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Kenya’s forgotten island of natural beauty and culture


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

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.

 Insecurity    

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.

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WeekendLife

The King’s journal 

23rd November 2021
Kgafela Kgafela II

This book is a true-life story of an African King based in South Africa. The Last Frontier is a resistance stand by Bakgatla Ba Kgafela tribe and its line of Kings from 1885 against a dark force called ‘western democracy’ that is insidiously destroying lives, peoples, nations and threatens to wipe away whole civilizations in Africa.

The story flows through four important episodes of history, beginning in about 1885 when Bechuanaland Protectorate was formed. This section briefly reveals interactions between Kgosi Linchwe 1 and the British Colonial Government, leading to the establishment of Bakgatla Reserve by Proclamations of 1899 – 1904.

The second episode deals with Kgosi Molefi’s interaction with the British Colonial Government in the period of 1929-36. The third episode records Kgosi Linchwe II’s interactions with the British Colonial Government and black elites of Bechuanaland. It covers the period of 1964-66, leading to Botswana’s independence. Kgosi Linchwe ii resisted the unlawful expropriation of his country (Bakgatla Reserve) by Sir Seretse Kgama’s government of 1966 to no avail. He wrote letters of objection (December 1965) to Her Majesty the Queen of England, which are reproduced in this book.

The fourth episode covers the period between Kgafela Kgafela II’s crowning as King of Bakgatla in 2008 to 2021. It is a drama of the author’s resistance to the present-day Botswana Government, a continuation of Bakgatla Kings’ objection against losing Bakgatla country to the Kgama dynasty assisted by the British Government since 1885. The story is told with reference to authentic letters, documents, and Court records generated during the period of 1885-2019. There is plenty of education in history, law, and politics contained in The Last Frontier for everyone to learn something and enjoy.   

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WeekendLife

Gospel concerts make a comeback

16th November 2021
Bishop Benjamin Dube

Hailed for being the prime gospel concert after the Covid-19 pandemic had put events to a halt, Golden Relic, in conjunction with Sweet Brands, recently unveiled the Arise and Worship Concert, Botswana. The show marks the return of worshippers and fans to enjoy music and worship together after what seemed like “cooler box” events were taking over the entertainment scene. 

The concert to be held on December 11th 2021, at the Molapo Showcase, has a packed lineup with the Headlining acts being Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela from South Africa and Botswana’s very own Obakeng Sengwaketse. More international acts from Nigeria and Ghana are also expected to grace the event. The show organizers have invested an effort in diversifying the lineup with live performances. 

The promoter of the Arise and Worship Concert, David “DVD” Abram revealed in an overview of the event that; “We have lost a lot of loved ones this year, and when that happens, one’s spirit goes down, and we need a light to ground us once more, to heal our souls. Therefore, the two main purposes of this event are to do the work of God and, secondly, to make sure that we nurture and develop talent in Botswana. With challenges that come up with events of such magnitude, the team and I have been committed to seeking guidance from God through having night prayers.” 

Abram added that as promoters, they usually have a bias towards already established artists, thus neglecting the upcoming ones and wanting to change that. “We approached the Melody Gospel TV Show since we aim at nurturing new talent and agreed on having one of the winners as a headliner for the event to allow them to share the stage with gospel giants so that they are exposed to the industry. This resulted in securing the Second Winner of the Melody Gospel TV show; Thabiso Mafoko as a local headlining act.”

The concert also aims at celebrating a Motswana. Multi-Award Winner; with the most recent title; BOMU Best Traditional Gospel under his belt, also best known for his soulful voice and heartfelt lyrics, Obakeng Sengwaketse enthusiastically said, “I want to thank the organizers of the Arise and Worship concert, it means a lot to me after recently winning two awards that are currently the highlight of my career.

I regard this as a great revival because the Covid-19 pandemic has muffled events such as this. I am looking forward to sharing the stage with the great Bishop Benjamin Dube, Lebo Sekgobela and more artists from Nigeria and Ghana. Sengwaketsi urged Batswana to come and witness the greatness of the Lord as their lives will never be the same.”

Tickets are selling like fat cakes with VVIP tickets having only five tickets remaining; the VVIP tickets include rounder access backstage to all the performing artists. The event will also comprise a seated Gold Circle Ticket, which accounts for 50% of revellers to allow for easier enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and avoid a potential stampede.

