Ufahamu Africa

Ep. 138: A conversation with fellows Soinato Leboo and Gretchen Walch about foreignness and Kenyan identities

March 26, 2022 Season 6 Episode 138
Ufahamu Africa
Ep. 138: A conversation with fellows Soinato Leboo and Gretchen Walch about foreignness and Kenyan identities
Show Notes Transcript

Soinato Leboo and Gretchen Walch are our next fellows! In this episode, they talk to four friends and acquaintances about their experiences of both belonging and otherness in Kenya. Each of their perspectives were unique, but converged in their hopes for Kenya’s future.

In the news wrap, Kim and Rachel talk about healthcare and a new hospital funded by Bismack Biyombo, the Kenyan political elections, and more.

Books, Links,  & Articles

Previous Episodes We Mentioned

Kim Yi Dionne  00:02

Welcome to Ufahamu Africa, a podcast about life and politics on the African continent. I'm Kim Yi Dionne, one of your hosts, and I'm joined by my co-host, Rachel Beatty Riedl. Hi, Rachel.

Rachel Beatty Riedl  00:13

Hi, Kim, and hello to our listeners. We have a really excellent episode this week by our third non-resident fellows pair Gretchen Walch and Soinato Leboo, and Kim and I talk about sports philanthropy, election politics heating up in Kenya, and Somaliland.

Kim Yi Dionne  00:30

Right. So first up is a mix of, I guess, good news. Or at least it's being reported as good news, and this is akin to something actually, Rachel that you had mentioned during an episode during AFCON about Sadio Mané and philanthropy and sports. And this time, it's in basketball. So Congolese basketballer, Bismack Biyombo, who plays in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns here in the United States, has committed his entire 2022 salary to building a hospital in his home country, Democratic Republic of Congo. Now this hospital will be built as a memorial to his father who unfortunately contracted COVID-19 in July 2021. And though he initially recovered, it led to further health problems and eventually his death. Along the way Biyombo was able to consult with doctors in different countries, and eventually had his father flown to Turkey to receive better care than he would have been able to receive in DRC. Now, that experience was the driving force behind his decision to build a hospital. Now, as he is quoted as saying in an article written for CBS Sports, he said, “I am extremely blessed that I am and was in a position to put him on a medical plane and evacuate him into Europe for better medical treatment. At this point in my life, my career, I think people back home have to find ways to continue to live even in the tough conditions we were in. Obviously, now it's the pandemic, but one of the things is that I want to give these people better conditions. By building a hospital that will be named after my dad, I wanted to give them something that will continue to serve people under his name,” end quote. Now, this is important that this is not just like a one off thing for Biyombo, during the pandemic, early in 2020, his foundation had delivered almost a million dollars worth of medical equipment across DRC. That's according to an interview in Time Magazine. And as I wrap up report writing for a randomized control trial that we did on health and governance in eastern Congo, you know, I'm thinking about what, Biyombo’s , you know, Biyombo’s charitable act, what it means more broadly about who's responsible for providing for people's health? And, you know, isn't it like, where's the government? Where's the state, in, in kind of, you know, meeting the needs of people and you know, it shouldn't, it shouldn't rely on someone's wealthy relative to get them out of a country to go and seek proper medical care. You know, but who is supposed to be providing this? Isn't this the role of government and also to make anything about our colleague, Laura Seay’s work, in eastern Congo, in particular, and how religious organizations or faith based organizations can step in, when the state neglects to provide these necessary basic services to its citizens. You know, not to take the shine away from what Biyombo is doing, I'm grateful that he's filling a need. I just wonder what that means when we have to rely on an individual's charity, for the general public to just maintain their health?

