigator Zheng He’s vessel sunk in the 15th Century. Zheng led an expedition of 50 ships to the Indian Ocean between 1368 and 1644, and one of the ships sunk off the Ocean, in Shanga village.
Today, several facts tend to prove this theory. First, historians believe that the survivors of the vessel settled among the people of Lamu and inter-married with the local Banjunu tribe living in Pate. There are several half-cast people of Chinese features.
Secondly, Shanga village where most of the half-cast live, derived its name from the Chinese town “Shangai”.
“I have Chinese blood and if the Chinese government decides to take us to China, the way Israel took the Jews from Ethiopia, I will go,” Ibrahim Abdi resident of Shanga explained.
Culture and resources
Lamu has been a religious centre for Muslims in East Africa, since the 19th Century. It hosts annual celebration of Maulidi, in the third month of Muslims calendar. Maulidi is a significant event to mark the birth of Prophet Muhammad.
During the celebration, the locals organise series of events, including dhow and donkey races, traditional dances, art and craft competitions. Another event is the Lamu Cultural Festival to celebrate the preservation of culture and the archipelago.
“People from around the world and journalists participate in Maulidi. Hotels are normally full during the celebration, and those who miss accommodations stay with friend,” A Muslim preacher Hassan Abdalla said.
Lamu is economically potential despite the insecurity. Tour attraction sites, Kiunga Marine Reserve, Boni and Dondori Forest Reserves, are some of unexploited resources.
However, the most important is the Lamu Port under construction in Manda. The Lamu – South Sudan – Ethiopia Transport (LAPPSET) corridor will link Lamu and northern Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia by a pipeline, road and rail.
A Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, under LAPPSET, is ongoing and will cover about 3250Kms. The project was launched in March 2012, and a Chinese company was given the construction tender.
The discovery of oil and gas deposits in Lamu Basin in 2014, by an Austrialian company, Pancontinental Oil and Gas NL, is a milestone for the region.
Terrorism activities have left the people of Lamu traumatised and counting losses over the years. They have experienced several invasions and harrowing experiences from the fall of the Siad Barre in 1991.
“Somali soldiers fled into Kenya in 1991 after the fall of Siad Barre regime. Many people were displaced and some took refuge in Malindi and Mombasa,” Mwana Amina, from Ishakani village, said.
Amina returned to her villages years later but to find a new wage of terror – this time by the Al-Qaeda affiliated terror group – the Al-shabaab.
The Al-shabaab has caused instability and suffering not only to the people of Lamu but also to visitors. The people here live in extreme poverty with limited sources of income.
Access to Lamu by road
From Nairobi, Lamu is accessed by road through Mombasa, Kilifi, Malindi, and Garsen in Tana River County. The route, all the way from Mombasa, is unsafe.
Mombasa, Kilifi and Malindi are the stronghold of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a secessionist group in the coastal Kenya. The group has also contributed to insecurity in the coast.
Tana River is also a hotspot of frequent fights between farmers and pastoralists. The parties in the conflicts use guns.
Both the Al-Shabaab and MRC target non Muslims, perhaps to instigate a religious war, but Kenyans consider the attacks as normal acts of terrorism. In most of the attacks Muslims are separated from the targeted non Muslims.
“The Al-Shabaab attack non Muslim to cause religious tension. This is a psychological war to divide Kenyans on religious grounds and to make them fight,” Pastor Francis Maina of Mpeketoni said.
The current conflict and frequent terrorists activities in Kenya intensified after the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) entered Somalia 2011. The KDF went in pursuit of the Al-shabaab after several incursions, killing and kidnapping of Kenyans, tourists and aid workers.
According to World Population Review, women aged 16-19 are four times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault and female college students ages 18-24 are three times more likely to experience sexual assault. Transgender people and those with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault or rape.
From these very statistics Botswana can be found second only to neighbouring South Africa with the highest rape cases in the world. The number of incidents per 100,000 citizens do not take into account the number of cases that have not been reported to authorities. This goes without saying that Botswana may very well be on the same level as South Africa if not surpassing it.
