Elijah Masinde (born between 1910 and 1912) was a Bukusu activist. He died in 1987.
Born around 1910 – 1912 in Kimilili, Bungoma District, Masinde wa Nameme okhwa Mwasame was initiated into the Machego age-set. At the time, the Kenya-Uganda railway was passing through Ababukusu land. He began to practice football at a young age, eventually starting out as a footballer and captaining a football team from Kimilili. He also played for the Kenyan national team in the Gossage Cup against Uganda in 1930. By the early 1940s, he had risen to the rank of a junior elder within his community in Kimilili area, and become increasingly anti-colonial. In 1944, he led a number of localised defiance campaigns against the colonial authorities, and was imprisoned many times as a result. At one time he was put in Mathare Mental Hospital and detained in Lamu.
Detention, old age, and death
Upon Kenya’s independence, Masinde was detained by the government of Jomo Kenyatta for almost 15 years. He was accused of fomenting religious hatred. He was released by the government of Daniel arap Moi in 1978, however, Moi also arrested him following his clashes with traffic policemen in Webuye and Kitale. Elija Masinde remained defiant and continually questioned post independence Kenya’s government, especially on the issue of land distribution and citizen rights. He died in 1987, considered a neglected freedom fighter.
Before his death, Masinde said that one of his relatives had bewitched him. He also described to his elder son where he wanted to be buried: he wanted a huge sycamore tree uprooted to make way for his grave. The family decided to bury him elsewhere, though, but the spot they chose for his grave turned out to be someone else’s hidden grave. They took this to be an omen and proceeded to bury him in the spot where the sycamore tree had been.
He left a widow, Sarah Nanyama Masinde. She was still alive in November 2007 and was then reportedly 105 years old
The use of religions to fight injustice is not new. Dini ya Misambwa, an African traditional religion, stood against colonialism during the British colonial rule of Kenya. Among other things, it criticized the undermining, by the British colonial government, of elder authority and of the cultural values that had held Kenyan peoples together for ages.
The undermining of cultural values was potentially more damaging than even the plunder of resources that’s felt within the African continent today. We know that autonomous, purposive actors with the necessary capabilities and instruments often attempt to influence others to operate in an equilibrium in which degree of reciprocity and extent of influence establish the relative distribution of behavioral power within the international system (Ward & House, 1998).
The old authority of the tribal elders had been undermined with the advent of colonial rule. It was the elders in turn who had lent power to the old tribal religion or African traditional religion and hence it too was also undermined. Left in a spiritual vacuum, many Bukusu and luhya, insecure in the rapidly-changing world, gravitated naturally into Christianity (Reed, 1954). Masinde being an elder did not roll-over and run, he should not have been expected to.
Looking at most African countries, one realizes major damage caused by the undermining of traditional elder leadership and the traditional African traditional religions on the social imaginaries which make Africans who they are, continue to be an issue in every society. It is even more rampant when one thinks of the role religion plays in determining who they are, what they believe and how they should act and react. It’s clear, imported religions have their origin and this origin cannot be disassociated from the belief inherent in the religions. There is a need to free the mind of its conditionings that give priority to religion and may, therefore, serve to exclude other sources of identity derived from collective histories and collective experiences. The illusion into which religion plunges Africans is often the reason for the problems of identity which most African societies struggle with today. An awareness of this illusion and a new understanding of identity as derived from a shared African experience will go a long way in resolving the problem of identity in Africa (Muyingi, 2015). That is why it is important that anyone editing or deleting this post should provide authoritative citation and proof that they are not just trying to rewrite history.
We know from Max Weber that, the state is a relation of men dominating men, a relationship supported using legitimate (i.e. considered to be legitimate) violence (Schriften, Uni, Gerth, & Mills, 1946). Dini Ya Misambwa was therefore not anti-white but an anti-colonial rule, Reed (1954) reports that colonial rule undermined traditional rulers and the values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations they stood for leaving a vacuum that Dini ya Msambwa tried to fill.
Reed (1954) also reports that the first European to reach Bukusu was Joseph Thomson, who arrived in 1883, he found the Bukusu living in fortified villages surrounded by moats. These were a protection against raids from the Uasin Gishu Masai and the Teso tribe of Uganda. British administration was established in North Nyanza in 1894. The following year the Bukusu killed 25 soldiers of the Sudanese garrison and a punitive expedition was undertaken against them. Their fortified villages were stormed by Sudanese troops and Africans from other tribes, and the fighting ended when the Bukusu acknowledged British rule and promised to abandon their villages. Today they live in scattered homesteads (Reed, 1954).
Although he reports ethnocentrically, we can glean from his writing that the country he found was not desperate, and there was no racism, but terms like “progress” implying adoption of “European way” are telling as for why they might have been resentment!
It was founded by Elijah Masinde in 1936. After Kenyan independence 1968 Dini ya Msambwa was made illegal and Masinde was arrested for fomenting Christian religion hatred. “The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality, its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside” – Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (1909–1972). That was the objection that leads to Dini ya Misambwa being banned in post-colonial Kenya not hatred to white people (Bonsu & Ed, 2016). Secondly, a point must be made that Western scholars were the first to write about ATR. Thus they dominated the study of African traditional religions. Their writings were borne out of prejudice or probably out of the impatience of the researchers to look at the universal meaning of the terms they used to describe the religious life of African people cited from Asukwo, Adaka & Dimgba, (2013) by (Bonsu & Ed, 2016). African traditional religions (ATR) practices have suffered from various racial and is leading terminologies. These terminologies which include, but not limited to paganism, heathenism, fetishism, savage, ancestral worship, juju and animism have been used widely by Euro-American missionaries and researchers in an attempt to belittle African people and religion (Bonsu & Ed, 2016). Dini Ya Misambwa is, therefore, an African traditional religion; its followers worshiping in Nyasaye/Were, God is an English word, it has other words in other languages Nyasaye or Were is God in Luhya. Through Ancestral Spirits (Misambwa) in shrines. Just like Abraham, Joseph, Muhamed are ancestors of Christians or Muslims, the people who come before you play a big role in value formation; so it happens in African traditional religions (Bonsu & Ed, 2016)
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