Rastafarian promote the ideology of tolerance in Nakuru
Rastafarians are mostly perceived as immoral and drug abusers especially for the use of cannabis sativa or ‘ganja’.
However, those living in Nakuru County have redefined themselves and formed a registered group Led by Thuo Kimathi under the Tafari Foundation with over 400 members, their mission was necessitated by 2007-2008 post-election violence that left over 1,000 people dead, hundreds injured and property worth millions of shillings destroyed.
Scholars have categorized Rastafari as a new religious movement or as a new social movement.
According to Kimathi, they have been holding peace rallies, crusades and public forums to preach messages of peace and love to Kenyans regardless of their tribe, race and political inclination.
On this particular day, we met the group armed with microphones, drums and public address system singing religious reggae music leaving residents of Kiti Estate in Bahati Constituency fascinated.
“We as Rastafarians have expressed our displeasure over negative ethnicity and tribalism in our country. Hate is real and we must be counted in healing this nation,” Kimathi said.
He noted that Rastafarians are peace-loving people who accommodate and respect all regardless of their political or religious ideologies.
“Politics should not divide us to an extent of killing each other. Let us embrace each other and restrain ourselves from evicting other tribes who might hold different political ideologies,” he reiterated.
He pointed that Nakuru being a cosmopolitan county, peace and integration was key to its stability.
“Before 8th August poll, some families vacated their homes for fear of violence after the elections, an indicator that integration was yet to be realised,” he said.
On the current political impasse in the country after Supreme Court nullified the presidential results, the Rastafarians said that “though justice was not served, the court decision must be respected”.
“We respect the court ruling but we believe it was politically motivated devoid of justice,” he said.
Kimathi called upon Kenyans to remain conscious and prepare for the coming elections to exercise their democratic right as enshrined in the constitution.
“You should wake up early on the election day to elect leaders of your choice. Let us give mandate to people who have our priority at heart,” he added.
David Gitahi, also a Rastafarian called upon Kenyans to embrace ‘Rastafarianism’. He also urged their followers to engage in active politics.
Gitahi pointed that, with a member of Akorino sect from Runyenjes being elected as a Member of Parliament, Rastafarians need to rise and take their positions in active politics.
“We have been branded as criminals and people with no morals in the society but that perception is misguided. We are law abiding citizens who also believe in God,” said Gitahi.
Rastafari, sometimes termed Rastafarianism, is an Abrahamic religion. It is classified as a new religious movement and was developed in Jamaica during the 1930s.
It lacks any centralised authority and there is much heterogeneity among practitioners, who are known as Rastafari, Rastafarians or Rastas.
Gitahi reiterated that as Rastafarians they are concerned above all else with the black consciousness, rediscovering the identity, personal and race of black people.
“We are not radicals but a group trying to embrace our African culture that is devoid of neo-colonialist manipulation. We should love and respect each other for our country and the continent of Africa to stand,” he said.
The Rastafarians also called upon police to stop harassing them and treating them as criminals.
“We are a registered group under Kenyan laws and regulations. Our work is lawful but due to the negative perception, we must carry our certificate to produce it in case police officers try to arrest us,” Gitahi explained.
On the use of bhang, Kimathi said that was a misplaced perception.
Rastas believe that the Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible is the marijuana plant and that several other biblical passages further promote its use.
They usually quote Bible verses such as “Thou shalt eat the herb of the field” (Genesis 3:18), “Eat every herb of the land” (Exodus 10:12) and “The herb is the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2) to justify their use of bhang.
Despite what many think, Rastas actually condemn the use of marijuana simply to get high. Instead, it is usually used within religious ceremonies in a highly ritualised manner in order to enhance feelings of unity and help generate visions of a spiritual and soothing nature.
Rastafari “reasoning sessions” are religious meetings that involve group meditation, and marijuana is used to help the follower go into a trance-like state.
Njuguna Ng’ang’a, a Nakuru resident who attended the Rastafarians peace rally commended their initiative terming it patriotic.
“We have freedom of expression, worship and assembly. Provided they are operating lawfully, they should be respected for what they believe in,” Njuguna said.