Thursday, June 10, 2004

School: Standard 3 (This is my understanding of what happened; I was in 3rd grade)

1969 was a difficult year for non-African Kenyans and non-citizen residents. In Uganda, Idi Amin was deporting non-Ugandans and his definition was very strict. Indians, from India, who had been born in Uganda had their citizenship stripped and were forced to leave the country on short notice. First or second generation, their living was built at the expense of Ugandans. Any property unsold and which could not be carried out became property of the State. Businessmen sold their family stores and businesses at rock bottom prices so that they would have some chance of starting anew in another country. Some people were escorted to the border in trucks and had only what they could carry with them. People took advantage of the State led attitude that Uganda should be for Ugandans and that non-native Ugandans were taking jobs and keeping Ugandans subservient and took the opportunity to get as much as possible for as little in return. There were people who with dignity bought property at decent prices or else promised to hold property until it could be sold for a reasonable return. These helpful friends then sent what they could to help the deportees.

Some deportees were forced out of the country before receiving a visa for another country. Stripped on their citizenship and without permission to enter another country they wobbled from port to airport. Sometimes they would be allowed to stay for a week or two before being sent out again. Several countries set strict limitations on the number of immigrants they would allow from Uganda. Some friends of my father, men in their 50's, knew nothing but shopkeeping in Uganda; there was no place for them in India and with their trail of family members they tried to think of a niche for themselves or resigned themselves to starting over in a totally new country and business.

The eyes of many in Kenya focused on their Indian neighbours, coworkers, shopkeepers. People started pointing fingers and placing economic blame.

My teacher in Standard 3 was expelled from the country with her mother and father. We heard from her several times...Holland, Spain, England but we never found out where or when she found a place to try again to be a citizen.

And me? Born in Kenya, I was told over and over that I was not a true Kenyan. One day, I was assured, I would be forced from the country. No matter how often my sisters explained that I was being baited or how many times I was lectured on "turning the other cheek" I could not stop from answering back. I AM a true Kenyan! I was born here! I go to school! I am learning Swahili just like my classmates! There is no difference between me and my friends in the Post Office flats. We children are all the same when we dance girba and walk on the house walls. I have walked up Longanot and swum at Nakuru. My parents are just like yours: we may not eat many sweets, we must wash our hands and sit quietly, we are swatted and sent to eat out of sight of those with good table manners. I am a Kenyan.
I was a Kenyan but Kenya didn't want me. I am more loyal to her than she to me.

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