Rachel Beatty Riedl  03:47

Absolutely, right. Right. What's the role of the state? And how do we look to alternatives? And then these questions about, well, what do the alternatives do in terms of, you know, the age old formula of exit, voice and loyalty in terms of, you know, do people have that sense of demanding of the state? Or do they look for other options, right? So speaking of state and state, politics, bureaucracy, and what the state is able to provide, and we had a great conversation last week with Mai Hassan, particularly driving building on her work in Kenya, and really talking about what the bureaucracy is able to do and how the bureaucracy is not one single coherent thing but with different interests and entities and how the state income and political leaders attempt to control it. So that's really an excellent episode that speaks to these questions as well about who's supposed to provide and how it happens or doesn't happen. But I wanted to just draw our listeners attention to the kind of new movements in Kenyan politics as we are all looking ahead to the August 22 presidential elections. And this last week, Kenyan incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta endorsed his longtime opponent, Raila Odinga for the upcoming presidential elections now Kenyatta is no longer eligible. He's, you know, at the end of his term limits. And so, you know, the question is like, Who will he throw his hat to and he's made that decision. Despite decades of this bitter rivalry between Kenyatta and Odinga. Kenyatta went ahead and said, I think he's far more qualified than the opposition challenger, William Ruto. There was a great piece in the conversation this week by Gabrielle Lynch, Karuti Kanyinga, and Nic Cheeseman, where they argue that this actually bodes well in a sense for what is likely to be the electoral season, you know, leading up to the August elections and post elections because of the importance and Kenyan politics of elite cohesion. And they argue that elite cohesion is more important than just thinking about ethnicity, generally, to this outcome of political stability, right, that the way in which elites think about their, their ability to get things done to coalesce to around elite interests is much more important in some senses to limiting electoral violence. And so in that sense, it is really a matter of life and death in a way that we might have thought is only limited to a kind of ethnic lens. Now against this new alliance, William Ruto has renewed his critique, of course, of Kenyatta going full throttle in terms of an argument that Kenya's economic policies have been disastrous and accumulating national debt in particular. So, Ruto is now firmly ensconced as the opposition challenger. As we look ahead to August.

Kim Yi Dionne  07:06

Hilarious, because he's literally been the vice president all this time. So it's like, oh, this administration has done a terrible job, even though I've been part of it. Fascinating. 

Rachel Beatty Riedl  07:17

Yeah exactly. Yep. Never a dull moment.

Kim Yi Dionne  07:21

Now. So one last thing that I want to share with our listeners, kind of staying in the same realm, but moving a bit north, northeast here to Somaliland. So when one thing that I read in foreign policies Africa Brief that was compiled by Nosmot Gbadamosi deals with Somaliland sovereignty as Gbadamosi writes Somaliland leader, Muse Bihi Abdi, and its foreign minister, Essa Kayd Mohamoud, visited Washington D.C. last week, urging recognition of the territories sovereignty and separation from Somalia. But the Biden administration insisted that the region will continue to be treated under the framework of a single Somalia policy, right? Interesting phrasing there, because it makes me think of like the single China policy, you know, that which we do not here in the United States recognize. Now for the last 30 years, Somaliland has functioned as a relatively peaceful de facto state having its own currency, military, government institutions and regular democratic elections since 1991. I'm thinking in particular, Nic Eubanks. a fascinating article about Somaliland written gosh, I mean, it's that article is over 10 years old now about how it's kind of alienation from much of the world because of its lack of being recognized is, is really important. Well, so our listeners should check out the Foreign Policy in Africa Brief, but they should also read the longer report in foreign policy about this kind of lobbying activity by Somalilanders in Washington, D.C. So now let's turn to this week's episode when Gretchen and Soinato talk about identity and well, foreignness in Kenya and I'm really excited for our listeners to hear this. These two friends kind of encountering their own understandings of identity and belonging in Kenya and hearing what others have to say about it as well.

Soinato Leboo  09:24

Hello, everyone, this is Soinato.

Gretchen Walch  09:28

And this is Gretchen. We're really excited about the topic this week. Before we dive in, we wanted to kind of tell you what sparked this topic.

Soinato Leboo  09:39

So Gretchen and I have had countless conversations with each other and other people, dissecting the Kenyan identity and being foreign. For Gretchen it is her ability to speak Swahili, and different words from various Kenyan mother tongues.

Gretchen Walch  09:54

For Soinato, it's her accent that makes Kenyans pause and ask about her origins. So, at this point, I think we should tell everyone that we like to call ourselves the Zamo podcast Zamo coming from the Swahili word ‘mtazomo,’ which means perspective. So while putting this episode together, we enjoyed learning from different people's perspectives on what it means to be Kenyan, but somehow also be treated as foreign.

Soinato Leboo  10:22

We spoke to Purvi Patel, an Indian Kenyan, Fatuma Sarah, a Somali Kenyan Meshach, a Congolese Kenyan, and Naushad Khan, an Indian Kenyan. We know all of them from our time at USIU Africa. A private university in Nairobi, we had the pleasure of getting their perspective and personal experience on this topic.

