Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Kijabe: The only Kenyan town with no bars

Kijabe is the only town in Kenya where you cannot purchase cigarettes or take alcohol.

Even with its population of 5,000 it has no bar and nobody is allowed to smoke. Kijabe remains the utmost centre of Christian faith - a citadel of purity!

Again, Kijabe might be the only town in Kenya whose economy has always centered around mission work and where any investor in the small town has to sign an agreement with the Mission that they would not sell alcohol or open entertainment joints.

It all has to do with the history of this town on the hill. The rise of Kijabe is credited to American missionary Charles Hulburt whose vision was to extend African Inland Mission (AIM) to “all directions” from Kijabe after he moved his headquarters there from Kangundo.

But initially, Hulburt was not interested in Kijabe and wanted to have his mission along the shores of Lake Naivasha. Here, Hulburt in 1903 had marked the land he wanted for his mission work but since it was a late afternoon the colonial administrator could not sign the lease. He was asked to come the next day. But unbeknown to him, Lord Delamere was also in Naivasha looking for land. That evening, after a couple of beers, the colonial administrator told Lord Delamere about the missionaries’ interests. Delamere thought that the land was so prime “cannot be wasted on missionaries.” The colonial administrator agreed and when Hulburt arrived next day, Lord Delamere had the lease of what is today Delamere’s Sosysambu Farm!

Hulburt was asked to take up a sport in Kijabe where at 7,200ft it was the malaria free, was cool and near the railway. But there were wild animals. Many of them!

The first task of Hulburt was to build a hospital. Hulburt was a friend of US President, Theodore Roosevelt, and he named the new hospital in Kijabe Theodora Hospital in Roosevelt’s honour. It was Hulburt who invited Theodore to Kenya in 1909 and he laid the foundation of the nearby Rift Valley Academy which was built for children of the missionaries. Theodore had left White House in March and on August 4, 1909 he laid that stone that is in the Kiambogo building of the Academy. Kiambogo is the original name of Kijabe and means the hill of Cape buffaloes that roamed the area. Until today, the beast remains the school’s mascot.

In his book African Game Trails, Roosevelt talked glowingly of Kijabe’s American Industrial Mission (as he called it). “Industrial teaching must go hand in hand with moral teaching…Kijabe will be an indispensable factor in the slow uplifting of the (locals).”

The growth of Kijabe, to become one of the largest mission stations in Africa, took a good turn when Indian shopkeepers followed the missionaries and set up dukas near the railway station. Kijabe was known. Letters to the missionaries were only written “Kijabe via Mombasa” and a local named Karanja Kago used to pick them from the railway station. Karanja’s wedding to Njeri wa Kiai was captured in the 1917 issue of Inland Africa since Njeri was one of the first students at Kijabe Girls.

One missionary, John Stauffacher was surprised that Kijabe was such a peaceful place. “There are none of the dangers I dreamt about…the people here are perfectly safe have none of those peculiar customs you hear about.” Another missionary who followed Hulburt was Elwood Davis and his wife Bernice Conger, a nurse who had graduated from Hahnemann College of Medicine in Philadelphia. The two missionaries had sailed to Africa under the banner of Africa Inland Mission and arrived in Kijabe in 1920 to work at the Theodora Hospital. Davis had a reputation as a skilled surgeon and made the hospital famous.

But in their early days, the missionaries found themselves at loggerheads with the Kikuyu Central Association supporters who opposed the rise of the mission stations and warning locals not to associate with it. After the initial warnings, the church attendance in 1920s is said to have dropped from 700 to 30 while the number of girls in Kijabe Girls School dropped from 300 to 80. The bone of contention then at Kijabe was whether female circumcision should be allowed. On the night of January 2, 1930, Miss Hulda Stumpf, the principal of Kijabe Girls’ was killed. As Bernice wrote in one of her memoirs, the KCA was telling them that soon “the mission will have to baptize baboons as their will be no more natives to baptize.”

But the couple continued drawing more adherents, planting lots of trees in the mission compound and keeping dairy cows.

Elwood is now known to have approached William Moffat, the sponsor of Moffat Bible Institute in Philadelphia, to start one in Kijabe. And that is how the modern-day Moffat Bible College in Kijabe opened doors on 11 February 1929. Soon, there was a printing press in 1950s solely for publishing Christian literature and later the Bibilia Husema Studios started by missionaries Bob and Lillian Davis, whose parents had worked there in the initial stages. Kijabe has continued to expand living to its purity. Still it has no bar after 110 years of its foundation.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Nyeri Diocese now seeks to declare 27 Mau Mau war victims as Martyrs

A petition has been launched by the Catholic Diocese of Nyeri seeking the declaration of 27 devotees who were killed during the Mau Mau war of independence as Martyrs. The move is set to open debate on whether they were “traitors” – and on the role of church in the war of liberation.

