By David Maillu
Published June 11, 2023
The Akamba community of eastern Kenya was probably one of the most
affected communities by the East African Slave Trade. History has got it that by the 1700s the Akamba community dominated the long distance trade market between the hinterland and the East African coast.
There are many stories in Ukambani regarding slave traders organizing
slave raids in the hinterland.
There is a story that the famous long distance trader, Kivoi Mwendwa,
was responsible for selling Akamba to slave traders.
Many of those sold into slavery ended up in both North and South America. A good example are the Kamba of Paraguay whose ancestors arrived there in the company of Jose Gervasio Artigas , a Uruguayan General who had fled his country and sought refuge in Paraguay. His regiment of freed slaves was known as the Kamba.
The soldiers were given two enclaves that eventually became Kamba Cua and Kamba Kokue.
Today, the descendants of these soldiers speak Guarani, Paraguay’s local language.
The general consensus is that the 250 people who arrived with Artigas were a regiment of loyal soldiers of Kamba descent.
In Guarani, the word “Kamba” now generally means “black.” “Kamba Cua” translates to “black people’s hollow.” The other group, “Kamba Kokue”, get their name from “Chakra de negros” (‘farm of blacks’ in Guarani).The Kamba make up a minority of the Afro-descendants in Paraguay, who themselves only make up 1.2 percent. They were dispossessed of the land they got from Francia in the 1940s. Then there was another push in the 1960s that triggered protests and left the community with only three hectares of land.
Still, the community’s music has become its most notable voice. It is, much like that of the Kamba of Kenya, identified with drumming and accompanying dramatic dance. The polyrhythmic drum beats are graced with energetic leaps and even at times, somersaults. At the heart of this revolution is a renowned dance group called Ballet Kamba Cua led by a man called Lazaro Medina. Cua is corrupted from “kua” in Kikamba which means “carry.” The other “Kokue” is typical Kamba word meaning, “get it and carry it.”
So why am I telling you all this?
It can’t have been the wish of Kamba to go to Paraguay. In whatever form, they must have been taken there as slaves. Anyone who has ever landed in South American countries returns home with disturbing awareness of how black people are discriminated. He would, therefore, know the condition of the Akamba of Paraguay and the help they deserve. Argentina tried to get rid of black people by killing them like dogs. They succeeded in nearly liberating them from blacks. The black skin is a liability anywhere out of Africa.
It is so heartbreaking for me to hear that the Paraguay Kamba have been robbed of everything and that a
population of nearly 800 owns ONLY 3 hectares of land while their brothers and sisters in Kenya own massive parcels of land.
Ever read my Ki Kyambonie (What has Happened to Me?) and Kila Kimuisaa Mukamba (What devours the Kamba community?)? This explosive political commentary on the Kamba political landscape since Kenya’s independence in 1963 could as well be talking about the Kamba in Paraguay, Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Like Africans in the West and Jews who are returning to their roots in West Africa and the Middle East, it is recommended that the Kamba community, led by its political leaders like Wavinya Ndeti, Charity Ngilu, Johnstone Muthama, Kalonzo Musyoka and others rally the community together to assist in bringing the Paraguay Kamba back to the their homeland in Kenya.