Media report: More to Kakamega than negative snippets
A colleague has been keeping tabs on the stories appearing in the media from Kakamega. The stories provide for a sad chronicle.
Sample this: “Wife kills husband following a quarrel over food portions in Khayega area, Kakamega”; “Man axes wife to death in Shamberere village over chicken”; “Two men agree to exchange wives in Kakamega after affairs with each other’s wife”; “Kakamega man sells his wife to best friend for Sh500 to buy soda”; “Kakamega man commits suicide over chicken proceeds”; “Kakamega man collapses, dies after a quarrel with his daughter over tea”; “Kakamega man gets wife back after paying Sh900 debt”.
The common thread running through the stories fits into the stereotypes that Kenya is assumed to have, not just of people from Kakamega but Luhyas in general. For starters, the former western Kenya province which is home to the Luhya has four counties—Bungoma, Busia, Kakamega and Vihiga.
Kakamega is the former provincial capital and so is viewed as the heartland of the Luhya. Most Luhya declarations are made from Bukhungu Stadium, considered to be central but also at the very heart of Luhyaness.
But among the stereotypes of the Luhya is, of course, their love for chicken, tea, ugali and probably food in general. Thus a weakling Luhya is a contradiction in terms. If you have a job that requires hard labour, then Luhyaland is the place to recruit workers.
Luhya women are seen as equally strong with beauty attached to the size of the legs and of behind. A skinny Luhya woman is to be pitied in the eyes of the community and the mission to raise the body index is a collective responsibility. The physical features, it is assumed, are products of massive consumption of food and this seems to be what is feeding the headlines.
But western Kenya is more than just violence centred on food. This is the land that has produced prominent footballers. Talk of Victor Wanyama, who plays in the English Premier League. His brother, MacDonald Mariga preceded him in this football fame. Western Kenya is the home of AFC Leopards, Ingwe if you like, and there is no shortage of stars and aspiring stars in the sector.
It is the Luhyaland that produced independence heroes such as Masinde Muliro and some first independence government ministers. Western Kenya’s place in the nation’s history is secure.
The recent past has not been kind to western Kenya. Many industries in the region have nosedived. It’s economy is largely dependent on on sugar cane farming. Unfortunately, this sector has been on the decline in the recent years, with Mumias and Nzoia sugar factories on their deathbeds. Pan Paper factory in Webuye is not churning out paper as expected.
Kakamega has featured prominently among counties better managed in the country. Kakamega boasts some of the best roads in the county with a dual lit road running across the centre of the town.
The 750-bed hospital now under construction in Kakamega, again, is considered a model facility.
However, it is not all rosy in the region. Its politics is in constant flux but hardly progressive. The whiffs of corruption rising up every now and again are an issue of concern. These issues should provide fodder for the stories emerging from the region. The media can do better. The writer is Dean, School of Communications, Daystar University