Community Update

Digital Empowerment Toolkit Now Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits aim to provide the resources you need to advance your social change work.

We are excited to introduce our Digital Empowerment Trainers’ Toolkit, a dynamic resource to help you bring the benefits of connecting online to women in your community. Check it out today! »

Kisumu and Nairobi; do not let the rains fail! express yourselves..- Celebrate the Optic Fibre Cable...Freedom Charter 09- Kenya

There was a little rain in Nairobi last night. A fresh shower suddenly after a cold July day, warmed up by a little sun in the afternoon.Oh Lord!, did it rain everywhere in this land of Kenya and other dry lands? I have seen the drought in Ukambani. I have seen the drought in Pokot. Rain has failed even in Nyeri and Kericho...

And under the sea, a 17, 000 km Fibre optic cable has reached us here.. to be more alive on the internet!

You hold the skies, end the rain but please do not send us 'El Nino' for we are longing to plant trees! The rain the clarity has brought this morning threatens with dryness; Oh do not send us "La Nina" ( sorry girls would you like to re-name it?) we are overburdened already! I am afraid that light rain last night is the rain my Mother says comes to 'wash the moon .. and vanishes".

And under the sea, a 17, km Fibre optic cable has reached us here.. to be more alive on the internet!

We plead the seeds we plant grow, grow into big trees.. good trees that bring more rain! That our pods burst out with cultural solidarity and faith. That the internet may make us grow, grow trees and words too...That if the pods carry in them the hope of truth; reconciliation may follow in word and deed. I hope it can rain hope and peace and and revolution too.. Write the Freedom Charter 09 in your hearts. Forget ethnic hatred; it took away our crop. Dump it on politicians. Write your Freedom Charter in the trees you plant. Change must come! Sing with me a song for Change! Begin by making noises and chasing our the scourge of corruption. It was the first to steal our trees and rains! Chase it out like the people near Lake Victoria who used to beat their pots and pans overnight to chase evil spirits! Nyawawa....wa! wa! wa!

Philo's thesis and reflection

In the poem "Kisumu", Poet and novelist Macgoye Oludhe Macgoye describes a Dholuo practice of cleansing evil from the homesteads. With incantation and noise making the ceremony of Nyawawa was supposed to drive away evil forces.

Amongst the Agikuyu ethnic group of Kenya, evil was also traditionally destroyed through words, noise and the beating of sticks as Jomo Kenyatta documents in Facing Mount Kenya. In this process, he says, the last act was a speech by an elder saying: "Evil spirits ... we have crushed you. We now send you in the river. Let the water drive you .... You will go for ever never to return".11 These spoken orders were believed to have the power of cleansing evil totally.

The poem "Kisumu" says Nyawawa was about evil and collective expression. In "Kisumu" we are informed that several things had gone wrong in the town and its environs. First, there appears a man, a prophet, who speaks with all the weight that words should carry in this context, but words that people do not understand. This `prophet' who is supposed to foretell important things to come seems to speak in Latin:

... Prompted by an inscription
in Latin by the hillside,
appearing to speak Latin
most fluently himself, desired
attention for the end of the world.

The `prophet' causes confusion because he claims to have a very important message - that the end of the world had come. This `prophet', according to the poet, did actually exist and he appeared at a time when other tragedies caused by disease had made the atmosphere in the locations mentioned in the poem tense:

"The discord spread through Kiboswa,
Kudho, Manyatta, Kaloleni,
into the town itself, up to Ahero,
all round the lakeside...."

In this poem people are shown to be invaded by invisible and visible evils. These were evil
spirits (according to their belief) - and diseases respectively. They employed the power they had in order to warn, strengthen and even rid themselves of evil. This was the power of expression in action:

Clangour of tin-pans
broke last night,
screams of abuse
directed by the elders (...)
Nyawawa is celebrated with drums and voice,
timbrel, and petrol - can,
for fear of infection,
fear of neighbours,
fear of evil abroad,
fear of being different... 15

This reaction depicted in the poem "Kisumu" is in great contrast to the silence forced on the people when in independent Kenya, evils such as assassinations of important people confront the people. Through Macgoye's record of both the traditional and modern set up, we are able to perceive the difference between the two eras. Self and collective expression after the coming of a new culture is constrained.

