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Clergyman ‘discovers a lie in Kenya National Anthem translation’

By Daniel Psirmoi | November 14th 2013

By Daniel Psirmoi

Bungoma, Kenya: It is argued that when a lie is retold several times, there is a high possibility that many people will take it as the truth.

Not for Reverend Francis Walusaka though, the Bungoma based clergyman whose keen eye for detail, has noted an error that has gone unnoticed in our national anthem, by the collective population of the country, including the venerated scholars we have, for the last 50 years!

The cleric says he noted in 2010 that there is a translation problem in the Kenyan National Anthem, and that the words used in English are not the same words used in the Swahili language.

To prove his point, Rev Walusaka takes this writer through the first stanza of the national anthem in both languages. The word ‘creation’ in the first line is translated to as ‘nguvu’ in the same line, in the Swahili version.

“This is a first error I have pointed out in various meetings, but nobody seems to take me seriously. ‘Creation’ is not ‘Nguvu’; ‘Nguvu’ translates to ‘power’. This is the first glaring error and not the only one; the worst ones are in stanza two and three. The English version of our anthem and the Swahili one are quite different,” says Walusaka, who adds that it disturbs him to realize that he has been singing the wrong song for the last half a decade.

“I am even reluctant to stand in attention and sing our anthem when the song is sung in public functions, what I fear most is that my children and grandchildren will continue singing the wrong national anthem in the coming years, if nothing is done,” he observes.

The theology graduate and experienced translator, who headed the team that translated the English Bible to Bukusu language in 2010, observes that the key elements of translation that include accuracy, clarity and naturalism have been discarded in the translation of the Kenyan anthem.

“The key words have been omitted and lost in the translation of our anthem. I appreciate the work of   those who composed and translated the anthem. What I am agitating for should not be misconstrued; I do not want a new anthem, but just requesting that the words in translation be harmonized to relay the same meaning,” explains Walusaka.

Other glaring translation errors according to Walusaka, are in the last line of the first stanza; Raha tupate na ustawi, translated to, Plenty be found within our borders, Pamoja kazini- The fruit of our labour (fifth line, last stanza) among others.

His efforts to reach the authorities and have the anomaly corrected, he says have largely been unfruitful. He has written letters to several county and national government officials to have the matter corrected in vain.

“I have a feeling that my rights are tempered with or restricted unnecessarily or even denied if there will be no action taken according to section 32(4) and 33(1)(a). Anybody who went to school will see that there is a serious inconsistency in the translation of anthem from Swahili to English. For a record   I am willing to assist in the retranslation of the anthem,” he says.

He adds“Our national anthem is not just like any other song that people sing like Mwanawamberi, it is a prayer for our nation, it should not have glaring errors in translation. The errors should be corrected to save my conscience” concludes Walusaka.

Bungoma County Commissioner Maalim Mohamed, acknowledge receipt of the petition by Walusaka and notes that he has valid points.

“I appreciate his efforts and research, I received his memorandum and have requested him to write a letter to the cabinet secretary Ministry of Sports and Culture through my office, so that his arguments can be listened to,” said Maalim.

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