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LWANGNI THE HEART OF KISUMU by ESO

By February 10, 2020 No Comments

Kisumu is the third largest city in KENYA after Nairobi and Mombasa and the second largest city after Kampala in the Lake Victoria Basin.it is the largest principal city in western KENYA and the most important inland port in the Lake Victoria circuit. Kisumu also serves as the capital City of Kisumu County and also acts the head quarter for the lake region economic bloc which is a conglomeration of 15 counties in western region. The city also called port Florence in the past reverted to Kisumu which means a place to look for food. Kisumu emerged as a port in 1901.The lake port initial purpose was to shape the lives of the residents of Kisumu located at the cusp of the Winam gulf. The arrival of the railway also made Kisumu strategically and economically vital for the interest of Britain in the city. Consolidating interests in Kisumu and Uganda allowing transportation of goods and services. Kisumu had overtook port Victoria as the most important port on the eastern shores of the lake Victoria and a gateway to the interior of East AFRICA but as years went on after independence and the emergence of different political interest the port shut down and the Railway collapsed.

For many years now the railway line and the port have not been in operation and the lake front has been seriously underutilized by serial incumbent governments. The public and the residents seeing an opportunity to feed its people and promote tourism set up business premises along the lake to offer food and a good feel environment for Kisumu (meaning a place to look for food). These business premises offered local residents a place within the lake front that is free and affordable, although poorly planned it offered a place of solace and enjoyment of food. This they called LWANGNI; ironically meaning a place of many flies. These Hotels and restaurants opened the lake front and created opportunities, a taste of the rich Kisumu fish delicacies of Nile perch, dagger, tilapia, okoko and sire. A robust community of women and men alike washing and waiting for fresh fish from the small boats to quickly deep fry for their customers, a number of tourist arriving for fresh fish and having their cars washed, men of all race, color, wealth or no wealth striding through the lake shores, the fresh breeze that hits your face, the welcoming call of waiters and the unplanned structures that fed many households in the depths of Kisumu were the experiences that drove tourism.

In one night and one day the vibrant sounds of Kisumu residents at the lakefront died, the lives of many had been torn apart with the promise of a new revived port and rail system. The betrayal of serial governments offered land in trust sabotaging development had been forgotten; the loss of its citizen’s livelihoods in the demise of the port, the rail and many other industries because of political interest had been forgotten. Fast forward to 2020, Kisumu has been receiving renewed interest for the port and rail, the national government pumping billions to revitalize the port even retaking rail infrastructure at the expense of the residents of Kisumu and there interest. This investment being a major mark for this region should also protect the vibrant women and men, traders, local tourist and guides hoping to also benefit from the use and access of the lakefront they once proudly called LWANGNI, a place of many flies, a place for the locals, mahali ya wanyonge .As they rebuild let them remember that LWANGNI also deserves space not just in the past but In the present.

While we wait God above everything.

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