Wednesday, 04 November 2009

"Chikuyu or Ruo?"

50th post today-that’s a milestone.

I often get reminded of times when Ethiopians in DC would ask ‘Habesha?’ when I was waiting for the bus or train. Apparently DC has the biggest concentration of Ethiopians outside Addis Ababa. This happened more often when I was spotting some curly black hair extensions. After a while I got to know that meant ‘Ethiopian?’ and would respond ,” No, I’m Kenyan”. I read that Ethiopia used to be called Abyssinia (?) way back, but I think Ethiopians (used to?) call it Habesha.
Interestingly, some Ugandans think I look like a Munyarwanda . I feel kinda flattered :0). Some guy in Nairobi once told me the only reason he’d go work in Addis is because of the beautiful women.

Lakini the one that initially used to surprise me is when I tell someone I’m Kenyan and they go , “Chikuyu or Ruo”. The letter K is often pronounced as ‘Ch’ in Luganda (and the G as ‘J’ hence ‘Mijingo’-but not Ujanda). Like us Agikuyu, many Baganda (and I think Banyankole, too) replace the L with the R in many words. I haven’t come across an R in Luganda, and there is no L in Gikuyu. I guess that’s where it comes from. I feel no offense when people ask me about my tribe, so I will promptly say “Chikuyu”. It’s the “Chikuyu or Ruo?” that gets to me. Because I think many non-Kenyans only knew about Kikuyus and Luos just because of the 2007 elections aftermath. Sasa, I can’t claim to know what tribes are in what countries. I know there are Dinkas, Madis and Nuers in Sudan because I had a Sudanese room-mate, there are Shonas in Zimbabwe because Mugabe and Makoni are Shonas :0), Zulus and Xhosas in SA and Igbos in Nigeria because they are popular, Oromos and Amharas in Ethiopia because I had a Ethiopian school-mate (and read Michela Wrong’s ‘I Didn’t do It for You’) Sukumas and Chaggas in Tanzania because I had a Chagga/Kikuyu friend in college. But I think it’s a shame I forgot or don’t know what tribes my other African friends were from, and haven’t bothered to find out what tribes occupy which countries.

I also thought a colleague was a tad bit more ignorant when she asked me why Kenyans fought when there are only two tribes (Chikuyus and Ruos) whereas they have so many tribes in Uganda yet don’t fight. Well, if you know any history, you know that they have had more and longer fights in Uganda than in Kenya. Only that they were not along tribal lines. In fact, Baganda helped M7 because he recognized their kingdom and those of others, when Obote had abolished all tribal kingdoms in the 60s. He recently officially recognized the Rwenzururu Kingdom. And some guy who was working as a nurse’s aide in the U.S. is the King. Talk of tables turning.

The most interesting but not surprising is that we fight over our identity yet our origins are the same. You can’t convince me that a Mugisu in Uganda is different from a Bukusu in Kenya, or a Japadhola in Uganda and a Luo in Kenya, or a Sebei in Uganda and a Kalenjin in Kenya, or a Maasai in Tanzania and a Maasai in Kenya. So I think tribe is over-rated. Or underated, depending on who you ask.

Here’s some Luganda for you:

Okuja-to come
Okugula-to buy
Okulya-to eat
Okunywa-to drink

Some two words in Kinyarwanda

Orugendo rwiza-safari njema
Ijana-One hundred

Yeah, we are totally different, aren’t we?


pesa tu said...

@PKW:The kinyarwanda words show that we are all related especially Bantu i.e. Menya-know. Inzu-means house in kinyarwanda and luhya.
By the way do they have Nyina?

PKW said...

@pesa tu: yeah, Nnyina in Luganda as has the same meaning in Kikuyu as well.

odegle said...

The time I visited Zimbabwe, i found it very difficult to tell those people from our own Luhyas here in Kenya. they had the sad heavy pronunciation, same curvy features and almost same tongue

Cee said...

What is Mawoni??? I keep seeing it as I make comments in your blog.

The Kinyarwanda words sound soo much like kiuk, I even thought you being a Proud Kikuyu were trying to pull our leg on

PKW said...

Odegle: I think the same of some Ugandans and our Luhyas
Cee: I wasn't pulling your leg, I tell you. Mawoni? Opinions. Or so I think :O)

Cee said...

Maoni??? Ama u weren't speaking swa?

PKW said...

Cee: No, it's Gikuyu, I think :0)