The Ujinga of Ethnic Particularism: Reflections on How Devious Kenyan Politicians Are Exploiting the Historic Tensions Between the Mijikenda, the Waswahili, Waarabu na Watu wa Bara Pwani
An Intervention Inspired By and Dedicated to My CyberPal Mtaalamu Jr. of Mashada
Onyango Oloo Writes from Quebec- Another Epicenter of Ethnic Based Nationalist Tussles
1.0. Feedback from My Kisauni Essay Feeds My Current Food for Thought
On Friday, December 17th, 2004, I wrote an essay on the Kisauni elections that I circulated very widely across the world- distributing it to the demokrasia kenya mailing list that reaches hundreds of individuals and organizations within and across Kenya and also posting it on as many Kenyan online discussion forums as I could- Mashada, Kenyaniyetu, Africa-Oped, Mwananchi, Kenya Community in Ontario, Mambogani, RC Bowen, Kenyaonline, Kisii.Com, the Nation Forum and dozens of other individuals who are not on any of these forums or wish to be part of my mailing list for now…
When it comes to hearing back from my many readers, apart from the usual, routine yelps and obsessive makohozi spitting sessions from the resident digital canines and deranged cyber donkeys yodeling my name on a twentyfourseven basis from San Francisco and Toronto to Luanda Dudi and Shika Adabu on the south shores of Mombasa City, I occasionally came across some sober, principled, honest and sincere reflections.
I would like to bring you an excerpt from an exchange I had in the last couple of days in the politics section of the Mashada discussion forum with a fellow Kenyan calling himself “Mtaalamu Jr.” That obviously, is NOT his real name, but his Mashada “handle” his cybermoniker. I have had the privilege of communicating privately with this intelligent and dynamic compatriot and observed his level headed critical interventions on the same forum. Since he reveals the same in the exchange below, let me just repeat that he is a Kenyan who shares the same general rural home region as my comrade and friend, Mwandawiro Mghanga the well known Kenyan socialist, former political prisoner, MP for Wundanyi and Secretary General of the opposition FORD-People party (although of late he has become a defacto LDP member following the political concubinage arrangement between Simeon Nyachae and Mwai Kibaki).
It is not often a fellow co-discussant on an online forum inspires a full length digital essay from this keyboard, but this is one of those rare occasions where such an inspiration has actually occurred.
2.0. A Pre-Xmas Culinary Diversion...
Before I say anything further, here is the cyber exchange that has unleashed my creative juices, debating adrenalin and political jousting so early on a Saturday morning in mid December when thousands of North American based Kenyan Christians are dithering anxiously, wondering in those never ending angst ridden indecisive sequences whether they should go for the brand new, but quite bland oversize turkey purchased from that chain grocery(Provigo, Metro, Loblaws, No Frills, take your pick if you are Quebecoise or Ontarian) that tastes EXACTLY like blotting paper(a taste quite familiar to those thirtysomething, fortysomething and fiftysomething compatriots who used to poison themselves regularly by chewing makaratasi in primary school, back in the days of yore when Watoto wa Standard Five used fountain pens on those lined exercise books called “Highway”) or something) if you subtract the condiments OR on the CONTRARY, cooking grain fed free range chicken remind themselves of those sumptuous Xmas dinners from Emusalaba, Malanga, Sidindi, Muhanda, Jina, Yiro, Ngiya, Ahero, Luanda Siala, Yala and Got Regea where December 25th was not complete without the ritual of pre-teen age grand children, on the instructions of their mothers and grandmothers either chasing down that kuku that has been steadily putting on extra pounds for the last few months quite unaware of the gory end that awaits it on Christmas Day or otherwise committing the annual act of culinary brutality by perpetrating yet another incident of casual chicken murder in broad daylight…
You can tell that this voracious omnivore called Onyango Oloo has been deftly and definitely dismayed, partly swayed and very slightly brainwashed by the militant and radical propaganda of the fierce and hard core Vegan Animal Rights brigade who will HUNT down and KILL any human animal who eats or drinks ANY animal products(including milk, blood, bones, testicles, horns, hooves, claws, teeth or, if they are Nigerians, who roast their full ngombe with the entire skin covering still intact, ngozi) for nourishment, entertainment or simply because "chicken tastes so yummy."
I have never really been able to cross over that huge culinary expanse, that gaping dietary gulf to eagerly join the earnest ranks of the lifelong vegetarian/vegan veterans on the frontlines of the raging, contemporary animal based cuisine global wars, inspired via working for a university based advocacy group here in Montreal where every third activist keeps a full clip ready to empty on anyone who invites them to an innocent sounding dinner at a Greek restaurant to chomp on lamb chops, an Indian restaurant to feast on mutton curry or a Jamaican eatery to chow down some jerk chicken, not to mention the British inspired diners on St. Catherine to gobble pork ribs…
I remember years ago, just north of Wellesley and Yonge at one of the many Habesha mikahawa in Toronto sitting across a rather ornate table, chatting vigorously with this Harar born, Addis Ababa raised, Ethiopian pal of mine (coming from a nation where they like their kitfo dripping red rare and raw) who was strenuously expounding on his pet theory that it is NOT possible to be both a continental African AND a vegetarian- that you have to choose between the two identities. I feebly tried to present as evidence the testimony of my cousin Roselinda who stopped eating ing'okho in July 1968 because she went home to Luanda Dudi and saw what the little domestic birds fed on, but Gebre Haile Selassie’s fellow countryman was having none of that as he defended his blood thirsty Carnivore Damu hypothesis.
Still, I do draw a very, very firm line:
I will NEVER consume, like my Vietnamese and Chinese friends do, a DOG in any shape or form, whether grilled, roasted, boiled or fried. So there is no point in asking me whether I prefer my canine carcass delivered on my lunch sahani medium rare or well done. Nor will I partake of minced RATTLESNAKE as those serpentine Texans are wont... Even if you add pili pili manga, iliki, dania, tangawizi or dalasini… And forget serving the scribe OO with sumptuous canned ESCARGOT as assorted Parisian fine gourmets variously advise...
3.0. The Mtaalamu Jr Digital Rejoinder
As usual, I am drifting on to a very interesting, but quite irrelevant tangent, so back to that Mashada exchange:
60801, digital essay updated...
Posted by Onyango Oloo, Fri Dec-17-04 08:15 PM
if you read the essay earlier, press reload/refresh because i have changed more than a couple of things...
