National Geographic : 1969 Feb
To nearly all his countrymen President Kenyatta is simply the "Mzee" (Muh-zAY), another Swahili word, literally translated the "old man"; in east Africa it is a title of the greatest respect and affection. On this occasion the Mzee, speaking from a tent shaded dais in an open field, waxed evange listic in his fervor. The hospital in the Gatun du countryside had been his idea, a self-help project contributed to by thousands of Ken yans. Though he harangued the crowd in Swahili, the lingua franca of east Africa, he spoke several times the English words "self help," and, on one occasion, the expression, "Actions speak louder than words." Handshakes Bring Help for New Hospital Then, to my astonishment, he turned the dedication ceremonies into a fund-raising rally for the hospital. Long lines formed in front of the dais, and in 50 minutes, in ex change for a handshake from him, the Mzee had collected one chicken, one sheep, the promise of a pint of blood, and in hard cash 43,250 Kenya shillings (approximately $6,100). My astonishment was not permitted to wane. When the collection ended, thousands of tribal dancers and singers from all over Kenya streamed onto the huge field. After a time any ordered program proved impossible, and the field became a colorful, swirling me lange of bizarre costumes and sweaty bodies amidst a cacophony of drums, bells, rattling gourds, chants, and exuberant outcries. Even the Mzee abandoned his reserve, and when last I saw him, he had joined a group of pretty Somali tribeswomen and was clapping a ca dence for their dance (opposite). It had been a highly entertaining show. But to me, and no doubt to other foreigners pres ent, the occasion also revealed much and taught much. The central and most important factor influencing the emerging new nation of Kenya is the formidable Jomo Kenyatta him self. And, in dramatic fashion, we had seen a demonstration of his hold upon the people and the philosophy of unity and self-help he so constantly and tirelessly preaches. Pulsing sounds and flashing colors climax a hospital dedication in Gatundu by Presi dent Kenyatta. These Somali women, whose tribe in the past has wavered in its allegiance to the government, join in the spirit of the occasion. After five years of independence, the drums of nationalism beat hard in Kenya -where more than 70 tribes must learn to march to the same rhythm. KODACHROME BYBRUCEDALE© N.G.S.