In a bid to entice merrymakers to buy tickets, the promoters have come up with a layby strategy and buying tickets on an instalment basis for the attendees to be able to buy their tickets since the COVID-19 Pandemic has left many Batswana in financial ruin but having the interest to attend the event.

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WeekendLife

Fame vs Mental health

9th November 2021
Lizibo

One can only imagine what is like being in the public eye. It is not a walk in the park; and not as easy as people might think it is because of the pressure from the public. Celebrities or influencers are perceived to be perfect, perfect bodies, perfect families, perfect parents, financially stable, healthy, and always smiling and patient with everyone – Is this for real?

However, when people’s expectations of celebrities are not met, the same celebrities are often victimized, body shamed, or blamed, fairly or unfairly. As a result of them not having a personal life, they are often scrutinized in all aspects of their lives; their lives are aired for the public to see and judge. Celebrities are often extra careful about everything that they do, they have to go an extra mile as compared to how ordinary people live their lives.

To understanding this experiences by public figures, this reporter made a case study of Mr Lizibo Gran Mabutho, the firstborn in his family with only one sibling, his younger brother. Lizibo describes himself as a simple Kalanga guy who was chosen by music and did not choose music.

He said being raised by his mother and grandmother, he grew up surrounded by music from birth. Lizibo said his grandmother was a religious person who held church services at their house in Zwenshambe, “for me singing was from Monday to Sunday. I was not like any ordinary child who only sang at church on Sundays or sometimes in school assembly, for me it was a daily thing. My mother was also a talented dancer in our village that is what I mean when I say I did not choose music, but music chose me.”

Lizibo said though he grew up surrounded by music, it was hard for his parents to accept the path he has chosen to be a musician. Lizibo said he had to prove to his parents that music was his passion and that it could pay the bills like any other profession. He said eventually they saw his passion for music and supported him.

Lizibo said being exposed to music from a tender age made him venture into the music career from a tender age. He said he was part of the Kgalemang Tumediso Motsete (KTM) choir, Lizibo said being in the public eye for the longest time has taught him that he is living for the people and that he does not have a life. He said the very society that is watching him has so much expectation for him and that means he has to conduct himself in a good manner because people are looking up to him.

Lizibo said he understands the saying that great power comes with great responsibility, “when people see me, they see a role model. I realize and understand that people are and have been modelling me even when I was not aware of it, I know of six mothers who have named their sons after me because they felt that I inspire them somehow.”

He said he has accepted his fate that he will never have a normal life because people are looking unto him. He said he is grateful to be in the public on a positive note by bringing hope to the people because he has always wanted to be part of people’s solutions and not their problems.

He said, “people should understand that our careers are our calling. One needs to be spiritually connected to their calling as an artist. The most rewarding part about being in the public for me is not about payment but about being the solution to someone’s problem.”

Lizibo said the greatest challenge that he has ever faced about being in the public eye has been the issue of trust, not able to know which friends are genuine and which ones are not. He said as a way of avoiding fake friends he has always kept his four close friends who have been there for him through thick and thin. Lizibo said being close to his family has also helped him as they have been his strength when things were not going well for him, “most of the time people say we change when we taste fame. That is not necessarily true because people are the ones who changed when we became famous. People always want something from us, nothing is ever genuine with people and that is why I chose to keep my circle very small.”

Lizibo said as much as he travels a lot because of the nature of his work because it is naturally demanding, he said he always ensures that he creates time for his family. He said that at home he is Lizibo who is sent to do errands, he is Lizibo the son, not a celebrity.

He said there is a lot of pressure that comes with being in the spotlight, “the public puts so much pressure on us mostly about the material lifestyle they portray us to have. We are often compared with South African celebrities, but people fail to understand that we are two different countries. Most people fell into the trap and are living above their means resulting in them living in debt. I often tell youngsters not to fall into that trap of being tempted to live life above their means.”

The advice Lizibo gave to upcoming celebrities was that they should know that being in the public is not about them, but it is about the people. He said, “one of my mentors once asked me if I make music about myself or the people. He said I need to make music for the people because it is my responsibility to feed them with what they need, he said they might not even be able to know that they have a need but that I need to identify that need and meet it. Our responsibility is to serve people what they need, our music is to feed people’s hunger. My music is about love, I feed people love.”

Lizibo said it is important for celebrities to seek counselling and take care of their mental health, he said he has been investing in his mental health for years because he understands the importance of mental health especially when one is in the public.

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