60808, RE: digital essay updated...
Posted by Mtaalamu Jr, Fri Dec-17-04 11:28 PM
It's sad the way Joho has been done in....
We (Mijikenda, Taitas) are not gonna be taken for granted anymore. Arabs, Indians and the rest had better start campaigning for affirmative action on the draft period coz we're coming en masse.
I am LDP damu but they supported the wrong candidate, Balala may be next and probably Kajembe...
We've been taken for a ride for too long!
I never thought i would say this but i think Mungatana has done us proud. His hawkish style of politics is good for our people.
This election was never about NAK vs. LDP but about who can fight for the little man.
60813, that is a sad statement mtaalamu
Posted by Onyango Oloo, Sat Dec-18-04 01:53 AM
it is very short sighted. narrow nationalism ALWAYS tends to fascism.
think like a kenyan because it is only in a kenyan context that you can be a true dawida, mijikenda or whatever.
the history of balkanization- specifically what has happened in places like the former yugoslavia or the old soviet union has proved that receding into ethnic cocoons is not a panacea. what happens is that you move from ukabila to ukoo and from ukoo to some even more parochial nonsense till you get to watoto wa fulani as opposed to watoto wa fulani within one family.
the mungatanas and mwabozas of this world do not care for the dawidas, the pokomos or the giriamas- but they will sure use those ethnic grievances.
it was sad to see people like karisa maitha use the kind of sentiments you express here to recruit people just like yourself to go and hack off the limbs of their neighbours just because these neighbours could not say zalamkaze or zalamuka.
i shiver when i hear these BACKWARD, REACTIONARY TRIBAL STATEMENTS expressed on the internet by compatriots who have seen what negative ethnicity can do to a country.
to hail an ethnic fascist like mungatana as a shujaa is to harken back to the days when the ordinary German saw Hitler as the man who would make Deutschland great again...
Shivers and Shudders...
60816, RE: that is a sad statement mtaalamu
Posted by Mtaalamu Jr, Sat Dec-18-04 02:59 AM
It is sad indeed especially coming from me. I've given this a thought for a while...
I am for communities to be empowered to take care of themselves. These issues of peace love and unity among 50 some tribes will never work. Kenyatta, MO1 tried it even Hussein in Iraq, Someone will always come out as unhappy or played. I think Kenya should embrace this rich distinction we have amongst many nations (tribes). I am not talking of Majimbo but legally recognized chieftains that locals can identify themselves with in addition to the current parliamentary system that we have. Once we recognize this fact then we can start a healing process and a foundation towards alliances like NARC or even the E. African Community. We cannot downplay the fact that we are a tribal nation period 40 yrs of preaching peace, love and unity has gotten us nowhere, another strategy has to be devised and i think the key lies in the tribes. I may be totally wrong but i know this issue needs more debate.
60817, you have just inspired my next digital
Posted by Onyango Oloo, Sat Dec-18-04 03:04 AM
but did you see this earlier one:
60822, RE: you have just inspired my next digital
Posted by Mtaalamu Jr, Sat Dec-18-04 06:02 AM
That essay took me 30 good mins. I'll tell what, let me sleep on it and i'll get back to you.
And this OTHER exchange was just one of several threads on the subject at the Mashada forum...
4.0. The Paradox of Overseas Based Digital Tribalism Within the Kenyan Diaspora
For many years now I have been quite perplexed and intrigued by the reckless display of rabid ukabila on display at various online Kenyan forums- the most notorious manifestations being headquartered at that makao makuu of anonymous gossip, udaku na masenganyano that begins with letter R and ends with the letter M.
Many of the worst Kenyan tribalists in cyberspace have lived for years in such cosmopolitan and liberal urban locales such as Oakland, Boston, Toronto, Leeds, Dallas, St. Paul, Chicago and Washington DC.
Offline, these Kenyan immigrants and naturalized citizens in the West share the collective plight of other people of colour when it comes to systemic racism and discrimination. Some of them are married to Asian-Americans, Jamaican- Canadians, Zambians, Greeks and Iranians not to speak of fellow Kenyans from the very same ethnic groups they bash online about.
I know of one notorious Kisii tribalist who hates Luos with a passion despite (or is it because?) the fact that he has Luo blood coursing in his veins. As the moderator of the Mashada politics section I have been very much amused to witness the transparent subterfuges of one young Gikuyu hating Luo who has created TWO handles where he poses as a Mgikuyu to trash fellow Luos like himself in a bid to whip up an anti-Gikuyu frenzy in the same forum. Several months ago, he slipped up and used the same language he uses with another persona and I was able to pounce on him and expose him- forcing him to retire that faux “Gikuyu” handle to semi-permanent cold storage. A couple of weeks ago, he made another mistake. In trying to pose as a Mgikuyu using one of his most successfully misleading handles( even I thought he was a Mgikuyu for the longest time!) he overdid it, mistakenly assuming that replacing an “L” with an “R” is all one needed to pass off as a mundu wa nyoomba. He ended up sounding like a MHINDI instead. Since that gaffe, that well known “mgikuyu” handle has taken on a very low profile.
In reflecting on what motivated this fellow Jaluo Mashadite I stumbled upon the thought that perhaps he deliberately wanted to stir up ethnic tension, which was NATURALLY lacking in a forum dominated by sober, intelligent, young, patriotic Kenyans who did not grow up hating people because of their tribal origins. Was it perhaps an act of desperation to create a Mgikuyu straw man and set up a Luo alter ego to trash that, creating the false impression that there was this Luo hating Gikuyu person spreading hate when in actuality it was this demented Jaluo notorious trash talker talking to himself!!!
Why do you find the stubborn survival of the INNER MKABILA in persons who last lived in a village twenty or thirty years ago? The sad thing is that you will such tribalists are loners who DO NOT even contribute to community development within the tribes they keep praising online.