It was only after the infiltration of the local people by a different culture - Western culture - which is represented not only by Latin but also by the introduction of literacy and later;
minis, chain belts, long stockings
whatever else despoiled
the Romans in retreat ...

that the elders are unable to dispel evils through traditional means. Macgoye's refrain: "but the Ojuok hedge does not bend to let the evil out" effectively expresses this deeply ingrained evil that will not depart at the word of the elders. Traditionally, the words and actions used in Nyawawa were believed to be so powerful that the euphorbia hedge surrounding each homestead would be seen to bend as evil was expelled.

The reason why the evil fails to leave the people is not stated directly in "Kisumu" but it is clear that the poet affirms that if the right choices of values are not made in the meeting of the Western and Luo culture, chaos, the prophetic poem says will ensue. Already there was much of it as the images of dust and disorderly movement used in the poem tell us. In the whirling "dust" of turmoil people's values change fast. People choose material progress and reject the Living Word. They are wrapped in a world of print which they can ill handle:

Here in Kisumu
Occasional dust-devils are notable,
tossing into listless air every day
fag packets, old examination papers (...)
mysterious envelopes
Postmarked Tirana, got unsought by post
or magazines wrapped in New York, for writers
who have made themselves vulnerable
by print.

The word is in the centre of freedom of expression but in this poem we see it causing chaos and threatening further violence since the new culture gives more power to the printed word while overlooking the power of the spoken or living word. Traditionally, the word was only uttered and it went with the wind or remained in people's minds and passed on to generations. Now the poet foretells more danger brought about by the acceptance of the printed word and at the same time rejection of the "Living Word"; has the internet made all words more alive than ever before? Are the hopes of revolutions hidden here?


stella Ndugire- Mbugua's picture


Hi Philo,

So glad you feel the distress. True we need Rain. Today I listened to a Morning talk show on NTV, where Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai was urging the government to continue with its intentions to kick out the illegal settlers at the Mau Forest, one of Kenya's major water catchment areas. Rehabilitation of the Mau may take 50+ years. The damage caused over the last 100 years is doing us bad. Now, our leaders want to misuse our taxes to compensate who? themselves? Or do they really want to help the poor? I doubt the latter!

It is possible that some of them have illegally acquired huge portions of the forests. I agree that they want to gain a penny from the 'compensation"!

Philo, at this point, Elnino will do. We need rain! How else will Kenya develop if even the basic MDG is not achieved? Hunger!! Where did the rainmakers go?

About the Poem, even I a Kenyan, do not know his background! I'm now informed, but mostly inspired. I;m sure you were born to write...Maybe its the gateway to you being a politician someday! We need leaders...Today I'm so inspired by Hon. Raila's stand against the unruly leaders. His commitment to save our forests is a plus! He is willing to lose Political mileage, by standing up for what's right. This is what we need in Kenya- Decisive and upright men and women.


Stella Ndugire- Mbugua
ICS- Africa

philo Ikonya Gacheri's picture


Hi Stella!

With a name that dims the stars.. Stella, am so happy to meet you in this space. It is a sacred place for me. A place where I have found a very rare energy- we can tell the differences even when pollution engulfs us at so many levels- perfectly. It is a space I need, sometimes to make my own rain fall, sometimes to find out who understands and who I can lean on as the pain of thoughts and actions and all that threaten to take away even my love for green... and peace! And I always find it here on PULSE. I tell you. I don't know what it the secret. The sisters respond soulfully and no one is scared of success and of any other thing...

I have been struggling with the Mau saga. Great that finally we are seeing especially the politicians that Kenya is greater than any one of us, that we cannot kill trees and environment and not end up killing people or kill them all at the same time... Long live Wangari's vision. Prof. Maathai had needed all of us on board in the 70s when she began to tell us about trees. We tried. But the people who betrayed her vision most are the powerful. Let me use this space as our learning pad. You teach me and I teach you... cross-mentor?

