Lake Victoria could soon get a new name if proposals by an initiative in Nyanza come to pass.
The Nyanza Dialogue Initiative is also seeking to have a memorial museum set up in Kisumu to commemorate victims of state brutality.
According to the initiative, giving Lake Victoria a local name would facilitate the preservation of the history and culture of the local people.
How can someone from a foreign land come and claim to have discovered the lake when he found people living in that lake. What kind of discovery is this?Oloo Janak
According to historical records, the search by Europeans for the source of the Nile led to the sighting of the lake by the British explorer John Hanning Speke in 1858.
Formerly known to the Arabs as Ukerewe, the lake was named by Speke in honour of Queen Victoria of England. A detailed survey of the lake was made by Sir William Garstin in 1901.
The lake is shared by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
But Nyanza Dialogue Initiative claims that the colonial historical records have since erased or distorted the actual history of the Africans.
“How can someone from a foreign land come and claim to have discovered the lake when he found people living around that lake. What kind of discovery is this?” posed Oloo Janak, one of the conveners of the initiative.
The first proposal to have the lake renamed was mooted during the commemoration of 1969 Kisumu Massacre which was held at Mama Grace Onyango Social Hall in Kisumu.
From Port Victoria to Kisumu
Canon Adhiambo Lomo, 84, one of the elders who gave keynote address at the event claimed that Africans were losing their identity due to distorted history.
He said that much of the history about Lake Victoria is written by foreigners who insert their own perspectives in the documentation.
“Give the lake a local name and have the local history told by locals who lived there before colonization,” he said.
His sentiments were echoed by Janak who said local names have local contexts, but this has been compromised due to lack of documentation.
The initiative is set to present a memorandum to the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) to help spearhead a petition to the national assembly to seek renaming of the lake.
Some of the new names already on the table to replace Lake Victoria are; Nam Lolwe, Lake Sango, and Lake Nyanza.
“In fact, the British owe us an apology for distorting our history, and claiming discovery of things which our people are the ones who took them round to see,” said Janak.
Just like Kisumu (Kisuma, a place of batter trade) changed its name from its colonial name; Port Florence, the initiative says renaming Lake Victoria is very possible.
King Charles III in Kenya
The debate comes ahead of King Charles III’s visit to the country on October 31, accompanied by his wife, Queen Camilla.
CNN reports that in addition to the usual fare of state banquets and such, Charles is planning on acknowledging the “more painful aspects” of shared history between the United Kingdom and Kenya, according to Buckingham Palace.
He is however not scheduled to visit Lake Victoria region.
All we have is media reporting figures of people dead or injured, but these figures are not humanized. A few of them like Baby Pendo have been remembered due to the amount of public engagement involved. But we need all these names put somewherePatrick Ochieng
And in the initiative’s memorandum presented by Ujamaa Centre Executive Director Patrick Ochieng, the initiative is also seeking to petition the Governors of Kisumu, Homa Bay, Siaya and Migori to support the establishment of a memorial museum towards commemoration of atrocities which have been committed by police to area residents.
According to the memorandum, the initiative says that all political struggles in the area have seen hundreds of residents lose their lives, maimed or jailed, but there is no record on the same.
The highlights of the memorandum were presented to KHRC Deputy Executive Director Cornelias Oduor.
The initiative has proposed that the four Governors collaborate with universities in the area and fund research on the impacts of state brutality on the area residents.
The research would then bring out facts about those who have lost their lives, injured, or lost their property due to state brutality.
The information, including names and photos of victims and survivors, can then be put in the museum for reference.
“We are suggesting that the Memorial Museum be at Russia Hospital and a memorial park also be set up at the Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground for listing of names of those who have been killed over the years by the police. We also propose mini Memorial Parks in Kondele, Nyalenda, Obunga and Manyatta where police often brutalize and kill people during demos,” said Janak.
“All we have is media reporting figures of people dead or injured, but these figures are not humanized. A few of them like Baby Pendo have been remembered due to the amount of public engagement involved. But we need all these names put somewhere,” said Ochieng who is also a member of the Nyanza Dialogue Forum.
Oduor noted that victims of state brutality can still get justice if the cases are well documented.
“Reparation is difficult due to lack of documentation,” said Oduor.