One more manifestation of crude tribalism has to do with a discussion groups that many Kenyans do not even know about. I am talking about Mjadala which is an online community discussion forum that is RESTRICTED to ETHNIC Waswahili who are also Muslim. Now, some of the people who are active in that group including at least some of its founders are dear friends of mine, but I would be DISHONEST if I did NOT DENOUNCE them for their narrow ethnic bigotry which has clear overtones of racism, religious intolerance and xenophobia, some of it a stubborn holdover from the pre-colonial Master/Slave relationships between Wangwana na Watwana at the Kenyan Coast a relationship that had the so called “Bwambadi” lording over the so called “Wafirika” whether they were local Mijikenda or upcountry “watu wa bara.” More on this later… To become a member of the group, one has to be introduced by a member of the Mjadala forum who will verify that the prospective individual of the requisite pedigree. That is why someone like Onyango Oloo, even though I have adopted Mombasa as my hometown and I am quite comfortable in Kiswahili, will never be deemed worthy to join this cloistered cultish cybercommunity.
Finally, I find it comical that most online tribalists shun the ethnospecific forums like Jaluo.com, kikuyu.com, kisii.com etc to come to the more NATIONAL and INCLUSIVE forums to broadcast their tribal stupidity. It is almost as if they are acknowledging the obvious- you can only distinguish yourself ethnically from others in a national forum where they are people from diverse backgrounds. Ironically, as a GENERAL RULE these so called ethnic forums frequently are the LEAST TRIBAL of the Kenyan forums. For instance, I have been a moderator at the Kisii.com forum and the webmaster over there has even created a special forum devoted to my digital essays. Meanwhile my most vicious basher is a young trash talking Luo who sometimes tries to pass himself off as a Mgikuyu…
5.0. Beyond the Luo vs. Gikuyu Stand Offs: Shining a Torch on Mijikenda versus Swahili/Waarabu Tensions
Kenyan mainstream politics for the last forty years has been dominated by the discourse of the so called Luo/Gikuyu schisms and privileges in the cabinet, in parliament and other aspects of national life.
To those of us who subsist on a trenchant class analysis the punditry that ascribes everything to tribal machinations and ethnic arithmetic is not only simplistic and reductionist, it has tended to trivialize other even more deep seated conflagrations simmering under the surface in which ethnicity is definitely a factor.
The just concluded Kisauni by-election is probably the most volatile reminder of one such standoff at the Kenyan coast.
Any Kenyan who is familiar with the history of this region is aware of the potent and potentially toxic mix of ethnicity, religion, race, class and political factions.
I will speak more about Mombasa because I am more familiar with it having lived there for more than half of my life.
The British colonialists exploited these divisions when it maintained a buffered colour coded stratified society that put the European conquistadors at the top, the Arabs and the Indian rentier and dukawallah strata slightly below that with the Waswahili and Wadawida enjoying a relatively “privileged” access to the uneven spoils of orthodox colonialism compared to say, the Mijikenda indigenous communities. The presence of migrant workers from the Kamba, Manyala, Luo, Gikuyu, Somali and other Wabara ethnic groups from as early as the mid 1930s in places like Shika Adabu, Mtongwe, Mwandoni, Mshomoroni, Chaani, Kibarani, Miskiti Noor, Magongo, Tudor Estate, Buxton, Manyimbo, Sparki and Shimanzi introduced a permanent sticking point to those saw external intrusion not so much in terms of the foreign imperialists who took over Kenyan land throughout Kenya but in much more simplistic terms in terms of who spoke the language and practiced what religion.
The early migrants from upcountry were largely working class and seamlessly got accepted and assimilated in many Mombasa and surrounding neighbourhoods. Elsewhere, Kamba settlers at Shimba Hills and Luo plantation workers at Ramisi Sugar Mill or the Manyala port workers living in Shika Adabu and Mtongwe were not viewed in any hostile manner, by and large- same with the Miraa Meru businessmen at Mwembe Tayari or the Gikuyu shopkeepers and bar owners of Buxton, Tononoka, Sparki, Changamwe, Magongo and Mtopanga. Place in the mix immigrants from Tanga, Tanzania, Wangazija from the Comoros, Waziba (Hayas, many of them sex workers) from Bukoba, Wanyarwanda and of course the various waves of Ugandans especially from the early seventies when Idi Amin Dada came to power. The large local South Asian communities in Mombasa were bolstered by Ugandan and Tanzanian Ismailis and there were quite a few Arabs from Zanzibar who resettled in Mombasa. We do know of course, the visible presence of Italians in Malindi. I still cannot forget the shock I got in 1975 when I found out that the wife of our new Kamba neighbour in the Jomo Kenyatta/Kipchoge Keino area near the Saba Saba Bar was this Malindi raised Italian-Kenyan woman who could trash talk you fluently with the eloquent Kiswahili of an indigenous Mswahili. Her mother was even more well versed and if possible even more foul mouthed in Kiswahili. They were such sweethearts those neighbours and I never once heard them refer to themselves as “Italians”.
In the sixties and seventies a palpable resentment started growing when many people associated with Jomo Kenyatta were seen to be grabbing prime real estate land and beach properties merely because of their proximity to the octogenarian despot. Other people have done much more extensive research into the patterns of land and property ownership at the Coast Province, so I will very shortly direct you to at least one such link.
My focus in this essay is not even to dwell too much on these resentments between scions of the Kenyatta and Moi elite(one of his sons married a local Mswahili woman) and the local Wapwani, but rather dwell a little on the tensions between the Mijikenda on the one hand and Waswahili and Wapwani on the other.
The Mijikenda is the collective name given to a cluster of nine tribes including the Ribe, Rabai, Kambe, Kauma, Giriama,Duruma, Chonyi, Digo and the Jibana and loosely associated with the Pokomo of Tana River. click here
Almost more than many other Kenyan nationalities, land and the national environment play a central and highly hallowed sacred role in the lives of the Mijikenda as you can see from this PDF document.
The Kaya Forests
Are especially revered...
A profile of the Duruma, one of the sub tribes of the Mijikenda, reveals very interesting connections to Somalia, Mozambique, escaped slaves, Islam, Christianity and the growth of the Kiswahili language.
And speaking of the Waswahili, I have been astounded to witness the thick blanket of unadulterated ignorance with which my fellow Kenyans (especially my fellow Luos) persist in covering themselves when it comes to discussing our national language of Kiswahili and its origins.
When we were kids in primary school (and by “we” I mean those of us who grew up in the sixties and early seventies) we were indoctrinated with the following potpourri of colonial racist myths and neo-colonial tribal lies:
“The Waswahili are a mongrel race, and their language developed when the mixed breed of Arabs and the local Bantus spontaneously started THEIR OWN language by mixing and matching Arab and Mijikenda words when they were playing in the dirt.”
I mean, how stupid can you get?