Gretchen Walch  10:48

This journey started by examining our own experiences with this topic, and actually interviewing each other. So Soinato talks about pushing back on people's assumptions about who she is, and eventually going on a journey to create her own Kenyan identity.

Soinato Leboo  11:05

Kenya isn't your home and I'm like, well, it is my home. Like, I really tried to push back. And like, this is my home. What else do you want me to do? So, there are people in their mind, they just can't, they can't fathom that someone can have a different accent and experience and still be of the same identity as them. People will say what they want, people will make fun of you like my accent and this and that make assumptions. So after a while, I was able to understand people and what they say. And in the end, I've kind of developed my own identity, because to be honest, I don't think I will ever be 100% integrated, and that's okay, I have to accept it. There is no way that I can go back in time and change my upbringing and what I wish I would have known when I was younger, there's no way. So from now on, it's more about what do I want? What do I want to identify as Soina? You know, who, what are those components that I will take from living here, experiencing this, living there? I have to create like my own identity. And it's not of the typical, like typical Kenyan identity and that's okay. Because I know they're, from now meeting so many different types of Kenyans, I know that I'm not the only one. And Gretchen talks about talking Sheng riding in my mataus. How Kenyans conceptualize time, and constantly being told by Kenyans that she is more Kenyan than them.

Gretchen Walch  12:48

The moments when, um when I feel the most connected is when I know certain phrases or experiences. So for example, like um, I always find it interesting when I'm meeting someone for the first time, and I'll be like, oh, “Niaje”, which is right, a slang, but it's like as if they just got so confused, because there's mzungu sitting in front of them, and then all of a sudden, she's not only saying Swahili but then like, I've literally had someone tell me like, ‘not only did you say Swahili, you said sheng’ like where did this mzungu come from? I've had Kenyans tell me before like ‘your Swahili is better than mine.’ Or like, you have more of these quote-on-quote, “Kenyan traits”. And for me, like I personally just jive with and enjoy, like the matatu culture for every reason including the sarcasm of the conductors. The conceptualization of time of just being like, we're gonna take time to like, have a conversation with each other, whatever the context is, and we're not always, you're not going to always rush everywhere, or it's okay, if you're 5/10 minutes late when you're meeting a friend because it's life, or even just the sentiment of wanting to take long vacations or you know, having enjoyment on the weekend, that's not just recuperating from work, which I feel like is a trend at home in the US. So just that kind I've shared, you know, you have these other interests. 

Our interviewees described what it means to be Kenyan, and some of the characteristics that contribute to the Kenyan identity.

Soinato Leboo  14:21

I love what Meshach said about the positive and negative traits that Kenyans have.

Meshach 14:27

Kenyans are friendly. They have that urgency in doing things. In a workplace, how they carry themselves, like a Kenyan will see an idea and go for it.

Meshach 14:44

Compared to, in this case, Congolese, they love to like analyze, but a Kenyan they learn from experience? You better like, fail, come back and do other stuff. Wherever you go, your second name, your last name matters a lot more than your person, your degree, anything. Your second name is better, you have to know people, and that’s the problem with being Kenyan.

Soinato Leboo  15:14

And then Khan was able to take us through a journey of her Kenyan-ness developing through the years. And what it means to be a typical Kenyan,

Khan 15:23

You’d be surprised. They are those who are really hard working and they are so determined to make a career. They go out and really indulge themselves in education. And those who…whatever their ambition is, most of the time they really go for it and.. how do… they are very hardworking. That's what I'll say, that's what Kenyans are generally. I'd say that I am really a typical Kenyan, because when it comes to interacting, I really interacted with, with the Kenyans, the African Kenyans, and I, I indulge into their kind of culinary, I have learnt how to cook, and, and their way of living. Even if you are neighbors you would mind your own business, but when it comes to social gatherings, we are all so friends, and there's so much cohesion, and we help each other. And if there is a, if there is a death, we all get together. When I say we all get together, actually I'm the only Asian amongst all the Kikuyus that I stay around with. And I go and I'll be in their Mashakaya’s, in their mambolezi’s, in their funerals, when it comes to weddings, we go for the Ruracio.

