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Military fights off ‘borrowed culture’

By Michael Chepkwony | February 15th 2020
A Ugandan traditional dance troupe performs during the cultural Day at the Defence Staff College in Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard] .

Many years after attaining independence from Britain, Kenya is still clinging on to the vestiges of its colonial master’s culture.

The borrowed culture was evident during the recent funeral procession of former President Daniel Moi as seen through military ceremonial uniform, the gun carriage that carried the body and the 19 military gun salute, among others.

The same habit that has reduced Kenya into a beggar of other cultures is evident in the dress code of Parliament and the Judiciary. But an annual military event that has been going on for a couple of years inspires hope into the future of Africa’s culture.

Recently, 10 African countries were represented by their military officials in the cultural day event themed “Integrating Africa through culture” at the Defence Staff College in Karen, Nairobi.

Special delicacies, thrilling dances, appealing costumes and magnificent artifacts were showcased in the colourful event.

With the gates open to the public, each country showcased its best as visitors, including officers in uniform and civilians, shuffled from one tent to another to experience the uniqueness of each country.

The sound of drums and electrifying dances played at the centre of the surrounding tents as audiences tasted various cuisines and curiously implored.

Burundi stood out with its ingoma giant drum that Lieutenant Colonel Philbert Hatungimana jealously guarding with a smile to curious visitors milling around his tent.

The drum is part of the heritage of Burundi and was registered in Unesco in 2018, said Lit Col Hatungimana.

South Africa prided itself with umgombothi, their traditional beer made from sorghum, which the mention of its name in many songs, including by Yvonne Chakachaka, drove the curious audience into a tasting spree.

Commander Ilhabano Kolonzi said the beer was special in the country because it was used during special ceremonies.

“We also use during circumcision and it is the first time for initiates to take as they transition to adulthood,” Kolonzi said.

Defense Staff College Commandant Maj Gen MK Ong’oyi said the continent was blessed with diverse cultures that offered beauty of its kind. “We share a lot in terms of artifacts, food and many other items,” said Ong’oyi.

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