Nyeri was heartland of the Mau Mau struggle and still takes pride for contributing a large number of freedom fighters. The Catholic church has appointed Dr. Waldery Hilgeman as the postulator – to guide the cause for beatification or canonization through the judicial processes required as by the Church. The Archdiocese of Nyeri is listed as the petitioner.

Some two weeks ago, the Mau Mau War Veterans Association denied allegations by the Catholic Church that some 75 faithful were killed by the group because they were Christians. Freedom fighter and former Juja MP Gitu Kahengeri told The Standard that if the church was convinced they were killed because of their faith, then the Mau Mau veterans had no capacity to prevent the Catholics from declaring them martyrs.

To the Mau Mau, all those killed were traitors who “betrayed” the struggle for liberation and the nation. "Mau Mau never forced anyone whether Christian or not to take an oath. Furthermore, those who refused to take the oath were not killed, most of us are Christians even to date and Catholics for that matter," Mr Kahengeri said. Some of those listed include Italian born Marianna Cavallo and two sisters Wangechi and Njeri (pictured)

The following are the Catholics whose martyrdom is under review via a diocesan inquiry:

1. MARIANO WACHIRA GICHOHI Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: 1893 in (Kenya)

2. JOSEPH GACHERU MWANIKI Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: 1882 in (Kenya)

3. Domenic Nyota Kamwaga Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: 1906 in (Kenya) Died: 09 December 1952 in Karuthi, Othaya, Nyeri (Kenya)

4. Aloys Kamau Layperson of the diocese of Murang’a Born: 1929 in Njombe, Tuthu, Muranga West (Kenya) Died: 04 April 1953 in Rwathia, Muranga (Kenya)

5. Natalina Gakui Mariano Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: 1894 in (Kenya) Died: 16 April 1953 in Karuthi, Othaya, Nyeri (Kenya)

6. Ambrosio Kerengo Layperson of the archdiocese of Nairobi Born: ? in Karima, Othaya, Nyeri (Kenya) Died: 16 April 1953 in Shauri Moyo, Nairobi (Kenya)

7. CIRIACO KAHAICHA Layperson of the diocese of Murang’a Born: 23 March 1933 in Konje, Murang’a (Kenya) Died: 11 May 1953 in Murang’a (Kenya)

8. Dominic Wambugu Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: ? in Tetu, Nyeri (Kenya) Died: 30 May 1953 in Tetu, Nyeri (Kenya)

9. FAUSTINO WANDUMA Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri Born: ? in Tetu, Nyeri (Kenya) Died: May 1953 in Tetu, Nyeri (Kenya)

10. Silas “Burana” Kibuci Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: in (Kenya) Died: June 1953 in Ngandu, Mathira, Nyeri (Kenya)

11. LEAH MARY NYAGUTHII Young layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri Born: 1934 in Gacuiro, Mathira, Nyeri (Kenya) Died: June 1953 in Gacuiro, Mathira, Nyeri (Kenya)

12. PETRO Njogu Njeru Layperson of the diocese of Murang’a Born: 1910 in Karimaini, Baricho, Kirinyaga West (Kenya) Died: 04 July 1953 in Kianyaga, Kirinyaga East (Kenya)

13. Peter mpui Layperson of the diocese of Meru; married Born: 1922 in Muthara, Meru (Kenya) Died: 14 August 1953 in Mikinduri, Meru North (Kenya)

14. Marianna Cavallo (Eugenia) Professed religious, Consolata Missionary Sisters Born: 16 February 1892 in Spinetta, Cuneo (Italy) Died: 28 September 1953 in Mujwa, Meru Central (Kenya)

15. Diomede Njoka Child of the diocese of Murang’a Born: 1938 in Karimaini, Baricho, Kirinyaga West (Kenya) Died: 16 October 1953 in Baricho, Kirinyaga West (Kenya)

16. Prassede Wangeci (Cecilia) Professed religious, Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Nyeri Born: 14 July 1922 in Tetu, Nyeri (Kenya)

17. Benedicta Njeri (Rosetta) Professed religious, Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Nyeri Born: 1914 in Gatanga, Muranga (Kenya) Died: 16 October 1953 in Kerugoya, Muranga (Kenya)