Gretchen Walch  17:02

Purvi spoke about the uniting holidays in Kenya, how celebration is present regardless of the surrounding circumstances. She talked about the uniting and dividing tribes and languages, as well as the pride of Mpesa.

Purvi 17:19

Yeah, here we usually, according to me, how we, I always think people interpret each other is through their tribe. Like they say that they usually have that stereotype that Luo’s are rich, you know, Kikuyu’s, don't spend much. Yeah, so since I've done business, what I think, that if you have a business and you're on the counter, you have to have people of different tribes giving services, you have to have someone with a Luo with Kisii, because I know here even when it's voting, people usually vote for their tribes. So even when it comes to customer service, people always prefer to talk to someone who knows their language. What is common in all Kenyans is that they all they all love, love Ugali. You can have ugali with a omena, you can have ugali with cabbage, ugali with anything but I know many restaurants that have ugali. One thing that all Kenyans look for is ugali. They love it. Even I, myself, I love ugali. But we have some things that no other country in the world has like MPESA, whether the economy's doing good or not, people are still gonna celebrate Christmas like they always do. The kids are gonna go, they're gonna get pocket money, they're gonna be in and out of the supermarket, they’re gonna paint their faces. They're gonna take pictures, wear new clothes, it's really nice to see all that. During this COVID times I thought people would not spend that much on Christmas and at that time, I was working at a retail store, a supermarket. And it was crazy. Like they did more sales than even last year. So I'm like, Christmas, whether it's COVID or not, no option everyone's just gonna spend, which is nice.

Gretchen Walch  19:29

And Sarah commented on the matatu culture and always being late.

Sarah 19:36

The first thing that is very common with us Kenyans is our time management. There's just this way we understand each other when you're told to show up at nine. You always go with the expectation that someone's going to be maybe even an hour late. And it's just this understanding that it's, nothing to be mad about, to get angry about because it's just in our nature. Definitely, the one thing I know if I, if I move out of Kenya I’d miss is the matatu culture. I mean, when you take buses, it's amazing, the graffiti, the music, it's just something about it that feels like home.

Soinato Leboo  20:23

So Gretchen, after discussing these common characteristics, and behaviors that Kenyans exhibit, what was next for examining this topic a bit deeper?

Gretchen Walch  20:35

We started these interviews with specific questions. And really, we had an idea, I think of where we thought those conversations might go. But after the first question, each interviewee just had a rich and interesting personal story to tell about their lived Kenyan experience.

Khan 20:52

I had detached from my own community, from my own culture, from my own people. Yes, I know, I was brought up. And I know my cultures. I have not forgotten them. And I know if I have to go to any Asian community or any Asian occasion, I know their occasions and I know their cultures, so when I'm there, and I get a chance of being part of it, I am part of it. But I have interacted more with the Africans. And so I know more about the Africans more especially, specifically, the Kikuyus because I've stayed with them for over 40 years. So, I know it's so that now I know most of their cultures.

Sarah 21:38

I mean, being for me, like born and raised here in Kenya. So I guess it's just been something that has been instilled in me. And I'm so used to the culture that you know, when you're exposed to something for a long time, you tend to just go along with it. It feels like home so in as much as yes there's a lot of things that say you know, I’d want to change, but I guess, what would I say…In as much as yes, I'd love to change a few things. But for now, it's more like a cocoon I've been in for a long time. So it's been amazing I guess.

Meshach 22:26

I was raised by a Congolese mother so it will be different from, I will be…most of my siblings and myself I will be we’re all different from other guys because borrowing my mom's culture. I’ll treat people with that courteousness. How you respond to calls, you know when you're called? You have to like call like, you know, the French one, “présent”, present. When you call, “Meshach!” “Présent, Mama.” When receiving something, you have to bend, how you talk to people, how you greet people is totally different from being a Kenyan. It happened when I was in school. At first people knew we were Kenyans because we had birth certificates from Kenya. And when time goes on people, like eh you guys are different. How do you bend? When you’re given something? Yeah, that doesn’t even happen to Kenyan students. So we were like yeah, that's, we were raised by our mother, our mother raised us well. So we just tell them that, just to avoid being say, being a Congolese you know.

