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Reuben Kigame: Spiritual lessons we’ve learnt from the pandemic

By Sammy Kerre | April 10th 2021
Musician Reuben Kigame.

“To everything there’s a season.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

On February 21, Kenyans woke up to shocking news that musician Reuben Kigame had nearly departed from this world the previous night.

What was calming about the post on Facebook was the fact that the news had been broken by the man himself.

This being a season when people are burying loved ones due to Covid-19, Kenyans wondered if the award-winning musician had nearly become the latest high-profile name to succumb to the pandemic.

“No it wasn’t Covid-19,” he says in response to our prodding.

“For about three years now, the doctors have been treating me for a condition they call bronchiectasis.”

According to online medical journal Healthline, bronchiectasis “is a condition where the bronchial tubes of your lungs are permanently damaged, widened and thickened.”

In such a state, the lungs become prone to frequent bacterial invasion and mucus build-up.

Though not Covid-19, the disease by definition sounds scary enough, with the suggestion that it makes breathing difficult.

And as happens during seasons like these, every disease and death is now attributed to Covid-19 – until proven otherwise.

“I have lost close friends to Covid-19 but also to other conditions like cancer and road accidents,” Kigame says.

Kigame says sadly, the pandemic is leading people to fall in one of two camps: those who hear God’s absence instead of his presence, and those too engrossed in “secular” survival to perceive the end times Jesus spoke about.

“Before the end, He said there would be pestilences such as what we are facing in the world right now. If this pandemic has not caused people to contemplate the brevity of life, I don’t know what will.”

Then he quotes Isaiah 55:6: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.”

It is not just the loss of spiritual sensitivity in the Covid-19 climate that concerns Kigame. He has been very loud on political matters too.

On February 22, he weighed in on what Kenyans now consider the Jubilee government’s “addiction” to loans.

He wrote, “a ghost that has possessed President Uhuru Kenyatta as head of government, together with his advisers… They have borrowed heavily since 2013 (to the tune of) trillions of shillings.

“Who of you can count to a billion? Now think of Kenya owing in trillions! Like every other debt, the time of borrowing seems a very exciting time, but paying back always comes with a heavy heart.”

And talking of politics, will Kigame run for office again, after he “lost honourably” in the governor’s race for Vihiga County in 2013?

“I intend to run for president of Kenya, Christ tarrying. I wanted to run for the governor’s post that time because I would have set up the systems,” he says.

“Now it would be a little bit of a waste of time to spend three years cleaning up somebody’s mess. The reason I wish to run for the presidency is because Kenya needs a reset and I have the reset buttons.”

Resoluteness to do right

For those who might question his experience, he says it is not necessary.

Rather, resoluteness to do right, defend citizens and create an enabling environment for citizens, residents and investors. “Most of all, he needs to consolidate our resources by ensuring that we do not lose a shilling to corruption and impunity.

“Sometimes we even blame county governments when the mistakes are right at the top,” he says.

Never a man to shy away from speaking his mind, Kigame recently posted on Twitter that: If one day you hear musician Reuben Kigame is dead, do not allow any government representative or those from so-called copyright societies to speak at my funeral. What I have been through under them is enough.

He was referring to the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) whose long fight with musicians over unpaid royalties has engrossed national media for ages.

The tweet led to a debate on KTN News involving lawyer Danstan Omari, MCSK vice chair Desmond Katana, governance expert Gitile Naituli and Kigame himself.

Kigame is considered one of the most successful musicians in modern Kenya, but he says that he barely earns a coin from his hard work.

In a previous interview with the Saturday Standard, Kigame said he dreams of a better world.

“This one is messed up. I am doing my best to change Africa in particular for posterity through my music, books and social media posts. The problem is very few are listening to me,” he said.

Away from politics and music, Kigame’s family is also growing in all sorts of ways. His first daughter Shalom got married in December 2017, an event he said gave him “mixed feelings.” 

He acknowledged every parent’s despair at giving away their child to a person who might not take good care of them.


However, he also spoke of “the miracle of my baby girl finally becoming a wife! Wow! I remember picking her from Avenue Hospital in Nairobi as a tiny bundle of joy, as if it was yesterday.”

Well, Shalom and her husband Collins Orembo recently made Kigame a grandfather and he cannot speak enough about the little angel.

“She is called Baraka,” he says. “I love every moment with her.”

He adds that whenever he is with her, time tends to run away from him.

“I have to balance between my desire to be with her and letting my children have their lives. Someone should have warned me that it feels so good to be a grandfather.”

He has a close bond with his children, and has previously said the biggest lesson he would pass on to them is one of love. 

“...to Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. If you cannot listen to others, don’t open your mouth to talk to them. Hard work pays handsomely and gives you the best sleep. Learn to love, apologise and say ‘thank you.’

“There is never any justification whatsoever for being unkind to anybody, no matter what. Face life with courage. Live your life asking yourself daily what you want to be remembered for.”  

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