There is a reason why we refer to the languages we speak at home as our mother tongues.
Where in the world have you ever witnessed this strange phenomenon where 13th century toddlers cobble a brand new language in the compound outside their huts while their Giriama mothers fry the Kadzora and their Arab fathers sip some kahawa tungu inside while waiting for the chapatis?
Languages simply DO NOT develop that way.
In any case, when we are studying a language, we should pay far more attention to its morphology and syntax rather than to its vocabulary.
If we were to use vocabulary as a scientific yardstick to identify the historical, cultural and geographic origins of a language, where would we end up with English where it is estimated that up to 80% of the vocabulary is borrowed from other tongues(just to cite a mere handful of common examples, the word “thug” is from India, “tomato” and “tobacco” are from the Indigenous People of Turtle Island aka the Americas, and we are not even going to bother with words like rendezvous, zeitgeist, angst, origami, sushi, rickshaw, tofu, Jehovah, opera, sonata, soprano, contralto, safari, samba, mambo, salsa, bolero, cuisine, haute couture, sang-froid, Jacuzzi, zamboni, banshee, zombie, voodoo, juju, obeah, calaloo, marijuana, algebra, alchemy, nirvana or zen).
In sharp contrast to that colonial upumbavu, the historical facts about Kiswahili is today beyond dispute- excepting of course, the ruminations and fulminations from the aforementioned jackasses I encounter online every week trashing our national language, the most widely spoken African tongue on the mother continent.
Kiswahili is an AFRICAN language, in fact, a BANTU language, despite the copious terms it has borrowed from Arabic (and even then, when it imports a word ending in a consonant, it immediately Africanizes and Bantufies said word so that Ahmed becomes Hamadi, Khamis, becomes Hamisi, Shukran becomes shukrani, and Omar becomes Omari and so on).
To see how close Kiswahili is to its Bantu cousins, check out these words in KiRabai, Zulu, Lingala and Shona respectively and if you are familiar with Kiswahili you will guess their meaning without knowing those languages in question:
Here is the sentence in Kirabai...
Here are some Zulu words:
No - Cha / Qha
Come in! - Ngena
Sit down! - Hlala phansi
Sit up! - Vuka uhlale
Stand up! - Sukuma
Lie down! - Lala phansi
Get up and dress! - Vuka Ugqoke
Undress! - Khumula
Breathe deeply! - Phefumula kakhula
Breathe normally!-Phefumula kahlenje
Breathe in!-Donsa umoya
Breathe out!-Khipha umoya
Hold your breath!-Bamba umoya
Roll over onto your front!-Lala ngesisu
Roll over onto your back!-Lala ngomhlane
Roll onto your side!-Lala ngohlangothi
Ill/ Unhealthy -Uyagula
Boy - Umfana
Girl - Intombazane
Family - Umdeni
People - Abantu
Short - Mfishane
Tall - Mude
Large - Kukhulu
One - Kunye
Two - Kubili
Three - Kuthathu
Four - Kune
Five - Kuyisihlanu
Six - Kuyisithupha
Seven - Kuyisikhombisa
Eight - Kuyisishiyagalombili
Nine - Kuyisishiyagalolunye
Ten - Kuyishumi
Eleven - Ishumi nanye
Twelve - Ishumi nambili
Fifteen - Ishumi nesihlanu
Twenty - Amashumi amabili
Thirty - Amashumi amathathu
Forty - Amashumi amane
Fifty - Amashumi amahlanu
Sixty - Ngamashumi ayisithupha
Seventy - Ngamashumi ayisikhombisa
Eighty - Ngamashumi ayisishiyagalombili
Ninety - Amashumi ayisishiyagalolunye
Weeks - Amaviki
Months - Izinyanga
Years - Iminyaka
Day - Usuku
Night - Ebusuku
Sleep - Lala
Morning - Ekuseni
Water - Amanzi
Sugar - Ushukela
Bus - Ibhasi
Pension - Impesheni
Police - Iphoyisa
Doctor - Udokotela
Nurse - Umlengikazi
Community health care worker-Nompilo
Midwife - Umbelethisi
Occupational therapist -Umsebenzi wezandla
Social worker - Usonhlala kahle
Witch Doctor - Isangoma
Hospital - Isibhedlela
Go - Hamba
Come - Woza
Open - Vula
Close - Vala
Take - Thatha
Pull - Donsa
Push - Fuqa
Grip - Bamba
Relax - Khululeka
Turn - Phenduka
Lift - Phakamisa
Sew up - Thunga
Walk - Hamba
Eat - Ukudla
Drink - Ukuphuza
Wash - Geza
Where- - phi (at the end of the word)
When - Nini
How long-Isikhathi esingakanani
In - Phakothi
Out - Ngaphandle
Before - Ngaphambilini
After - Ngemuva
Soon - Shesha
It - Kuwo
What's the problem?-Uphethwe yini?
When did it start? - Kuqale nini?
Have you ever had.......? - Wake wabanayo........?
Do you have.........? - Unayo i........?
Have you ever had it before? - Wake wabanayo ngaphambilini?
How long have you had it? - Sekunesikhathi esingakanani kukuphethwe?
Is the problem getting better or worse? - Kubagcono noma kuyaqhubeka?
Do you have a fever? - Unomkhuhlani yini?
Do you have any pain? - Uya buzwa Ubuhlungu?
Where is the pain? - Kubuhlungu kuphi?
Do you have chest pain? - Unobuhlungu besifuba na?
Do you get breathless when you walk? - Ubanephika yini uma uhamba?
Do you get breathless when you lie flat?- Ubanephika yini uma ulele phansi?
Are you vomiting? - Uyahlanza na?
Do you have diarrhoea? - Uyasheka na?
Do you have constipation? -Uqumbelene yini?
Are you using contraception? - Uyahlela?
Do you have any sores /ulcers? -Azikho yini izilonda?
Is it itchy? - Kuyaluma yini?
Do you get night sweats? - Uyajuluka yini ebusuku?
Does anyone in your family have this? -Ukhona yini unakho lokhu emdenini wakho?
Can you feel this? - Uyakuzwa yini lokhu?
Is it hot or cold? - Kuyashisa noma kuyabanda?
Do you smoke tobacco? - Uyabhema yini?
Do you drink alcohol? - Uyaphuza yini?
