After an intense 9-hour drive from Nairobi, we finally arrive Loyangalani a small town in Turkana county which means a place of any trees. Despite the fact that Turkana is considered the cradle of mankind I am yet to understand how my body is yet to feel at home with the scorching sun which seems to illuminate and highlight the beauty of the Turkana people behind all the red ochre they have smeared on their faces.
I am fascinated by the beauty and the diversity of the people as they sing and dance to welcome us to the three-day annual Turkana festival. The song and dance make me feel like a guest in my own country because I am unable to follow through the rhythm of the jump and head swing. The song and dance lead me to a small manyatta where I meet a young gallant man fully clad in Maasai regalia standing outside the manyatta with a spear on his hand and as soon as I approach him, he raises his spear and chants a few words that I can’t comprehend but I smile away and nod in acceptance of his chant. For a minute or two, I feel like H.E. President Kenyatta as he walks through a guard of honor.
Inside the manyatta I am welcomed by an El Molo woman who is roasting coffee off a jiko and has a tray full of tiny cups. The smell of coffee engulfs the room and she explains how the tools she is using affect and embody her tradition as an El Molo woman. She goes ahead and pours some for me and I am immediately blown away by the infusion of aroma and sharp taste of coffee all this as we chit chat as she explains to me how the Rendille woman next door has changed her entire perception towards her and the entire El Molo community.
Despite the fact that Turkana is considered the cradle of mankind I am yet to understand how my body is yet to feel at home with the scorching sun which seems to illuminate and highlight the beauty of the Turkana people behind all the red ochre they have smeared on their faces.
It is during this conversation that I realize; yes our culture defines us but if we do nothing about it like seems to be our history, it will and has torn us apart creating a drift and loss of lives which slow economic growth in the area.
In 2010 Kenyans through the referendum effected the ‘new constitution’ which encouraged devolution as a bridge to uniting Kenyans. Sitting in this manyatta I am proud to see the unison between the 7 communities in Turkana county. I recall watching the news 15 years ago and watching conflicting communities fight for land and pasture but now all I see is the face of a new Kenya.
But again, what is devolution?
Devolution is embracing cultural diversity. The diversity that makes us stand out and highlights us on the global map.
After the 2010 constitution, the building bridges to unity initiative is the next big policy for Kenya. Its goal is to unite Kenya and its people. It did not fall short of its name as it encourages county governments to create more cultural events such as the auspicious Turkana Cultural Festival or the Lamu festival. The report through the devolution pillar also recommends communities that have had conflict just like the EL Molo and Rendille have dialogue and share in development projects.
With such recommendations, I am certain we will be bridging bridges to a better Kenya. I look forward to visiting Loyangalani in five years to embrace the culture and celebrate in the unity between the communities. Hopefully by then, my body will remember that Turkana is the cradle of mankind and will be more forgiving with the sun burns and profuse sweating