When Lake Nakuru burst its banks in March 2021, the distraught residents of Mwariki, Barut constituency had to move to safer grounds. Over 200 families were displaced, and their farming land was rendered useless.
Today, things are different as the residents turn to fish in the expanded lake to eke out their living.
“When the floods came, we had to look for alternative places to live. Some of us had to demolish our houses and close down our businesses. It was a hard time for us,” says Freshia Muthoni, a resident at Mwariki who was displaced from her home by the floods.
Freshia says now fishing has thrown them a new economic lifeline since most farmers whose land was submerged by the floods have invested in boats and fishing nets.
The fishermen go fishing in the wee hours of the morning to secure their catch. Fishing in Mwariki has since become a booming business despite the government’s efforts to curb any fishing activities in Lake Nakuru. Scientists are blaming the flooding, which has expanded the lake to people’s homes and farmlands to climate change. Years of environmental degradation, pollution, and deforestation are affecting the biodiversity of Lake Nakuru.
However, the residents see the flooding as a blessing in disguise. Florence Waruguru, another resident of Mwariki, says that fishing in Lake Nakuru has been a relief to those who lost their land to floods.
“Our land is submerged underwater. We can no longer grow anything on it. Fortunately, the water came with plenty of fish, which we now sell to meet our needs. The fish helps us to feed and even educate our children,” she says.
However, fishing in Lake Nakuru has not been without its challenges. The residents complain of the policemen’s harassment as they confiscate their nets and fish.
“We do not understand why they take away our fish and nets. Some of them demand bribes and when we cannot pay them, they take away our fish. For us, we plan to continue fishing until the government relocates us to other places,” says Freshia.
Early this year, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (Kmfri) banned fishing in the lake, citing that the fish in Lake Nakuru is contaminated with toxic components.
According to the Kmfri report, the fish in Lake Nakuru can cause adverse effects on humans if consumed over a long period. This is because of the sewage and runoff water from the county drains into the lake.
The fishers, however, will hear none of this, saying that they have consumed Lake Nakuru’s fish for a long time without any harm. Some fishmongers at the lakeside have come from different counties to earn a living in the now extended lake.
Even as the fishing continues, there is doubt on its impact on the exotic species of fish in Lake Nakuru.
‘Holy Water’, Covid-19 Cure Controversy
There is a division in Legio Maria of African Church Mission after some of them alleged knowledge in Coronavirus treatment. Here is a story of how extremist belief in religion has propelled Covid-19 disinformation.
Academic Research Writer: My laptop Built This house, Cars
Ignorant Kenyans are often very quick to label smart-working Kenyans as thieves or ‘Illuminati’, especially when they fail to understand the source of your wealth.
Well, you must have heard about Academic Research Writing; a field that many jobless Kenyan graduates have found solace.
Here, you only need a brain, computer, and internet connectivity and then boom, money starts flowing and so ‘illuminati’ you become.
One writer Caleb Machunga took to Facebook Tuesday to encourage fellow writers that a laptop can not only pay bills but also build decent houses and buy cars.
“In the spirit of encouraging others on what writing has done to some of us: You see, the laptop right there brought everything in this picture into being.
It built my mama that house, bought the two cars, built my ka mansion (behind me in the photo), and erected that perimeter wall,” Machunga explained.
He went on to say that in just a few years past, even a semi-permanent toilet would not be erected in their compound due to lack of finances.
“I will even feel ashamed to post a photo of the mud house that we grew up in. In short, I cannot even state the intensity of what writing has done to some of us who grew up as poor as f*,” he said.
Commentators hailed Machunga for the mighty strides he has made thanks to ‘the power of the laptop’, with some taking it as a challenge upon themselves and posting their achievements in tow. Most of which being ongoing construction works and cars.
A witty commentator Patrick David said, “hope the villagers are not accusing you of being a thief or Illuminati, now that it may be hard for them to understand the keyboard hustle.”
McOkelo Koks reported how he hopelessly operated a bodaboda upcountry despite being a graduate. His breakthrough, however, he said, came upon joining the writing industry in late 2018.
“I remember buying my car in May 2020 and I did not even know how to drive. Funny, right? As for shamba, tayari nimenunua nne. Kujenga nyumba iko in progress,” Koks reported.
Rhino Marx said that the writing industry is a tough one, the prospective fruits notwithstanding.
“Accept to lose a lot of your free time. Dive deep into the hustle and forget the world. Have a positive attitude and be a man of integrity,” Marx reacted.
The academic writing trade involving bidding for and writing academic papers for students abroad at a fee. They can be undergraduate or postgraduate.
Writers work from home and people who are accustomed to the tradition of people making money by working in big offices or in the field do not really understand how. Some writers have been suspected to be thieves.
On the other hand, though, the business is considered academic fraud. A past media investigation unearthed that Oxford University professors had their dissertations written in Nairobi by jobless graduates. But who are Kenyans and their hustling spirit?
Controversy: We Use ‘yath’ to Cure Coronavirus, Legio Maria Devotees Say
Some devotees of the Legio Maria church have been using Facebook groups as echo chambers to propel a controversy about the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines an echo chamber as “a situation (place) in which people only hear opinions of one type or opinions that are similar to their own.”