Drug - Umuti
Pill - Philisi
Injury - Ingozi
Weight loss - Ukuzagca
Thirst - Ukoma
Bleeding - Ukopha
Anaemia - Ukuphelelwa wububomvu begazi emzimbeni
Diabetes - Isifo sushukela
Heart disease - Isifo senhleziyo
High blood pressure - Ukuphakama komfutho wegazi
Tuberculosis - Isifo sofuba
Asthma - Isifuba somoya
Jaundice - Isifo esibangwa ukuchithekela kwenyongo egazini
Epilepsy - Isifo sokuwa
Head - Ikhanda
Headache - Ubuhlungu ikhanda
Brain - Ingqondo
Mental illness - Isifo sengqondo
Eye - Iso
Blind - Ukungaboni
Ear - Indlebe
Deaf - Ukungezwa
Nose - Ikhala
Mouth - Umlomo
Tooth - Izinyo
Teeth - Amazinyo
Chest - Isifuba
Lung - Iphaphu
Gut/Bowel/Intestine - Ithumbu
Testis - Amasende
Vulva - Umlomo wenhlunu
Menses/Menstruation - Isikhathi ("The time")
Foot - Unyawo
Muscle - Umsipha
Joint - Ilunga
Itching - Kuyaluma
Bite - Luma
And even in Lingala you hear some faint echoes of Kiswahili sounding words...
Have some fun counting in Shona...
It is therefore, not that difficult to make the case that Kiswahili is definitely an African, specifically a Bantu based language and not, as some local, uninformed strangers would posit, an import smuggled in from the Arabian peninsula.
It is said there are at least fifteen
lahaja (dialects) of Kiswahili from Ki a’amu on the northern Kenyan coast, Kimvita (Mombasa) Kiunguja (Zanzibar) Kipemba (Pemba) Kimrima (around Dar es Salaam) Kitangata to Kingwana in the eastern Congo.
Many of the purist coastal Waswahili scoff at the Congolese Kiswahili (Kingwana) as being imperfect and riddled with grammatical errors, yet the Wangwana respond that at 9 million native speakers of that local dialect, they are the single largest bloc of Kiswahili speakers in the Swahili world that encompasses
southern Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, northern Mozambique parts of Malagasy, the Comoros, Seychelles, pockets of South Africa, a very big chunk of Oman and entire neighbourhoods in the United Arab Emirates.
What further complicates the discourse in Kiswahili is the way in which affiliated African tribes have been collapsed and conflated into being Waswahili when in fact, they are distinct ethnic groups with unique histories.
One such group is the Bajun, found in southern Somalia and the northern Kenyan coast
Malika, the legendary taarab diva known most for her Vidonge monster hit, is actually a Somali citizen with Bajun and Banadir ancestry.
When I was doing research for this essay I called up a family friend of mine here in Montreal, a Kenyan married to a Tanzanian. Since she had grown up in Mombasa, I had always assumed that she was a “Mswahili”. She surprised me when she clarified that she was a Mgunya from Lamu who were distinct from Wa’amu and also the Bajun. She explained to me that the Wagunya are found in three islands along the Kenya/Somalia border- Ras Kitao, Ras Kiambini and Ras Chundwa. She said that the Wagunya are originally Black African Bantus although there has been intermarriage over the centuries. She intrigued me further by revealing to me that among the Bajun for instance, you will find Caucasian skinned, blue eyed Bajuni who had Portuguese forbears, Bajuni who had Chinese features, Bajuni who looked like Arabs and Bajuni who had a midnight black African complexion. In the nearby islands Pate (two hours by boat from Lamu you found the Wapate who had their own unique dialect and also north of Lamu you met the Washela who pronounced words in their own peculiar way. I asked her about the “Wabwambadi” and she informed me that it was actually a pejorative, class based term to refer to those coastal peoples who claimed Arab ancestry and saw themselves as aristocratic high borns who could not mix with the local Watwana. In fact she told me that until quite recently her people the Wagunya, could not inter marry with the Wa’amu who looked down on them as descendants of slaves. When I told her that many, many years ago I used to have a Mswahili lover from Mombasa who was actually a Mu’amu from Lamu, she was shocked because a non Muslim Luo from upcountry, no matter how Swahilized was in traditional terms not considered good enough to talk to, let alone approach and have an intimate sexual and long term relationship with a mwanamwali from an indigenous Swahili family. Well, times have changed, that is all I can say about dating the daughters of the Waswahili, dear readers men and women in their ordinary everyday lives are saying fuck you to all these internalized racist, tribal, religious walls that separate human beings from each other.
Who are the Washirazi, I asked?
These were the people, I was told, who came from Iran, known until recently as Persia.
What complicates matters is when the Coastal peoples of East Africa migrate and relocate to the Middle East. I was talking recently to a very good friend of mine who is an Abu Dhabi-Canadian who just so happens to be a Mgikuyu Muslim woman who was born in Nyeri but grew up in the United Arab Emirates since the late 1970s. She told me that many of the countries in the Gulf have xenophobic tendencies and they will look down on ANYONE who is not indigenous, irrespective of whether they are “Arab” or not. She told me of instances where local Gulf Arabs with dark African complexions expressed disdain for light skinned “ Arab” transplants from East Africa and further explained to me that even on the question of Arab identity there is no consensus and certainly you can not reduce things to skin colour- a local Dubai resident will not give a hoot for any Wamangas, advising them to go where they came from-Oman… So you have the phenomenon of a Kenyan “ Arab” boarding a plane from Port Reitz in Mombasa and landing in the Gulf only to learn that he too is considered a khal(black spot) or worse, referred to as an abd (black servant/slave). So all those colour coded social gradations mean nothing all in a context where family lineage and clan pedigree counts for much more.
I further queried my friend about the so called “Wamanga” and I was told that this was the Kiswahili term for Omani Arabs who had settled in East Africa. The Mazrui dynasty was considered to be Wamanga.
