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MOVEMENT WITH DEEP ROOTS

A glimpse into Rastafarianism in Kenya, its history

Black people power movement for black people who want to be free from oppression.

In Summary
  • We have all Rastafari masses in Kenya on board.
  • We are now focused on centralising and organising Rastafarians in Kenya to unprecedented scales in economics, politics and culture.
Emmanuel Dada Edwards, the black Christ in the Rastafari movement, founder of the EABIC Church of Black Salvation, House Order of Rastafarianism.
Emmanuel Dada Edwards, the black Christ in the Rastafari movement, founder of the EABIC Church of Black Salvation, House Order of Rastafarianism.
Image: COURTESY

The movement in Kenya began with the establishment of two major Rastafari orders/mansions: The 12 tribes of Israel and Bobo Ashanti. The former was established in 1986 with the arrival (in Nairobi) of its founder Vernon Carrington, who is known as Prophet Gad by the order's adherents, and is now headquartered in Gikambura, past Kikuyu.

It is famous for producing serious local reggae bands such as Roots Connection and Mystic Redemption as well as for other impactful organisational activities among the rases locally, especially business ventures.

This was the first official and organised presence of any Rastafari organisation in Kenya and its first local headquarters was in Uthiru. Although this order was founded in Jamaica last (1968), in the list of the major Rastafari orders, it made its way here first.

 
 

Bobo Ashanti, which is officially known as the Ethiopia Africa Black International Congress (EABIC), was locally established in 1992 with the arrival of Priest Richie, Priest Harry and Priest Rackal. The three were among the first students of the founder of the order, Prince Charles Emmanuel Edwards also known as "Dada" among adherents.

They arrived in Nairobi and established a tabernacle in Kayole before moving to a piece of land in Miang'o/Utawala, where the EABIC Church of Black Salvation is built and still active to date. It was founded in 1958 in Jamaica as a Rastafari rectification movement similar to the Rastafari Youth Wing of Kenya or the now non-existent YBF of Jamaica.

Bobo Ashanti is the strictest order among the three main Rastafari orders. It is strictly a "churchical order", meaning it is absolutely and eternally separate from all other Rastafari orders in all issues regarding organising rases if they are not channelled or organised by the EABIC church.

It specialises in training Ras Tafari priests. Its headquarters is in Bulls Bay Jamaica. The first main order in the Ras Tafari movement is the Nyabhingi order, started by Congo Watto in Jamaica in the 1940s and which made its way to Kenya in the late '90s. Though it was the first to be established in Jamaica, it arrived here last. However, it has no official local office attached to the Nyabhingi Theocracy headquarters in Jamaica.

The late Rastafari leader CICFMG Gen RAS Mau Mau and social justice movement leader Gacheke Gachichi during Kimathi Day on February 18, 2020, at Nyeri Stadium.
The late Rastafari leader CICFMG Gen RAS Mau Mau and social justice movement leader Gacheke Gachichi during Kimathi Day on February 18, 2020, at Nyeri Stadium.
Image: COURTESY

The Rastafari movement was started in Jamaica in the early 1920s by four main preachers/proponents. Joseph Hibbert, Archibald Dunkley, Leonard Howell and Robert Hinds.

Howell was the first to preach a doctrine that deified the just-coronated king of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, who had been crowned king of kings, lord of lords and conquering lion of the tribe of Judah on November 2, 1930, in Ethiopia. The crowning of the king was in line with the assertions of an earlier movement, the Ethiopianism movement, that had epitomised Ethiopia as a symbol of ultimate African glory and resilience.

The Ethiopianism movement was afro-Christian due to the just-up-from-slavery christiniased African mind that existed then. It was also due to the fact that Ethiopia, the centre stage of the Ethiopianism movement, was a Christian nation with Semitic Christian kings dominating over an enslaved indigenous African.  However, this villainous side of the adored kings is still obscure in the Rastafari movement.

