Instead of continuing on the theme of why Kigali
and Rwanda in general is considered the cleanliness capital of
Eastern Africa and probably most of Africa, I will digress a
little this week and come back to Kenya,
writes TETI KAMUGUNDA.
We were talking last
week about the Rwandese concept of “Umuganda” (or the coming
together in common purpose to achieve an outcome) and how it has
helped to transform and stabilise the country…. and act as the
driver to the cleanliness that we see in the country among other
In Kenya we have an
almost equivalent that we call “Harambee”.
We are told that it
has its origin in the Swahili language and means to “pull
differ in the real origin with some saying that it originated
from a Hindu expression - Har Ambe - which is an invocation to
the God Ambe for strength.
This was apparently
used by the railway workers who built the railway line from
Mombasa to Kisumu which is otherwise known as the Lunatic
It is said that they
would chant “Har Ambe” every time they needed to work in unison
or found some work that required extra strength.
The locals then
assimilated the words into their vocabulary and it became the
word Harambee as we know it today.
The other school of
thought about the origin of the word is that it came from a word
borrowed from the Miji Kenda word Halumbe which means pull or
This was similarly
used when extra effort was required or people were required to
The word was
corrupted by pronunciation to Harambee which is then considered
to have stuck till this day.
Whatever the origin
– and I have no preference – the word was made popular by the
founding father of the nation Mzee Jomo Kenyatta when he used it
as a rallying call to bring Kenyans together to build the
He would shout
“Harambee” and the crowd would respond “Eee”.
This was used either
to open a rally to set the tone or at the end of rally.
Quite often it was
used in the middle when one felt that the meeting was getting a
bit stale and people needed to be roused or else to check that
the crowd was still engaged.
It was however
applied in many different circumstances.
When a community
wanted to build a school, they would come together and each
contribute whatever they had towards that effort.
Some would provide
building material, others would provide some produce from their
stock which would then be sold during the effort to raise money
towards the construction and some others would provide their
labour and expertise as their contribution.
The ways of joining
into a harambee effort were numerous and there was no one single
way of doing it.
when the word harambee was applied was when a community or a
group of friends got together to raise money towards a specific
need or needs.
People would gather
in a place and a specialised master of ceremonies would run the
proceedings and use his wit and guile to extract as much money
as he could from the people assembled.
Most times those
attending know what they had been called for and would carry
whatever they could to contribute to whatever cause was on the
Reasons for holding
“harambees” varied from raising money for school fees,
unexpected hospital bills, sending people abroad for treatment
or education, building school infrastructure or any other
community type facility, weddings, parties and so forth.
The list was long
but the common denominator was raising money.
This form of
harambee became the dominate use of the word.
The donation of
one’s service was not considered as contributing to the harambee
– this was just volunteering and had no other value.
To date harambee has
continued to be associated with the unique Kenyan way of crowd
funding – rallying friends, relatives and their associates to a
location to raise money for a declared purpose.
This is very
different from the Rwandese equivalent “Umuganda” which has
continued to promote the four pillars that stands for –
environment, community development, security and unity and
Kenya needs a
rallying call like Umuganda which can stitch the nation together
and also offer a common basis for doing things together.
cultural, religious and economic divisions that are dogging the
country need to be closed through creating a greater and common
purpose that can bind us together
Harambee would be a
great way of starting the journey of creating a clarion call
that could embrace the ethos that we would like to define what
we are and how we relate to each other.
We could perhaps
then start seeing all of us get our cities, towns, villages and
homesteads clean, improve our security help our neighbours
prosper and then truly come together as one united nation.
As Kachumbari says,
we need a new glue to bind the country together.
MOST RECENT ARTICLES
FROM TETI KAMUGUNDA
Visitors Marvel At
The Cleanliness Of Kigali City and even over Rwanda
Police Appear To
Recognise Motoring Novices Breaking The Law!
Kenyan Traffic Bribes:
System Should Begin To Operate Smoothly
Road accidents cost us three hundred billion Kenyan
Authorities Should All Jump In To Solve Driving Woes In This
Drivers Who Fail To Remove Road Rubbish Once Vehicle Is
Examination Methods Now Used To Teach Driving Needs an
Most Sane Drivers Fear Every Time A PSV Appears Near Their
Attempt To Level Playing Field During Political Campaigns
Kenya Bus Service Went Bust Due Onslaught Of The Matatu