18. Lucas Mboge Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: 1893 in (Kenya)

19. JOSEPH Wambugu Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: 1890 in (Kenya)

20. Simon Ndegwa Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: 1922 in (Kenya)

21. Rukwaro Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married; catechumen Born: 1920 in (Kenya)

22. Kuru MICINYO Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married; catechumen Born: 1925 in (Kenya) Died: 14 November 1953 in Mathari, Nyeri (Kenya)

23. PETRO Kamako Layperson of the diocese of Murang’a; married Born: 1899 in Zanzibar (Tanzania) Died: 21 November 1953 in Kianyaga, Kirinyaga East (Kenya)

24. Hibrahim Kaileki Layperson of the diocese of Meru; married; catechumen Born: 1920 in Mikinduri, Tigania East (Kenya) Died: 27 February 1954 in Mikinduri, Tigania East (Kenya)

25. Dionisio Wachira Layperson of the archdiocese of Nyeri; married Born: 1919 in Ithenguri, Tetu, Nyeri (Kenya) Died: 27 July 1954 in Mathari, Nyeri (Kenya)

26. Joanina Wakoori Layperson of the diocese of Murang’a; married Born: 1916 in Gitigiini, Kirinyaga West (Kenya)

27. Margaret Wambui Layperson of the diocese of Murang’a; married; catechumen Born: ? in (Kenya) Died: 26 March 1955 in Baricho, Kirinyaga West (Kenya)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why a Kiambu village is known as Zambezi

Nothing fascinates me than the PCEA Training Centre in Zambezi Kikuyu. Not that it is an extra-ordinary building but because of the past history. Of course few Kenyans know about this building – and its colonial bunkers- but at least those who have used the Nairobi-Nakuru Road know of Zambezi.

Now for many years this was the Zambezi Motel and it gave name to this village in the outskirts of Nairobi. Before it was re-opened on November 30, 1963 as the new Zambezi Motel, it had been lying desolate after it was abandoned by its previous owner.

That time, according to records, a 24-year Mrs Josephine Aron and her husband Sigi had decided to rehabilitate the building as the “best gesture of our faith in this lovely country”.

Josephine’s husband, was a land and real estate agent. Having worked in both Rhodesia and Zambia, he had fallen in love with the Zambezi River and wanted to immortalize his love by naming the 65-bedroom business, Zambezi Motel. It was actually the only motel, worth its name in Kenya. They also named their two cats, Zam and Bezi.

Designed to be a stop-over for motorists, it was expensively furnished, and had a site for caravans. A single would cost Sh 25 while a double was Sh45 by 1963. And by 1969 this had climbed to Sh45 for single ands Sh 80 for double. Zambezi was actually a luxurious stop over but before it was renovated it was simply Njogu-Inn. Owned by Mrs Berkley Mathews, Njogu-Inn was perhaps the best known hotel on the Nairobi-Nakuru Road. Her Husband E.J.H Mathew used to own the Kikuyu Estates – a huge swath of land which was later sold to James Gichuru, the pioneer minister for finance.

Mathews was one of the settlers who did not want to sample life under an African government and in 1963 shortly before independence she had offered it for sale for £32,000 – the entire building and its contents. But there were few takers for this. As more property was thrown into the market and with the fear of an African-led government reaching crescendo, the value plummeted to £6,000 and that is when it was purchased.

In one of her last interviews with a Kenyan paper, Mrs Mathews remarked: “We are sorry of course, but it is one of those things. We have already got rid of everything else…”

Njogu-Inn had been completed in 1953 just as the Mau Mau war broke. It was a bad investment; a bad bet. The owners had started constructing it in 1947 – the year that Jomo Kenyatta took over leadership of Kenya African union and started agitating for change. But few foreign investors thought that the “white man’s country” – as they called Kenya – would end up with an African government. Certainly not the Njogu-inn proprietor. But to safeguard her clients she build some bunkers underneath the building that were furnished too. Here, nobody would reach the clients – and even today, few at this church building know of these dark corners.

I recently came across an old review of Zambezi and the owner was grumbling that because it was far from the City, it was putting people off. Although she at one point dropped the cost of a double from Shs 80 to Sh 35. It failed to make economic sense. As the dollar crisis began in 1970s throwing the tourism industry into a spin. She sold it to PCEA Church as their training centre.

But the name she had abandoned Njogu-Inn for Zambezi had been picked a River Road trader who opened a hotel known as Njogu-Ini. It had the Njogu-Inn logo of an elephant although it means the place of elephants. How a place of worship was a beer hole is the untold story of Zambezi. Njogu-ini, the River Road bar, has survived ever since and Zambezi, the name, is now a village in Kikuyu. History continues…