Purvi 23:47

So usually, first, of course, when a person meets me, and they just think like, I don't know, Swahili, and probably if I do know, it's just a little and it's broken. But then when I speak to them, and if I try to speak in not only, Swahili, but I tried to mix a bit with their mother tongue, they get so surprised, and they even respect me more. And then they say that “huyu ni mkenya”, like, I am Kenyan. I'm not Indian or anything. I'm just Kenyan, like, from my behavior, from how I speak, as they get, when they get to know me slowly.

Soinato Leboo  24:27

By this time in the interview, we were captured by each individual person story, and felt like a web of emotion, experiences and thoughts were forming that was connecting each interview to the other.

Gretchen Walch  24:41

There was an overwhelming sentiment of being welcomed as a Kenyan. But we also wanted to know if and how people had been made to feel othered or different.

Purvi 24:52

If you're Kenyan, but you don't look like you're or you're from another country, like your parents or from another country, you're actually Kenyan, and you have a business here. They KRA, the government will come for your business first, they will make sure you pay taxes. Doesn't matter whether the locals are paying taxes or not. They don't look into them, but what I have noticed is that they come for Indian owned businesses, first.

Sarah 25:24

Other than that, a lot of my students are Muslims, Somalis especially, and I see that one of the things that troubled them the most is the culture of Islamophobia that is in Kenya. I mean, in as much as you're born here in as much as there's a lot of Somalis in northeastern Kenya. I mean, there's just a level of I don't know, there's a level of alienation that you get, especially, I mean, with the police, when you're trying to enter malls, you get scrutinized more compared to other Kenyans, you tend to pass through a lot of security check. And I know this is the reality in most countries. But I mean, for, for Kenya specifically, it's a bit bizarre, because when you when you look at the demographic profile of Kenya, I mean, the second largest religion is Islam and just having to go through that day in, day out, it's scary. When growing up, I never really had a problem because again, I was raised in Western Kenya. So, in those sides, you don't you don't get a lot of this. You know, either, is it… You know, you don't get profiled as much. But I really felt it when I was getting my identification card when I was 18. First of all, you have to go through a vetting process that is not subjected to every other Kenyan. So it's, it's just designated to Muslims and especially Somalis. So, I remember, I mean, that was so heartbreaking for me. You know, it's the first time that I felt less of a Kenyan. Because, I mean, I was 18. I remember I was excited to join university, but then I needed to really get my ID and here I was going for an interview and in the room there were about seven, eight people. Most of them, they were, I remember there was the chief, there was you know, like, so many government officials, basically. And they asked me a lot of questions. I was literally being grilled, you know, and funny enough, I mean, I could speak Swahili, you know, I could speak confidently. Because I mean, I'm born and raised here other than Swahili, I could speak the indigenous language of the place I grew up in. And it just felt so, so wrong, you know? So anyways, I did the vetting process, and just even waiting for my ID, I waited for like, almost a year plus, before I could get it, and most of my, my peers, they got it immediately. And in fact, the thing that really hurt me the most was the fact that in high school, I mean, the government tends to bring guys over to high schools, and you get to have your ID processed then. But for I mean Muslims, especially Somalis, that's not an option for you. So you're just told no, for you, you have to actually go to the offices and apply. So it's really sad. And as if that wasn't enough, again, when I was trying to get my passport, I had to go through the same vetting process. I mean, the same vetting process, which, at this point doesn't even make sense. Because I mean, I already did that before, you know. And the funny thing was that I applied for my passport in 2016, and only got it in 2020. The worst thing is that, you know, I mean, I mentioned that corruption is bad in Kenya. And the worst thing is that even if you don't believe I mean, even if you hate and condemn corruption in Kenya, for you to survive, you have to, any you know, at some point in your life, you have to also be corrupt, you know. So in both instances, I had to pay to get both my passport and my identification card.

Gretchen Walch  29:35

We wanted to interject here to discuss this point. We noted that both Purvi and Sarah discussed feeling welcomed by their fellow Kenyans, but had experienced isolated events where they felt othered by government or security officials. We had interviewed Sarah a few days after speaking with Purvi, and we took the opportunity to ask her thoughts on this trend. 

So, Sarah let me ask, you does this idea of government or security officials making you feel quote-on-quote, “less Kenyan,” rather than your neighbors or fellow Kenyans resonate with your experience?

Sarah 30:14

It actually does, Gretchen. Because the thing is in, I've noticed, I mean, Kenyans are so welcoming. I mean, I don't think there’s any place I mean, any country or any place, I'd go and actually feel like home. So at no given point, did any Kenyan I mean, you know, common mwananchi, make me feel a certain way or make me, you know, feel different. I only felt this when I mean, the first time I felt this was in a government office. And later on, I mean, when I'm going to malls, you know, the security system. So yes, it's more or less like the government, it's more or less like a government thing.

Meshach 30:57

I’m Congolese Kenyan, until I was like a teenager. So that's how I grew and it converted my lifestyle. until like, right now I'm big. So, I remember going to, I was in this town to receive my sister's documents. The other day, I think, last year, so they already signed everything, the documents, I went to pick it. We were speaking English. So I'm like, Okay, you're done. You can take your, your certificate sister’s certificate. So, I take the certificate, I bent and I’m like “Thank you.” He looked at me for a second, “Are you Kenyan?” He asked my second name, “What's the second?” I said Barongo. “No, no what’s your father’s name?” I said, “Basmaki.” “You're not a Kenyan.” [laughs] I said “I’m a Kenyan, why did you just ask?” He said, “You’re too courteous”. He said, Kenyans are not as the same way. I said like, yeah, I was raised different. He accepted.

Khan 32:02

They accepted me in their community. And you know, there was a time. I even used to keep the chicken, the broilers the layers. I also had a cow, zero grazing. And then I also had a one, a few goats. And I bought a donkey. And then I, because I had zero grazing cow, I used to have, I rented a shamba, where I used to grow the nipia grass. And my donkey used to go pick it, it had a cart. And so after, around that time, they were actually really surprised at the hard work and the work that I was doing. And they actually called me Nyawera. Nyawera, means, “the person who works hard.” And so from there on, they started calling Nyawera. And they started seeing that I was not a snob, and I was down to earth. And so they really accepted me. So those who know, have known me for all those 40 years, they know me and they also know that I know their language. So they'll, they'll even tell the others when I go to the market or something, they'll tell them, “Don't gossip, she understands everything.” For those, all those people, they know me, and they know, and on the road, every two three steps I go, they greet me because they know me.

Soinato Leboo  33:23

Each interview ended with a discussion about where Kenya is going. 

Khan 33:27

You know, the leaders are really manipulating small, hungry people. I wish that would change. I wish the systems of the government would change you know, corruption. Oh my god. Corruption, Kenya is known in the world, is one of the top, top listed countries. If they could just do away with corruption, my god, I think Kenya would be very far. We would do so many things together. That's something I feel so bad about. You know, you don't have security, even security, security, leadership. I don’t know. That's what I feel so bad about, being a Kenyan.

Sarah 34:26

Definitely, one of my favorite voices, activist, is Boniface Mwangi. He's doing a great job. I mean, the guy has dedicated his life in you know, just trying to, you know, trying to bring out the ugly, you know, and trying to fight the system. When I look at, you know, digital content creators. There's this page on Instagram, it's called “Police Brutality Kenya.” It highlights the, you know, the immensity of police brutality in Kenya and it’s sad. And I guess this is the type of people we need to remind us of all the wrong things that we're settling for as Kenyans. Because I mean, there's this concept of a happy slave when you're subjected to, to, you know, when you're subjected to a situation, especially a bad situation for a long period of time, you tend to get comfortable, and you tend to, you know, you tend to be comfortable enough to want to stay in that situation. And what these guys are doing is that, you know, they're changing one mind at a time, just trying to, you know, trying to highlight the negative, the vices in the society things that we should actually put our energy to you know. There’s brilliant Kenyans Kenyan minds. And if there's someone I mean, if there's a person that I'm truly grateful for it’s Wangari Maathai, the late Wangari Maathai, because, you know, she really fought for our country. And she, if there's anything I've learned from her other than, you know, how important the environment is, is the will to just, you know, fight, you know, fight for the things you believe in, you know, I mean, change, change can happen globally, but only if it starts locally, you know, and she's, she's shown us that that is possible.

Purvi 36:21

You may be raised in Kenya, but you look different. But once they know you know, their language, they love it. You will have all the customers. Try to have a bit of Luo, learn a bit of Jaluo or learn a bit Kisii, a bit of Kikuyu. Yeah? That way you keep all kinds of customers coming back to your business.