 

Consequently, the Rastafari movement that emerged in the early 1900s picked up its admiration for Ethiopia and its the king, Haile Selassie, from the Ethiopianism movement that existed from the late 1800s as a result of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia during Menelik II's reign.

Marcus Garvey 's UNIA-ACL more than any other organisation contributed to Ethiopianism of the movement. UNIA-ACL rallied substantial masses together to practically support the Ethiopian struggle against Italy.

The Rastafari movement thus immortalised the Ethiopian Solomonoid Empire's legitimacy over its invader, Italy. It did this expediently and amidst relative obscurity because the Rastafarian masses did not discover that an entire indigenous population was enslaved by the kings and queens that the movement had just deified.

As the Rastafari ideological and practical Guru Mutabaruka has argued, the movement's major goal is the liberation of Africans and humanity and not the focus on a deity. This latest thought evolution within the movement’s emerging generation coupled with a trend towards the tracing of primordial African roots has kept the movement alive.  

 

The movement thrived in the urban centres of Jamaica in the era of colonisation. Naturally, the youths and the general public in such a society were looking for any alternative wagon to fight for equality.

Many youths gravitated to Rastafarianism and Mortimer "Kumi" Planno, the fifth most famous figure next to the four founders of the movement mentioned earlier. Planno taught Bob Marley in the mid-1960s and emerged as a significant and recognised figure. He taught Rastafarianism to the famous Wailers band, 40 years after Leonard Howell had already preached about Rastafari in the streets of Kingston, Jamaica.

RSK Nyanza wing provincial general Priest Bingi Musa of EABIC Church of Black Salvation.
RSK Nyanza wing provincial general Priest Bingi Musa of EABIC Church of Black Salvation.
Image: COURTESY

Mortimer Planno had been active in the movement from the early 1900s but his impact and worldwide recognition are based on his links with the famous Wailer’s band and Bob Marley.

Planno grew closer to the Wailers and upon his return from Delaware in late 1966, began an association with Marley that would last for a couple of years. Eventually, Planno became Marley's manager and producer for a few months.

On June 8, 1968, Bob Marley recorded his first openly Rastafarian song, "Selassie Is the Chapel", backed by Rastafarian Nyabinghi ritual drum ensemble Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus, with Rita Marley and Peter Tosh on harmony vocals.

The Wailers, with Bob Marley, lent international recognition and impact of Rastafarianism to the world.

The Ras Tafari Society of Kenya

The Ras Tafari Society of Kenya (RSK) is an umbrella body bringing together all Ras Tafari masses which includes the Rastafari mansions or orders existing locally and any other Rastafari individuals and organisations.

The RSK was registered with the Registrar of Societies in 2016 under the laws of Kenya and has a government-backed mandate to open branches in every county. 

The society's structure comprises elder rases (above 40 years) as the overall and supreme leaders and youths (below 40) form the Ras Tafari Youth wing of Kenya. The youth wing has a subordinate yet independent societal management with masters, apprentices and elders to be.  This is an extension of responsible freedom as exhibited in early African societies that had the elders and youths harmoniously existing, yet in independent institutions, as dictated by the age system.

Perhaps we need to differentiate between what is a Rastafari order or mansion and what is a Rastafari society. The former are varying yet permanent and staunch ideological and practical assertions based on the pioneering leaders' differences on ideology and practice.  The latter, societies, are attempts by the masses of the adherents of the Rastafari movement to organise themselves beyond boundaries that exist between the ideological and practical differences of the movement 's pioneers. 

Rastafarianism is a black people power movement for all black people who want to be free from all oppression. We have all Rastafari masses in Kenya on board and we are now focused on centralising and organising Rastafarians in Kenya to unprecedented scales in economics, politics and culture.

Executing general, Rastafari Society of Kenya 

RSK executing general Matara O' Nyabate Bwo' Ong'oa.
RSK executing general Matara O' Nyabate Bwo' Ong'oa.
Image: COURTESY