Dis-Ease in the Colonial State: Medicine, Society, and Social Change among the Abanyole of Western Kenya

By Osaak A. Olumwullah | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
DIS-EASE IN THE COLONIAL STATE:
EXPERIENCE AND MEANING

Obutsilil’li no’lufu (Development is death).1

Abachesi lelo besinganga ne’tsingubo (The learned ones these days bathe with their
clothes on).2


INTRODUCTION

During the 1980s Kenya was a country at once characterized by political and economic despondency. Most Kenyans’ response to the meaning and ramification of this development was aptly summed up in the words of one ’Nyole elder: abatsia hasi basuye (the departed have refused).3 This phrase, commonly used by the AbaNyole during periods of crisis, was a powerful retention of not only the mood of the people but also their efforts at both explanation and will to meaning. Starting with inzala yo’mukolokolo (the famine of omukolokob),4 and followed by political accusations and counteraccusations over what had happened to the country’s food production and distribution system, this decade closed with a series of earth tremors that rocked most parts of Western Kenya.5 As the 1990s opened, and Kenyans braced themselves for major political changes in the country, there erupted a wave of witchcraft accusations among the Mijikenda at the Coast, the Kikuyu of Kiambu District in Central Province, and the Gusii and Abaluyia of Western Kenya.6 Then, in 1992, there was a major malaria epidemic in Northern and Northeastern Kenya. This was followed in early 1993 by an outbreak of yellow fever in the Rift Valley. Analogous to these developments were anxieties over the incidence of the AIDS pandemic in the country.7 This was even more pertinently so in the wake of the dimming of hopes raised by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) that researchers at the institute had

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