We are told that Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta was conceived whilst his father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, was in detention in Maralal.

It is also said that when Uhuru visited Maralal much later as an adult and President of the Republic of Kenya he signed the visitor’s book in that historic house, now preserved as a museum, by remarking that he was glad to be back, but this time walking on his own two feet!

Our childhood are mines of wonderment and mystery. My own childhood was certainly such.

On 31st July 2020, soon after the March-July lockdown on travels to counties had been lifted, I took the time to visit Kitui County, place of my Mother’s birthplace, and my sojourn in the infancy years of my life (1957 to 1960). For five good years, I was raised at Ithokwe, the resting place of my maternal grandfather Philip Masili (1961), Uncle Julius Kiema (1965), and Susu (grandmother) Damaris Nditi (1995). It is home to Auntie Kavinya, the last born sister to my mum.

I am told I was a spoilt brat, cry baby who would give the whole house sleepless nights by my yowls and selfish rants. Well, that did not last long. Grandfather beat the daylights out of me and no one was allowed to touch me, as I rolled all over the flow. The crying ended in a whimper. I stopped crying then. How much I am grateful to granddad for that beating!

I am also told I was adventurous and that I went for the udders of a female donkey to feast on its milk. If it was not for Uncle Kiema, I would have been mashed to a pulp by the double kicks of the beast.

Grandfather Masili had fought in the Second World War, far off in Burma. He had presented his young bride with a green box with military inscription:  `Ordinance’. This was where my grandmother kept her earthly belongings. It was my favorite perch where I listened to legends galore from my beautiful grandmother, with her front teeth sculptured into two diamond-like shapes. This box would haunt us decades later, when in the deathbed, grandmother declared she wanted to be buried in it. My dad was at a loss. It was later resolved that the box be chopped into bits and placed into her grave. Her coffin was lowered onto her favorite box.  We must have done right since she has not haunted any of us, most of all, me.

My grandfather had died 39 years earlier, during the great floods of 1961. He was a great farmer, and worked like a horse. He acquired the prime property by the banks of the mighty Kalundu River. They collided with a neighbor regarding some piece of land by the river. Masili insisted the land was his. The incensed neighbor shouted back in anger:

`No male will remain in your land henceforth. Not even a cock will crow in your homestead’  

Well, it happened. Soon after, grandfather developed a cough and died. His only son died five years later. His descendants were women, my late mum being one.

During my recent visit, I drove eastwards to once again revitalize myself at the foot of the legendary rock of Nzambani (adjacent to the home of Dr. Willy Mutunga, the past immediate past Chief Justice of Kenya). The rock has the power to redistribute the Y chromosome and hence meddle with one’s gender (if you are brave enough to do the demanded 7 rounds, or so they say…). I was last here some 20 years ago with a large team of theatre practitioners researching background material of my epic play `Slow Down My Teacher’ inspired by Joseph Kamaru’s 1968 song on a similar message. Some may recall that the play premiered in Nairobi in September 2001 (the day after the bombing of the Twin Towers in New York) launching Gilbert Lukalia into stardom.

Things have changed in Kitui. The roads are much better, with tarmac roads being laid all around the town. The town is spick and span, though you can still feel the population pressure and empathize with the increase in the poverty index. I end up taking cover from the imposed curfew at the Parkside Hotel in Kitui town that always seems to grow better and better each time I visit. Mama Safi does wonders with that piece of development. After some morning altercation, I make friends with Farid, the recently appointed manager.

Most of the day is spent at the spectacular grounds of the new Kitui County Resort, on the shores of Kalundu Dam. Lovely air and sufficient distancing away from worries of Corona viruses!

1 Comment on Re-visiting Kitui County

One Reply to “Re-visiting Kitui County”

  1. Yor Oguyo, complicated and metamorphic, thanks for the great life journey, especially in the larval stages. Looking forward for pupal and eventually adult sojourns. Humbled

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