Legio Maria is one of the indigenous African churches founded in 1964 as a splinter group of the Roman Catholic Church; headquartered at Got Kwer in Migori, Kenya.
The Facebook groups are about ten in number. They include the LEGION MARIA AFRICAN CHURCH MISSION. TRUTH AND TRUTH, with 19 thousand members; and the Legion Maria of African Church Mission…KINDA ROSARY, with 14 thousand members, among others.
The believers, who debate mainly in Dholuo, say that they have a cure for all illnesses and that Covid-19 is not special.
On April 25, 2020, one Legio faithful Benard Omondi, posted in the LEGION MARIA OF AFRICAN CHURCH MISSION group and claimed that he had had a vision on how to treat Coronavirus.
“It was revealed to me that we need to arm ourselves with blue and green candles and boiled water, then pray through Mama Maria and Cathorina. I was told to give the boiled water to the priest to bless it before giving it to coronavirus patients to drink and bathe with for seven days… That is the coronavirus cure,” claimed Omondi.
Fourteen people liked whereas seven others commented on Omondi’s allegations in the affirmative, and the post was shared in two of the Legio echo chambers.
In Legio worship, there is a special water that is sourced from sacred places like Lake Simbi Nyaima in Homa Bay county and Mberere in Nandi county. The water which is referred to as yath or pii hawi in the local dialect is often sprinkled into the mouths of believers from a squeezed plastic bottle.
Speaking at Mberere Legio Maria shrine at the foot of Nandi Hills, along the border of Kisumu and Nandi counties a fortnight ago, 25-year-old Patrick Janes Odhiambo, a Janabi (or Priest) from St. Peters Church in Homa Bay, confirmed Omondi’s allegations.
“It is true that this water cures many illnesses. As Legio faithful, we have various departments and Cathorina is in charge of health. A Legio devotee should never be treated in a hospital, no matter the situation. Yath cures corona for us because this is what we use and heal. We only follow Covid-19 containment protocols because it is a government directive.”
He added, “We believe that water from this spring in Mberere cures even STIs and HIV/AIDs. All illnesses are curable in the name of Bikra Maria (Virgin Mary). Every color of a candle represents an angel. The green one is for Cathorina.”
At Mberere shrine, bodaboda operators trooped in, with 20-liter jerrycans to fetch pii hawi from the unique spring within – an indication of yath being in high demand.
The bodaboda operators were being sent by the priests who remained at a nearby market center, Kopere, for fear of being harmed by the local Nandi community which accuse them of ferrying Covid-19 to their village in Mberere.
“I have been to Mberere myself. The younger generation of Legio faithful is liberal. They know that there are things that you heal by faith and that there are things like Covid-19 that cannot be cured,” said Lawyer Okoth Opondo, a former Legio altar boy whose father was a close associate of Melkio Ondeto, the Messiah and founder of Legio Maria.
According to a 2009 academic research paper titled, ‘Believing in the Black Messiah: The Legio Maria Church in African Christian Landscape’, healing and exorcism play a prominent role in Legio Maria worship.
The paper found out that over 60% of those who join the church do so because they believe in being healed from witchcraft and ‘western’ illnesses. In Kenya, there are several people, both religious and secular, who shun coronavirus vaccines and protocol on grounds that it is a ‘Whiteman’s disease’, and so, a western illness.
“Masks are cheaper these days but I must not wear them because I am a black man. That disease can only harm wazungu (white people). Covid-19 cannot penetrate this dark skin of mine. The tough nature of my job also keeps the virus at bay,” remarked Vincent Otieno, 31, a casual laborer at a construction site in Oyugis town, Homa Bay county.
When Covid-19 set in, some locals clashed with the police for not wearing face masks over what they said was hard economic times. However, today many people wear the masks improperly, on their chin – some keep them in pockets, and only rush to cover their mouths when a police officer is spotted in the vicinity.
There is no science behind Legio Maria’s yath. The World Health Organization has not announced any cure for Covid-19 yet, thus the Legio narrative remains to be controversial. However, various vaccines have so far been developed and approved for use.
Raphael Adika, a Pope of a faction of the Legio Maria church, has been on the record calling on the government of Kenya to obtain vaccines and urged members to follow Covid-19 containment protocols.
Lately, the church has experienced bloody leadership wrangles and believers in the other faction, led by Pope Lawrence Ochieng Kalul, take no instructions from Pope Adika. Not much is in the public domain from Pope Ochieng on matters Covid-19 containment and vaccines.
The Legio Maria church claim that they are the true Roman Catholics, only that their worship doctrines have been Africanized. Elements in the Roman Catholic church have been on the record opposing the use of vaccines.
“The Legio recognizes the pope of Rome. They conduct their services in Dholuo, Kiswahili, English, and Latin; just the same services as in a catholic church. When Pope Francis visited Kenya, the Legio church respected and followed the proceedings,” Lawyer Opondo explained.
We took samples of yath at Mberere and have proceeded to a medical laboratory to establish the possible medicinal value of it. Watch out for this in our next story. Also, we will be interacting with Legio leaders and faithful who have contracted the virus; and families that have lost their loved ones.
Listen to the podcast of the same story below.
This story was produced as part of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting’s Africa Resilience Network (ARN) program, administered in partnership with the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and Africa Uncensored.
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