On our way back we decide to take a detour at Lungalunga towards Vanga and explore the southern coast and the ‘absurdity’ of a border separating one community. We stop our vehicles in Kenya, walk about 100 meters south and we are right in the middle of Jasini, a vibrant settlement, a typical Digo-Swahili community. As we walk down a narrow ‘street’, we are reminded by the locals that some of us are in Kenya, and some are in Tanzania. There is no physical border as such, save for a few landmarks scattered around the village. Our attention is attracted to a street corner. A minibus with Tanzania registration number is parked facing south, 50 centimetres from the ‘border’. It is rightfully in Tanzania, and makes daily trips to and from Tanga in Tanzania, in the service of the Digo community across the border. The cross-border movement of people becomes especially handy during national election time in Kenya. We are informed that about 1000 individuals cross the invisible border to vote in Kenya!
At Vanga town we look for a Member of the County Assembly (MCA) called Yusuph Mbwana, a friend of Chirau. We meet Hassan Kibwanga Mwatosya, one of Chirau’s ardent political supporters who asks Chirau for financial support! We are informed that Vanga town is the home of Juma Boy, a famous name in Kenya coastal politics. Other famous names from the coast include Ronald Gideon Ngala (RIP), Robert Stanley Matano (RIP), Karisa Maitha, Shariff Nassir, Dawson Mwanyumba, Chirau Ali Mwakwere, Kassim Mwamzandi, Abdalla Ngozi, Ali Masudi Mwakileo, Suleiman Rashid Shakombo, Mbwana Ali Warrakah, Darius Mbele, Noah Katana Ngala, Juxton Shako, Marsden Madoka, Eliud Mwamunga, Morris Dzoro, Najib Balala, Ms. Marere Mwachai, Kazungu Kambi, Mashengu Mwachofi, Chibule wa Tsuma, Jembe Mwakalu, Caister Mwatela, George Mkangi, Abdulrahman Omar heka, Japhet Kase, John Mumba, Israel Lekwa Dhaidoo, Yuda Komora, Mwacharo Kubo, Mzamil Omar Mzamil, Mohamedali, Joe Khamisi, Omar Zonga, Rashid Mzee, Ali Bidu, Mwalimu Kombe, Mwidau, Msanifu Kombo, Sammy Omari, James Mwatsama, John Mvoyi, Ms Naomi Shabani, Kennedy Kiliku, Boy Juma Boy, Mathias Kea, Mtana Lewa, Mwadeghu, Suleiman Mwaronga Kamolle, Samson Mware, Morris Mboja, John Mnene, Lukindo, Ben Gunda, Mwacharo Kubo, Chief Kitonga, Roky Mchinga, Hassan Ali Joho, Ms Mishi Masika Warrakah, Dawson Mungatana, Mwandawiro Mghanga, Ms Aisha Jumwa and Mwasambu Mwaboza. Chirau and I usually share a joke: I affirm, emphatically too, that all those in Mijikenda with a prefix Mwa, must have come from Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. He says Nyakyusas must have originated from Digo land!
From Vanga we pass through a large plantation whose sight intrigues us. It is neither sugar cane nor sisal. We sop to ask the attendants who inform us it is a tea tree plantation (not a tea plantation). Tea tree is used for the manufacture of cosmetics and for pharmaceutical uses.
We then pass through Mangawani. Chirau informs us Manga means cassava in KiDigo. From there we drive through Mazoreni. Chirau asks me if I remember Omari Nundu. “Of course, I do”. The late Omari Nundu (RIP), a Digo from Tanga, and I were in the same cohort which in 1971 benefitted from Government of Tanzania scholarships to study abroad. He went to Glasgow University to pursue aeronautical engineering as I was admitted at Aston University to study electrical engineering. We later became Members of the Tanzania Parliament and served as Ministers, too. Chirau informs me that Omari’s grandfather, a Digo from Tanga, moved to Mazoreani during colonial times, and was later employed as a translator at Kwale town. It is a small word indeed, they say.
A visit to any area in Eastern Africa which borders the Indian Ocean will be incomplete without an encounter with the ugly nature of humanity and its history, the slave trade. It is a place one visits that evokes anger, frustration, bitterness, and at times forgiveness to the perpetrators of slavery. How inhuman one can be to enslave another human being, savagely extract labour out of him? And make rape an instrument of subjugation? I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that we ended up at Shimoni, caves where slaves were kept before being transferred to Zanzibar. The town of Shimoni was the colonial headquarters of Kwale District until 1924 when Kwale became the headquarters.