The colonizers have become the colonized: Back in the 1950s, a group of American missionaries were travelling from Athi River. They had just finished a week of evangelism to the Mau Mau detainees. They had a common friend in Nairobi and had planned to stop there for a cup of tea. With them was a Kenyan pastor who was a translator in Athi River detention camp. When they got to the house, they were welcomed in. They all began to walk into the house together with the Kenyan pastor who had accompanied them. The British couple, though Christian stopped the Kenyan pastor at the door, “wewe kaa hapo inje ugojee chai yako” they instructed the Kenyan pastor. To them, the Kenyan pastor was not qualified to have a sit inside their home.
Racism and colonialism is not new. We have historical evidence of people refusing to sit down and eat with others because of their race. The oldest is recorded in the book of Genesis chapter 43:32. After Joseph’s brothers came back a second time to Egypt to buy food, Joseph ordered that they be served a meal. This is what the account records happened to them in the house of their brother, “. . . so they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him, by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians.”
In this British narrative we can say of the experience of the Kenyan pastor, “ they served him tea outside by himself because the British could not drink tea with the Kenyans for that is loathsome to the British.” This is how the British colonial government treated Kenyans when Kenya was a colony. Even the fact that the man was a Christian and a member together with them of the church of Jesus Christ, they still judged him as loathsome, or second-class individual who did not qualify to sit with them for tea. After the event, the missionaries apologized and the pastor said he understood the situation.
That man was pastor Timothy Kamau of Kijabe. (I narrate my father’s experiences in my upcoming book titled “Faith and our fathers.” EMG Publishers) There was a time in history when it was said that the sun never sets on the British Empire. This is because the empire composed of nations on every time zone in the world. While it was dark in Africa where the British had colonies, it was daytime in the Americas where they colonized the American continent.
It is therefore a major twist of fate that “Great” Britain is now fighting to leave the European union. It has been reduced to a small island and does not even have control of Northern Ireland. At one time Britain was rounding up people in central Kenya, herding them like sheep in cages, and now they are begging the European union to let them get out of the union. The colonizers have become the colonized!
There is a time when the British were the leaders of the free world. During that time, one could not have imagined the state within which it finds itself. The sad thing is that British parliament continues to act as if it is very special and powerful in the world of politics.
My mother used to chastise us not to treat people differently from how we would like to be treated. As a Christian she would associate divine mercy with personal action. In fact there is a common saying that reminds us not to dig a whole for our fellow man to fall in because we might be the ones who fall in it.
For sure the grand children of the British couple that treated my father so arrogantly, now find themselves begging to be heard. Many times the Word takes long to actuate, but it does become true, “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans: 19:20
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD)
Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist