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Sheikh Yahya Hussein: The mganga politicians loved

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Long before 'Mganga kutoka Pemba' signposts were a common feature on our walls and lampposts, we had Sheikh Yahya Hussein.

This man was a household name in East Africa back in the 60s and 70s. He was a pioneer astrologer, palm reader, and stargazer whose predictions on issues were widely believed and frowned upon at the same time.

His adverts reading 'Mtabiri' were common in local dailies where he said he could be found in a certain hotel room within Eastleigh in Nairobi.Sheikh

Yahya Hussein wrote popular horoscope columns for many years and had a huge following in Kenya. He took advantage of superstitious members of the public to promote his 'prowess' in astrology and determining people's fate.

He was actually a Tanzanian, although many Kenyans thought he was a Kenyan. Born in 1922, he was associated with the Zanzibar revolution which brought on his arrest and subsequent jailing. After the prison stint, he crossed over to Kenya and set shop in California Estate. Sheikh Hussein believed he was mentored by religious scholars he met while in prison and that they gave him powers to read palms and predict events.

Sheikh Hussein wormed his way through Kenyan hearts and had a way with local politicians. He married a woman from Murang'a and became an adopted son of Kenya. Sheikh Hussein made money as an astrologer and palmist. His clientele included prominent people who believed he was a reliable and accurate fortune teller.

He dabbled in politics by predicting political outcomes. Sometimes he blundered badly and his predictions were found to be way off the mark. This did not in any way diminish his popularity. When age caught up with him, he picked his son Maalim Hassan as a successor. Maalim, who was born and educated in Kenya, gave astrology a different approach. He often told his clients that astrology was a science and not witchcraft.

Both Sheikh Yahya Hussein and his son enjoyed peak seasons during election campaigns. That was harvest time for their business. One of the most notable predictions Maalim made was CCM's John Pombe Magufuli's win in Tanzania.

Sheikh Yahya Hussein died in May 2011 at the age of 89. His son Maaalim Hassan shifted his activities to Tanzania where many citizens believe in witchcraft and astrology. He is still going strong at 60 years. Before his death, Hussein boasted personal friendships with various heads of state including Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Arap Moi, Julius Nyerere and Mobutu Sese Seko. He proved this by exhibiting photographs taken with them.

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