Most of these victims have a hard time dealing with the violence they faced to an extent where it affects their day to day life.
WeekendLife interviewed rape survivor, Patience Ruwona, who was raped at the age of 15. Ruwona shared her gruesome experience and what it took for her to find healing, gather strength and move forward.
“It happened eight years ago and at the time I was only 15 years old. My mother was staying with her boyfriend at the time. So it happened that one day I came early from school. I was still doing form 2. I was the first one to come back from school. The boyfriend was home. So when I was changing into home clothes in my room, the boyfriend came in without even knocking. He then told me my mother has left some money so that whoever comes back first from school can go and buy meat,” Ruwona narrated.
“I then told him I will come get the money when I am done. He went back to his room. So after I finished changing, I went to their room. I knocked and he told me to come in. When I got, I found him half naked with only a towel. That made me feel very uncomfortable because when we were growing, we were taught never to enter an elder’s room when they are not fully dressed. I told him I came to collect the money and he pointed the dressing table.”
Unbeknownst to the young unsuspecting Ruwona, her mother’s then boyfriend would then grab the young lad, rip apart her garments and have his way with her. When Ruwona threatened to expose him, the audacious perpetrator would laugh in her face, telling her that there would be nothing her mother would do about the incident. And true to his words, Ruwona’s mother did not flinch upon hearing the gruesome crime that befell her daughter.
“In the evening when my mother came I told her everything. It was a simple thing to her and she never took it seriously. I told her I am bleeding and she said go and wash up we will talk about this some other time. Just like that suddenly I recalled that man’s words and I truly believed him. Till then I have not told anyone about this. I thought my mother is going to protect me, so if my mother failed to protect me no one else could protect me,” said a distraught Ruwona.
Seeking help after being raped
“Physically I had no desire to have sexual intercourse, I was scared. Years passed by and emotionally I was still battling because there were days I had flashbacks of the rape. It’s like a wound, it can never heal but it can stop bleeding. It never heals. It will bleed another time. I felt uncomfortable around men and I never went for counselling. I never went for anything, I thought I will cope on my own,” she said.
“So one day I decided enough is enough and I decided to speak out. That time I figured counselling would be best. I later went for counselling and I was doing well. I had to accept it happened and put everything in the past. Forgiving my mother helped me to heal.”
Director of Save A Woman, Babedi Samakabadi, has highlighted that rape is a permanent wound that one has to live with for the rest of their lives.
“The first thing the victim can do is to admit that they have been abused and they should be able to talk about it to whoever they can trust; could be a close relative, a counsellor, a friend or a pastor. It is not easy to take a step towards your healing but it must be done.
Victims of rape, must create a huge room in their hearts to forgive the perpetrators even when they are not sorry, forgiveness will help the victim to make peace with life and the future. Forgiveness will allow the victim to be able to get over the horrible experience and not associate the intimate relations as abuse at all times,” said Samakabadi.
“If one doesn’t allow themselves to heal and move on, dating and engaging in intimate matters are going to be a problem in their lives. As the victim can disclose to whoever they trust like friends or family, they are also advised to seek more especially professional counselling for proper psychological therapy, as the memories of the incident may torment the victim therefore therapy may assist with getting to live with such memories without being drawn back or life progress being affected . Lastly, the victims must know that issues as these aren’t easy to deal with through our own ability, we need God for strength, wisdom and courage. We have no power to diminish some of the weight in our emotions or the damage done to our souls and hearts, hence we need God to carry us through.”
If you or a loved one is in need of help in dealing with rape or gender based violence, the following organisations provide free counselling services;
BOFWA (Botswana Family Welfare Association) 390 0489
BOSASNET (Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network) 395 9119
LIFE LINE 391 1270
MBGE (Men and Boys for Gender Equality) 395 7763
BGBVC (Botswana Gender Based Violence and Support Centre) 390 7659
BOCAIP (Botswana Christian AIDS Intervention Programme) 391 6454
After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.
On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.
The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.
Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.
The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.
At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.
“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”
The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.
The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.
The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.
However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.
Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.
Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.
“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.
“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”
Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.
Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.