Cartels crucified Jesus: Lands of African kings versus the kingdom of God

Cartels crucified Jesus: Lands of African kings versus the kingdom of God

Cartels crucified JesusChristmas is a few days away and, this being the last column of the year, it seems appropriate to end it on a religious-political note with the moral of Aniceti Kitereza’s life.

Unless you are a Tanzanian history buff or scholar of African literature, you might not have heard of Aniceti Kitereza. The Tanzanian novelist was born in 1896 and died on April 20, 1981.


He is famous for his 1945 novel, Myombekere na Bugonoka na Ntulanalwo na Bulihwali, which he wrote in his Kikerewe (Kerewe) language, spoken on Ukerewe Island in Lake Victoria.

It was also the first modern novel in Kikerewe.

Kitereza’s father died in 1901 and, having relationship to royalty, he and his mother went to live with Omukama (King) Mukaka. A generous man, King Mukaka brought up Kitereza as one of his own children.

We read in a Wikipedia entry that, determined to learn the secrets of the “white man’s power and knowledge”, King Mukaka sent his sons and those of his close relatives to study with white missionaries at the Roman Catholic Mission School in nearby Kagunguli village.

“In contrast, other kings and traditional rulers elsewhere in the colony sent the sons of their slaves and servants to school in place of their own to avoid the contamination of the white man’s religion and education,” the report notes.


Indeed, King Mukaka’s approach wasn’t universal.

Beyond Tanganyika (Tanzania), in many other kingdoms and territories in Africa, quite a few African rulers, especially the nationalist ones, were rightly suspicious of the European colonialists and missionaries and didn’t send their sons to “mzungu schools” that would “spoil and corrupt” them with unAfrican ways.

Several, instead, sent their daughters, because they were not in the line of succession to throne and, in the patriarchal logic that still persists, they weren’t part of the bigger power equation.

When Ruhumbika succeeded his father King Mukaka, he encouraged Kitereza to move further afield to pursue higher education at a Roman Catholic seminary. In the end, Kitereza mastered Latin, Greek, German (the language of the colonial masters in Tanganyika then), Kiswahili and, later, English after the German defeat in the World War I and their ejection from Tanzania. He also studied theology and philosophy.


It is true that, all over Africa in that period, there are cases of people like Kitereza who went over to the other side and became reactionaries and either opposed independence or wanted a soft version of it.

However, in most cases, they became the vanguard of the African nationalist movement with some who were steeped in missionary education, Tanzania’s founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere being a good example, taking quite a radical line.

But several of those Nyerere types were also antimonarchist republicans who sought not just independence from European colonialists but also to get rid of kingdoms altogether or dramatically reduce their power because they considered them undemocratic.

And in sending only their daughters, and not sons, to the “white man’s schools”, one of the unintended consequences was that many of those young women in Namibia, Ghana, Sierra Leone or Namibia, to name a few, got married to the first generation of European missionaries, colonial officials and teachers, who married African “locally”.


This gave them some in-law legitimacy and, in West Africa, many of them formed the first African globalist elite who controlled economic and political power before — and, indeed, after — independence. However, their new power was largely organised outside the royal households of their maternal grandparents.

The African rulers of the time should have heeded the counsel of the great Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu, who, in his The Art of War, said: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

Many great African courts were proud, staunchly nationalist and distrustful of foreigners. It was admirable, but also the source of their fall. They sent their sons to fight the enemy before they had studied him.


You could argue that God was a Sun Tzu sort of guy. He dispatched his son Jesus Christ out there, among sinners and Gentiles. The cartels crucified him, yes, but his brand and business are still going, more than 2,000 years later. No ancient African kingdom has lasted that long.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Mr Onyango-Obbo is curator of the “Wall of Great Africans” and publisher of explainer site @cobbo3

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