Of course I was very familiar with the Mazrui name for it has produced several internationally known Kenyan personages:
Professor Ali Mazrui’s father was the chief Kadhi and a much respected Islamic scholar. Mbaruk al Amin Mazrui led an armed uprising against British colonial annexation in 1895-96;
Dr and Prof. Alamin Mazrui of Ohio State University is not only one of the most recognized Kiswahili linguists and academics along with the Leipzig based Prof. Abdilatif Abdalla-both of them are veterans of the Kenyan anti-imperialist movement- Dr Alamin Mazrui was detained by Moi in 1982 and is the author of the seminal Kiswahili play
Kilio Cha Haki while
Prof. Abdilatif Abdalla was imprisoned in 1969 by Kenyatta and composed his poetry collection Sauti ya Dhiki at Kamiti where they both served stints. Click here to read Ndugu Abdlatif's Kiswahili poem Kibaruwa and click here to listen to a VERY PROPHETIC interview Onyango Oloo did with Abdilatif Abdalla on February 11, 2003 that anticipated a lot of the betrayal that Kenyans see today in regards to the NARC regime.
One cannot speak about the history of resistance to foreign domination in Mombasa over centuries without invoking the Mazrui family name as you can see when you peruse this link. I was actually shocked to find the Kenya government’s own ministry of foreign affairs agree with me in this regard.
By the way, my own views on Kiswahili and the need for a comprehensive language policy in Kenya have been articulated in this essay.
5.0.Makinzano Pwani:Contextualizing the Ongoing Vuta ni Kuvute Tensions Between The Mijikenda, the Waswahili, Washiiri, Wamanga, Wagunya, Wabajuni na Kadhalika...
Likewise, one cannot understand the contemporary tensions and conflicts between the Wamanga, Waswahili, Washirazi, Wagunya, Wa Bajuni and other largely Islamic Swahili affiliated communities of Lamu, Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa districts on the one hand, and the various mostly Christian and animist Mijikenda communities all over the Coast Province on the other hand without factoring in the terrible twin legacies of the East African Slave Trade and the subsequent colonization of Kenya by both the Germans and the British.
A picture is worth a thousand postings on a blog so let the pictures first tell the story:
Here is a first introduction to the Indian Ocean Slave Trade.
Tippu Tip is synonymous with the East African Slave Trade
Given the tortured historical relations between Omani Arabs and indigenous Africans tainted by slavery in the eastern part of this continent, I was not entirely surprised to read Washington born African-American author Marian Douglas express her outrage at the 2002 news of a new transport link between Muscat and East Africa.
The Sultans of Zanzibar were Omani Arabs who did the unusual thing of transferring the capital of this Middle Eastern sultanate to East Africa partly because of the profits from the feudal plantation of economy based on cloves, spices and slavery.
They established their east African hegemony precisely at the time when industrial capitalism was getting into its imperialist phase and it was not an accident when later the Sultan of Zanzibar became a junior partner in the colonial annexation of Zanzibar, Pemba, Tanganyika and parts of Kenya. It is ironic that it was the Sultan of Zanzibar who “gave” the British the 10 mile Coastal strip that continues to bedevil socio-economic and political ties in Kenya today. Imagine that! A feudal despot from Oman living in Zanzibar handing over African lands to European conquistador as if this land was his grandfather’s shamba-which he LITERALLY believed it to be!
These colonial moves led to the emergence of an absentee landlord class( when I was in Dar es Salaam in 1987/8 I heard people refer to them as mamwinyi) many of whom were of Arab and Swahili extraction and on the flip side of that, hundreds of thousands of impoverished landless squatters many of whom are of Mijikenda background. If you overlay these colonial/neo-colonial race/class/ethnic schisms onto the older slave owner/slave dichotomy and throw in the potent admixture of Christian/Muslim rivalries, you begin to get an inkling of some of the pieces of firewood that have kept some fires burning all over Pwani for over one hundred years now.
People like the late Karisa Maitha used the grievances of the Mijikenda to push some openly violent, fascist, racist and tribal pseudo-solutions to the simmering problem, identifying Wabara( as in the Kenyatta era land grabbers on the one hand) and the Swaleh Ngurus, Said Hemeds and other wealthy Wamanga, Washiiri na Waswahili on the other hand. It is these resentments that made in Kenya Proto Interhamwe war lords like Danson Mungatana are exploiting hoping that matters explode.
On the other hand, the steady encroachment of Israeli business interests in the Coastal tourist industry has helped to incense the radical and militant Islamic youth of all races-Arabs, Waswahili, Wadigo and others from upcountry or originally from Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Zanzibar, Pemba and elsewhere in East Africa. The role of the United States in trying to scapegoat local Muslim youth as potential Al Qaeda recruits has also raised the stakes and injected a definite anti-imperialist dimension to the grievances of Muslims who feel that the Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki regimes have given Muslims and Coastal people a raw deal maintaining them as second class citizens while using the Mijikenda/Arab-Swahili schisms as divide and rule stratagems to perpetuate the marginalization of the Pwani region along the peripheries of the unequal political economy and division of national spoils, patronage appointments in contemporary neo-colonial Kenya.
As Odenda Lumumba of the Kenya Land Alliance recently observed in a very well written paper:
The colonial government introduced a system whereby those claiming ownership rights within the Ten Mile Coastal Strip could get titles under the Land Titles Ordinance. This process gave undue advantage to the few who were aware of the office of the Recorder of Titles. The majority of the local inhabitants at the Coast were ignorant of this procedure. They could therefore not lay any claims of ownership as envisaged in the Ordinance. All land inhabited by them was consequently declared Crown Land. Such land became Trust land at independence. Many people of Arab origin had acquired titles to vast parcels of land within the Ten-Mile Coastal Strip. To this day, they continue to collect rent from the local inhabitants. There is thus a twin problem of absentee landlordism and landlessness. During the constitutional reform hearings conducted by the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, it emerged that this twin problem is a deeply felt grievance by the local coastal people. Many of the people are technically squatters on their own land. Land titles have been issued to people who are not ordinarily resident in the coastal area contrary to the provisions of the constitution regarding the privatization of Trustland. Such titleholders are viewed as aliens who have cheated the locals out of their land. It is a problem which must be comprehensively addressed…
In 1998, Dr. Yahya wrote a very detailed document describing who were owned the Coast
6.0. The Pitfalls of Superficial NARC Demagoguery and Internal Power Plays at the Coast
The rifts within the fractious NARC bloc came dramatically to the fore in the just concluded electoral disaster perpetrated against the good people of Kisauni. It would appear that for both NAK and LDP what matters is numbers, rather than identifying with the real needs of watu wa Pwani. A couple days after finishing my Kisauni essay I am seeing reports that some people in the LDP like Joe Khamisi had their misgivings about the Joho candidacy. And of course we see the macabre phenomenon of goons like Mungatana, Kibwana, Kahindi Kingi, Koigi and other NAK attack mbwa mwitu going outside NARC to lead a terrorist scandalous, "vandalous" (is there really such a word in any language?) vengeful, violent, virulent blitzkrieg against their own official NARC candidate in a subsequently brutal and bloody successful bid to install a Mijikenda ethnic chauvinist named Ananias Mwaboza as the new member of parliament. What is even more bizarre was to find out today that in their hatred of Raila Odinga these political hounds actually abandoned their own NAK stooges who were too unpopular to back the second most popular candidate in the NARC nomination exercise- yet another LDP member called Ananias Mwaboza! It kind of reminded me of the cynical ploy by the Republican party in Georgia where they temporarily forced out the anti-war, progressive Congressperson Cynthia McKinney by running another Black woman, a Republican who simply crossed over into the Democratic party and had Republican voters cross over too to vote for her in a Democratic primary! Mercifully, this charade in Georgia lasted less than a year because
Cynthia McKinney not only won her Democratic primary this year, but recaptured her Congress seat (in a white majority district no less!) handily in the November 2004 elections.
In my humble opinion, both factions of the ruling NARC formation are well advised to tread very, very carefully because Coast Province politics is not only a tinderbox- it is also a veritable Pandora’s Box that they may throw up a frightening outbreak of Rwanda like ethnic cleansing, or a very bloody bombing campaign ala Algeria if either the Mijikenda resentments are stoked too far or the long standing grievances of the Muslims, especially the angry, frustrated young victims of globalization- the unemployed, the school leavers without hope, the small businessmen who watch as the local Arab, Swahili and Mijikenda tycoons cut deals not only with each other, but also with the Americans and Israeli business interests( let us not forget that the hotel that was bombed in Kikambala in November 2002 was an Israeli owned establishment that discriminated against anyone who was not Jewish, at least according to media accounts, an outrageous situation in a predominantly Muslim town like Mombasa).
Right now I am seeing people like Danson Mungatana being hailed as the new kingmakers and I shake my head with befuddlement because I do not think that these people know what kind of moto they are playing with.
Anyone foolish enough to organize people along tribal, racist, religious and other parochial lines will only have themselves to blame if the monster they created comes to bite them in the matako.
Just ask the Israelis. When they created Hamas through Mossad, it was supposed to be a tool for destabilizing the secular stature of the PLO. I am not sure if Ariel Sharon still looks at Hamas with the same indulgent smile as the Mossad schemers who set up this Islamist outfit in the 1980s.
Likewise, while Osama bin Laden helped Bush to retain power this year, I am not sure if the CIA and the rest of the American political establishment are as favourable to Al Qaeda the way they were back at the beginning of the 1980s when Al Qaeda was created by the CIA to fight the Soviet Union and its presence in Afghanistan.
Another thing. I have watched, silently, with wide eyes and open mouth as Gikuyu chauvinists and other anti-Luo tribalists from up country rub their fingers in glee seeing the election of Mwaboza as a blow against what they see as the Luo menace to Kibaki.
This is so dimwitted it is not even funny.
Most of these shallow parochialists have NO IDEA how incensed Wapwani are at certain members of the Gikuyu elite, an angry resentment that goes way back to the time of Kenyatta, Mahihu and those members of the Kiambu Mafia who grabbed beach property, hotel chains and other real estate properties at the Coast from the 1960s. They should be asking themselves why NAK did so badly, why Gikandi Ngibuini attempt to run for parliament must have come across as a very ghastly prank to many Kisauni voters. In my view, the pathetic showing of Maimuna Mwidau (hey fellow Kenyan Canadians, did she not live in Ontario a few ago in the early 1990s?) was not unconnected with the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta, one of the biggest land grabbers at the Coast, was doing the rounds, campaigning for the KANU candidate.
Those Wakabila from Bara who think that Kisauni is yet another boxing ring to watch round 7 of the tragic-comic bout between the Murungaru gang and the Raila forces in NARC are people who have been smoking too much bad makshabu, that terrible and potent misokoto of bhangi from Keroka for far too long. And those Jaluos who think that Kisauni was just one more territory for Agwambo Tinga Tinga to vankwis are well advised to leave that kube full of Achwaka Kali from Nyalenda and Pand Pieri where it belongs.
On the other hand, the recent Kisauni standoff, with its massive voter stay away is an open invitation for progressive and serious Kenyan social justice activists with a patriotic and anti-imperialist vision to step forward and help organize the wananchi to deal with such outstanding issues like the land question, the rights of Muslims, the presence of foreign multinationals at the Coast, the exploration of oil, the terrorism bill and of course, the need for the emergence of a new national progressive movement of democrats and patriots who are drawn from across the board- including Mijikenda, Arabs, Waswahili, Wagikuyu, Waluo, Wakristo, Waisilamu, Wakomunisti, Vijana, Wazee, Wanawake kwa Wanaume.
In doing this, we should all strive to rise above a reductionist approach to politics in Kisauni and other parts of the Coast Province.
For instance, Muslims are not a monolith. The so called Arabs and Waswahili are not homogenous either. People are divided by class, ideology and history and we should work with only the consistent democrats irrespective of their race, tribe, religion, gender or even, as in the case of one prominent politician, their sexual orientation.
Likewise, the Mijikenda are NOT one unvariegated heap of people.
To take two examples. We often assume that all of the people who live in Kwale District are predominantly Wadigo.
But how many of us know of the
We often talk of the Giriama and other affiliated communities as if they are no internal tensions. Yet, how many of us have studied the contemporary ramifications of the old Ngala/Chokwe feuds from almost forty years ago? Not all the Mijikenda were KADU majimboists in the 1960s you know…
If you do not have a CLUE (and many of you wise guys from Pwani who wonder what a Mjaluo wa Bara called Onyango Oloo is doing commenting about Mijikenda and Pwani politics could apply for three free lessons from me by sending me a private email to email@example.com) should take a look at this link that outlines some of the issues that were present in the 1997 Kaloleni constituency contest pitting then KANU powerhouse Matthew Keah against a gaggle of opponents
Onyango Oloo is NOT a majimboist. Nevertheless I fully support the provisions on devolution of powers that were adopted and incorporated in the Zero Draft at Bomas on March 15, 2004. I have detailed in a previous digital essay that you can access here, why I think that these proposed regional governments have a lot of revolutionary potential for Kenyan socialists and anti-imperialists.