Look at the list of Shame in the Kenyan Daily Nation today.. Look. Gideon- I ask myself in great indignation; "honestly, does the former president's son need to have land in Mau? does any body?" And the list continues John L. Former PA of the president... Kimalat... mostly all men and a few women married to the 'men' who matter. I feel so embarrassed and so sick. Sometimes I feel like am insulting my motherland when i dare step on her if I cannot protect her. All these governments were gifted with a visionary woman whom they beat up, incarcerated and finally ignored so that she could not even be the Minister for Environment. I am glad she is now out of politics and is planting trees tomorrow at Spring Valley. Will you be there? How wonderful if all women of Kenya would have places in which to plant trees. Stella, you are young and working in a women's organisation of great repute. Let us learn to knit connections where it matters for power and the salvation of our country. You know today if you sms 5254 in Kenya you can buy a tree? Have you done it? Tell your friends about it. Plant enough trees for you. You need 8 each year.. and plant some for your children... or anyone... You know if you reach the Kenya Wildlife Services you can get a piece of land which you do not own but on which you plant your trees and they make sure they do not dry.. I want to do this. It is great. And look, it's got to do with water... and water is everything, it is life. It washes us and our evils.. see in Kisumu piece...

So, I feel sorry for the poor people who are victims of a system because they in turn bought land without proper knowledge. And If I were the mother of this country, I would try to re-settle them because Stella, we have too many Internally displaced persons and too many wounds of late. How shall we use the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for gain if we continue wounding. Right now there are too many avenues for hate in Kenya and I think we need to reach out to others. See how a certain ethnic community is feeling humiliated in all this. They will keep grudges not against those who cheated but against another entire community.... But the people must be told the truth. I mean those poor people whose small wooden houses I saw hanging scraggly on a shaven Mau Forest.. Tears.

Thanks so much for your encouraging words. For encouraging my writing. In these days, this is the greatest space I have- the Pen. Write too. It is always important for women to write.. it is VERY important. And for remembering that yes, I longed to be a leader, a politician. I now long to be just a great writer and to do much more. Thanks for your blessing. But I did read and take a personality test. You cannot believe in everything but young Kingwa is so enthusiastic about tests that we shared it during the weekend and a lot of time to talk. And it was amazing. It said that i belong to the writers etc. group, poets. leadership becomes essential for the Teacher group. Lots of great people in my group: Gandhi, John Paul II. Oprah Winfrey.. and so many others.. I was flattered ... but of course I have done nothing... I have not used 20% of my talents and as someone reminded me yesterday we need to use at least 80% and be unlike all people who usually just use 10%..challenge coming from a little one. And guess what example i was given for using 80%? MJ!!! So your words are also ringing in my mind: Born to write.. inspired... etc..

As for Raila. Well. I think he and his family have done a lot for this nation. But has he used his 80% in all ways? When everyone sings your name in Kenya today and you are in power, you should go and retreat for three weeks. Tell the peopel you have gone to meet yourself and a greater power. And when you come out of your retreat, give out three quarters of your property especially if you have any illegally acquired (and am not saying he has) and then rally the youth to prepare for El Nino in terms of water harvesting.. It is usually completely destructive water- up-rooting all our trees new and old. After this comes the drought called La Nina. So, after coming out of that retreat, you would call your friends, the Israelis, the military, the whoever and tell them, "Look, my country needs to feed itself, there are people dying. We have too many other disasters, like famine right now.. consider us bombed and come to our aid like you did in 1998 when the American embassy was bombed in Kenya, but come right away to help us harvest water! I would ride a bike if I were Raila, just like Thomas Sankara. I would have been baptised.... Sankara - I hope you know and love the late Sankara. .. google him- ( by the way was Raila not immersed in water recently by Prophet Oduour? that was superficial if you ask me..) I would become a Sankara Nyerere combination and call for laws that bridge our inequalities. I would walk barefoot to Machakos and poverty ridden areas and no snake would bite me, nor any bullet hit me. I would repent this way and ask people to clean their votes from Blood. I would ... Kenyans need a dramatic turn of events ... and if you are up there and you do that, that is drama enough. And I would look to the South. Mexico would be there to help in water harvesting. Chile would teach us what University students do in schools during the holidays and how a third world country can rank high in the human development index. So, I think, and you can forward this, Raila has not done much yet! I will write to him and ask him if all this is beyond him. What do you think? ANd of late, what has he said about human rights activists?