Meshach 36:44

For Kenyans they always have that comparison spirit? I want to be like this. I want to be like that one. So that's why I always feel like most people entering, want to be in government, because I want to be corrupt, corruption. I wanted eat that money. Yeah. So that's a problem with Kenyans. If they can change that spirit? Because they're hardworking people, they're patient people, they can, they’re perseverant, they can enjoy a lot of stuff. But the only thing that's killing them, that joy, because you’ll learn, they say Kenyans are the most sad people in Africa. So you see? 

Soinato Leboo 37:27

Who says that? Or is that just general?

Meshach 37:32

You can check it. Yes, it was after, is it Somalia or Sudan, one of the countries, top five, because of their comparison, you  want to be like someone else and want to be like this, and this and this, just be you do whatever you can, in due time it will manifest. But I always feel, they succeed when they go out of their comfort zone, because they're willing to stick to themselves. You will walk here, you know, he’s a Congolese, even though he’s just there, you’ll know he’s a Congolese because they want to receive to be people there and they're doing the best they can to be what they want to be. I'm not saying Kenyans are bad, they're good, just corruption.

Gretchen Walch  38:21

All of our interviewees discussed the sense of community they have felt in Kenya, a desire to build and achieve goals as a country. And this reality of Kenyans being hardworking. It has been a really beautiful experience for us hearing everyone's thoughts and personal stories. And we want to take this moment to thank each of our guests for being vulnerable with their stories, generous with their time, and for sharing just brilliant insight and wisdom on this topic.

Soinato Leboo  38:55

What I really liked about Meshach’s interview was that he combined his good characteristics from his Congolese and Kenyan background in order to create an identity for himself, wanting to contribute positively to his hometown of Kisumu, but also wanting to go back to Congo, plant roots and make a difference in the future.

Gretchen Walch  39:19

Meanwhile, Khan grew up with the African Kenyan community. Without much interaction with her Indian community. She moved to Kikuyu, where she further integrated with Kenyans, specifically Kikuyu’s who eventually grew to accept and love her for the past 40 years. She hopes for a better Kenya where the leaders actually help its citizens and help push the country forward.

Soinato Leboo  39:44

And then Purvi demonstrated how you can flip the divide of languages on its head by learning other people's mother tongues and creating a sense of welcoming which she herself has felt.

Gretchen Walch  39:58

Sarah illustrated for us, this image of Kenyan culture as a cocoon that surrounds her and that she loves, but she also has hope for change in the country as inspired by activists like Boniface Mwangi. And, of course, the infamous Wangari Maathai.

Soinato Leboo  40:17

There's the same sense of unitedness in the future of Kenya, from all of these interviews, in the same way that you see the beaded Kenyan bracelet on the arms of the common Kenyan, all the way up to the President, is the same sense of the unitedness that Kenyans have towards building a brighter future.

Gretchen Walch  40:36

We truly hope that this episode resonated with those listening, but we know this is only part of the story, and we want to invite listeners to share their experiences. With the intersection of Kenyaness and foreignness in Kenya.

Soinato Leboo  40:52

You can interact with us through the usual for Ufahamu Africa channels, where the episodes will be posted, or on twitter at zamo_podcast. You can also send us comments or even a voice note to our email zamopod@gmail.com.

Gretchen Walch  41:12

With that, we want to thank the entire Ufahamu Africa team for making this possible. Megan DeMint our producer, Ufahamu Africa co-hosts Kim Yi Dionne and Rachel Beatty Riedel. Special thanks to Rachel for her input on this episode. And to our audience, we look forward to hearing your perspectives very soon.

Kim Yi Dionne  41:34

Thanks for listening to this week's episode of Ufahamu Africa. You can find more episodes, show notes and transcripts on our website ufahamuafrica.com. This podcast is produced and managed by Megan DeMint. With help from production assistants, Jack Cubana, Chiclets Jack Kubinec, Chukwufunanya Ikechukwu, and Manuel Tah Pech or non-resident podcast fellows are Chido Nyaruwata, Wanjiku Ngugi, Samah Fawzi, Gretchen Walch, and Soinato Leboo. We are generously supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and received research assistance from Cornell University and the University of California Riverside. Our music is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod. Until next week, Safiri Salama.