For those who are a bit foggy about the actual constitutional proposals on the devolution of powers, I thought I would oblige you by linking you directly to Chapter 14 which happens to be relevant chunk of the Zero Draft of the new democratic Kenyan constitution and ratified at Bomas.
The hypocrisy of Mungatana, Koigi, Mukhisa, Kibwana and all those NARC turncoats who worked so bloody hard to defeat the official NARC nominee can be seen from the fact that on the one hand they were backing Mwaboza who exploited the passionate Majimboist and Federalist sentiments in his populist gadfly upstart campaign while on the other hand, it is these very shameless NAK attack dogs who have been blocking every step of the way the passage of the same document that will facilitate devolution of powers and usher in a new constitutional dispensation that will deal with such long standing matters like the Kadhis’ Courts, land reform, local control over the sacred Kaya forests and other matters near and dear to the Mijikenda, Waswahili Waarabu, Waislamu and all Kenyans who call Pwani home.
7.0. Towards a National, Non-Majimboist Integrated Approach to Solving the Regional Inequalities at the Coast
I said earlier that I do not support the kabilastanization of Kenya in ANY guise. I said this in February 2000 way before the battles started raging at Bomas and I am saying it today even as I affirm my support for the devolution of political powers.
The key thing for me is that the devolution of powers must not proceed along narrow sectarian, tribal and parochial lines.
As I have indicated in this essay, the Coast Province is one of the most complex regions of Kenya and we can not posit a simplistic juxtaposition betwixt the so called Wabara na Wapwani.
Where do you place a Mgiriama who has lived in Kitale or Nairobi for the last twenty five thirty years to the extent that they have a permanent home in. say, Githurai and none in Mazeras? Where is their real home? Where do you place someone like my fiancé Njeri who was born and raised in Mskiti Noor in the western mainland of Mombasa of Gikuyu and Dawida parents? Her father is from Sagana and her mother is from Mwatate, but her real home is in Mombasa and she speaks Kiswahili better than either Kikuyu or KiDawida. Who are you to tell her that she is a mtu wa bara who does not belong in Mombasa? How about someone like myself? If I was in Kenya during the Kisauni by-elections and I decided to contest, who on earth would you be- whether Mjikenda, Mswahili or Mwisilamu to tell Oloo that he does not have the democratic right to participate in local Mombasa politics? I would campaign for that Swahili café owner that my younger brother introduced me to in Kondele, Kisumu, if said mkahawa owner declared that he wanted to vie for the local council seat. And I do not see anything wrong with a Duruma Mayor of Siaya for that matter you know.
Anyways, to give you a peek into what my views are on this subject, please take a look at this essay I wrote in February 27, 2000 entitled, Against the Kabilastanization of Kenya: Micronationalism in an Era of Globalization.
And with those BRIEF REMARKS I conclude this shorter than short digital essay. I hope that it has NOT been as long winded as some of my previous efforts. I know, I know- I really need to study and apply the ancient art of précis...
Monday, December 20, 2004
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Where do you get this stuff from?I find myself shaking my head at your eloquence and ofcourse laugh out loud at the local references.A quick thought(non-tribal).When i was young,the prevailing wisdom among my kikuyu relatives was that the reason the British used Luos on the railways was because they were more cooperative (accomodating);colaboraters.This is part of why many luos ended up in Mombasa and estates in the old Nairobi railway quaters)e.g makogeni,landimawe etc What IS the history of luos as regardsto this migration?
thanks for your feedback. where do i get my information from:
1. i was cursed and afflicted me with a memory that remembers the most obscure arcane trivia decades after said ephemeral event.
2. i always see other ordinary people as my teachers and i call them up and they tell me lots of stories that you will never find in books, magazines or websites.
3. i do have a passion for research.
4. i read a lot. at anyone time i am reading at least two books, three magazines and of course i have bookmarked all the major news and information sites on the net.
5. about the luos and their presence at the coast. i think we have to go back to colonialism. unlike central kenya and the rift valley where there was a lot of land to alienate, in my traditional neck of the woods you had the opposite problem- too much population pressure on scarce land. so it was a no brainer to have luos become part of the colonial plantation economy. remember that tom mboya was actually born in thika or some other part of ukikuyuni where his dad was an agricultural worker. my maternal grandfather, jonathan wandolo was employed very early on as a dresser in a hospital in mumias where he met and married his second wife, my mom's stepmom, a Wanga woman. my paternal grandfather, after serving with the colonial carrier corps as far away as mozambique became a kiswahili-luo court interpreter in butere and that is how he met my grandma, a Luhyia woman from Emanyulia. my dad's two older sisters were primary school teachers as far back as the 1940s; his oldest brother(born in 1928) worked first with the Railways before joining Posta in the 1950s; my own dad first worked with the Railways before he joined the Prisons as an officer cadet at the end of the fifties; his first cousin Bethwell Alan Ogot lost his mother at a very young age and decided his salvation lay with education and that is how excelled to become one of the first university educated people from our village; my father's other cousin Argwings Kodhek who came from a place called Malanga also studied and became a UK trained lawyer who defended Mau Mau political prisoners before venturing into Nairobi politics in the late 1950s, my mother's only brother Walter Wandolo was the only member of my mother's immediate family that my grandpa allowed to proceed with education beyond primary school- he later became an accountant. One of my aunts later on married BA Ohanga a former inspector of schools who became a colonially appointed minister and member of the Legco until he was turfed from his Nyanza seat by his next door Kisumu neighbour, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. The British deliberately encouraged youth and students from Nyanza to pursue post primary education at the time when they were rounding up Gikuyu, Embu, Meru and other youths during operations Jock Scott, Stone Anvil etc. So, yes it is true that Luos were to a certain extent tagged to be "collaborators". I think the ones who ended up in Mombasa in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were driven more by the dictates of the colonial economy rather than any overt political considerations. After all, most of them were stevedores, porters and other manual labourers in Mombasa, places like Ramisi and of course in the sisal estates of Taita Taveta. All I am telling you is drawn from downloaded oral traditions, anecdotes etc. I am sure rigorious research may challenge many of the things I have said spontaneously here...
must say this piece has been researched to the bone .
good work , found it hard not to put your link on my blog - http://bilogi.blogspot.com/2004/12/baada-ya-yote-kusemwa.html
have a nice day
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