"Communication is the real work of leadership" Nitin Nohria

Claris's picture

A master piece

Hy there we have lost touch for a are a truly a master with the pen.You take the matters of the nation at heart.We surely could use a few more like you in this country of ours that has so deprived us of the leaders that we need.You are the kenyan Piccasso though you communicate not through paint but though the printed word.
We truly need that kind of an inspired people.

philo Ikonya Gacheri's picture

you humble me..

Dear Claris,

Yes, we lost touch but I can see not for ever... thanks so much for your glowing praises.. I love that part about leadership and writing since I have read somewhere about that. Cheers... my dear and let us pray that this inspiration remains inspiration. Something that is not fully mine but comes through me, for me to share and must become yours... I think

"Communication is the real work of leadership" Nitin Nohria

JaniceW's picture

Habari mpendwa Philo

I am so happy to see you posting as I missed your smile on PulseWire. This is so powerful. I read it over twice to fully absorb myself in the words. You posed an interesting question at the end. I mourn the slow loss of the Living Word, the migration of children to the cities away from their traditions and family, away from the history breathed life into by the Living Word. I do think that some of the Living Word has been renewed and given new life through the internet but a part of the power of the Living Word is the voice that sends it out to the world. To hear someone give the words wings is as much of the power of the words as the words themselves. It is such a difference to hear a grandparent speak of tradition or legends, as opposed to reading it. But for those of us who have removed ourselves from the family fold where those traditions are spoken, it is a way to stay connected and maybe the internet will help bring us back to our history.

I have to say that your writing is so descriptive that I feel as if I am there with you, hearing the words so sweetly and powerfully emerge from your lips. I smell the decay that the West has brought with them, taste the dust that masks the beauty of Kenya and Africa, smell the rain that gives life to the trees and hear the mournful lament of those trying to hold on to their way of life. I love reading your posts as they are so poetic and for a brief moment, transport me to your side under the hot African sun. Asante sana for giving me this "vacation" through your words. Salamu za upendo,

Mpendwa Janice,

First of all, you really amaze me with your passion and love for others and for Kiswahili, the only language in the world that starts with a kiss... and that is very good.

Thanks so much for your words on my writing. I think a time comes when such words surprise their writer...

"Communication is the real work of leadership" Nitin Nohria

JaniceW's picture

Barikiwa sana

This post is so inspiring. The words in my last comment flowed surprisingly easily after reading your post. It is as if the spirit of your words came to my desk and reached out to me. I am usually not very good with words as they do not come easily to me but reading your journal, suddenly gave my thoughts clarity and I found myself writing without hesitation. I am sure you have felt that way before: when you are so moved that you speak directly from the heart and not the mind. You are the one who opened the window for them to flow from and I am merely riding on the wings of your spirit.

I am so happy for the goodness coming your way, and send you lots of good prayers and love. I will hold you in my light dear Philo and wish for the goodness to never stop flowing towards you.

Salamu za upendo!

philo Ikonya Gacheri's picture

Asante kwa baraka...


You have helped me return to the place where I can enjoy the magic of life, the poetry of life. And I will not let it go... no matter what. Your power on sending me goodness is truly felt.. and i am afloat with joy... and it is the power that can be, even more than writing, driving me without hesitation...I find myself thru you... living without looking back.. without hesitation.. that is so powerful....


Na hizo baraka zikurudie pia na ziwe nyingi kwetu zote...

"Communication is the real work of leadership" Nitin Nohria

stella Ndugire- Mbugua's picture

Write to Raila...

Hey Philo,

Keep writing! It is so bringing out great ideas. I so agree that He needs to do more. Maybe also talk to Ida. I know you have connections.Let me know how it goes...

I like the tree-planting tips. I want to help. I will start by buying a tree.

As for the Mau saga, Kenyans should open their eyes as corrupt non-leaders come to light. I hope they will not forget this, come 2012.

Lots of love and hugs


Stella Ndugire- Mbugua
ICS- Africa

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative