Monday, September 20, 2021

What did your parents do (careers, professions, trades, etc) in Kenya


A work in progress: need your comments


so far I have focused on Kenya, a lot of the jobs will be similar in all three countries and Zanzibar. This story when finished illustrates how directly or indirectly Goans (as well as other communities) helped build Kenya until 1963 and after (Independence). No names have been used but would be happy to publish them if you send them to me. 

A Kenya friend asked me the other day: what contribution did the Goans make in the building of the nation of Kenya: Simple answer probably every aspect of life (except politics).


1.  They helped develop a professional civil service that survived the prangs of the early days of independence. There were lawyers, Queen’s Counsels, and clerical support in the High Court and the magistrates’ courts. There Goan court clerks all around the East African judicial system. With others, they kept the postal and telegraphic system working. The Civil Service at all levels: district, provincial, in every inch of the country, it was the Goans who kept the wheels of colonial government in ship shape, even guarded it, improvised, improved and made the white man look good. Without the Goans and other South Asians there would have been no colonial government as such.

2.    Stenographers (secretaries) provided unbelievable support in helping new civil servants, ministers and assistant ministers and permanent secretaries, under-secretaries take baby steps in their first days and weeks and months in Government. Later, employment agences. Corporate CEOs, Company chair persons, Corporate Company Secretaries, Corporate investors, Corporate innovators, Bursars, corporate treasurers/Chief accountants and plenty more.

3.      There were several prominent Goans employed by the Kenya Parliament.

4.      There were priests and nuns who played a  wholesome role in meeting the religious needs of the people long before the advent of independence. At the same time, they partnered their local communities in building places of worship (churches) and schools for education throughout the country.

5.      Accountants helped professional businesses and services stay on top of their game in relation to their bottom line and a clear view of their profit margins or failures.

6.      Goan teachers continued to educate the future leaders, civil servants, engineers, accountants, etc until they were no longer wanted. Goan engineers, architects, planners, town planners, doctors, dentists, surgeons, nurses, radiographers. Ear Nose and Throat specialists, anaethethists, doctors, nurses, agricultural and scientists helped prepare the road after independence. There were several aircraft instrument technicians, aircraft maintenance specialists, and other Goans worked in different branches of the East African large and small aircraft aerodromes.

7.      Journalists, advertising specialists, graphic artists, secretarial colleges, tailors, carpenters, motor mechanics, insurance agents, financial advisers, sports club officials in Central Province, Western Province, the Coast, etc.

8.      Social and sports clubs showed way ahead in organisational and administrative skills for social and sports skills to continue development. Sportsmen and women made a huge contribution in the future athletics and other sports after independence. Bone setters, physiotherapists, midwives, child and adult psychologists and psychiatrists made their contribution as well as medical scientists who continued the batter against Malaria, Polio, Tsetse Fly, Dysentery, Cholera.

9.       Huge numbers of Goans kept the Railways running, as well administration and accounting and catering services. A few Goans even attended the Railway Training School in Nairobi. Many more Goans kept the sea-lanes open, the customs and excise, the passenger liners, and every other aspect of the sea.


Other Goans played key roles in Post Office administration as well providing skills in the fruit canning and export industry. Some Goans even ventured into the construction industry. More Goans were in all aspect of the travel industry. A large number played a key role in keeping East African Airways in the air, every aspect of maintenance, engineering, cockpit engineering et al. There were also many Goan pharmacists and chemists. Lots of Goan Bars and restaurants catered for all. There were chefs/cooks, musicians of all sorts, including a vibrant classical musician community.


Large numbers of optometrists and eye surgeons cared for people around the country.

My Mzee was a Watchmaker/Repairer+Dealer in Roemer watches. Malachy De Souza M.D.

Doris Souza

My father,Aleixo Rosario D'Souza, worked for the Government Press until his retirement in 1959.all 7 of us were born in Nairobi


Comment by a friend: Your list is comprehensive - and necessarily so, as Goans were involved in all walks of life. I would add cooks and chemists to the list. I think Dr. Rozendro Ribeiro deserves special mention as his use of quinine injections for malaria probably saved thousands of lives including that of my father. I was reading the other day that a Goan chef cooked for royalty on the railway and functions at Government House and Goan tailors were acknowledged to be the best. What about Goan politicians like Pio Gama Pinto, J.M. Nazareth, and Fitz de Souza? And journalists like a certain Cyprian Fernandes, Alfred Araujo, Norman da Costa and J. Rodrigues, newsreader Ivan Araujo … before all of them Saude George?


Yes, Goans came to Kenya for employment opportunities that were not available in their homeland but, in the process, they provided valuable services at a level of ability, competence and integrity that set the standard for those who followed.


Another Goan from Goan sent me these questions:


Would it be accurate to say that outside of India, (with the exception of Portugal) Goans exerted a tremendous influence on  Kenyan life, and in what way? In every way possible, the above provides some idea to the extent that Goans were involved in the building of Kenya, not indirectly but indirectly. Many knew the day would come when they would have leave their paradise. Others would not hear of it.


What was the political contribution to Kenyan life and would it have got more enhanced had Gama Pinto lived? Why did Goan political contributions peter out as the years of independence went by? Goans were never political as such. People like Dr ACL de Sousa and other like him played some part in the politics of the day (1930-1950s). Later JM Nazareth tried to show the Goans the way into politics but he was dismayed by the continual infighting. He spent of his time with the Indian Congress which was a more politically active. I always thought that he brought a better quality of politics to any discussion/argument. The subjective title of the greatest Goan politician my go to Dr Fitzval de Souza, brilliant lawyer, Deputy Speaker of the Kenya Parliament, Member of the Kenya Parliament. He was clever enough to realise that rich Indian businessmen were good for business and good people. He was also clever enough to know exactly when to get out of the political even though he was one President Jomo Kenyatta’s closest advisers. Joe Murumbi, the Goan-Masai, Goa-educated half-caste was an outstanding man but he made the dominant Kikuyu politicians nervous because he was quite close and respected by Mzee Kenyatta. In the end, he resigned from the vice-presidency and returned to his vast art and book collection. He died a sad man. Once the Mau Mau, had surrendered, there really was no room for Pio Gama Pinto. However, in the fight for independence, assisting the Mau Mau, developing political strategies for the political fight for indepence, Pio Gama Pinto more than any other Goan made the biggest contribution in winning independence.

He was too honest a politician for the powerful Kikuyu and the fact that his socialist ideals were being exploited by the capitalist Luo leader Oginga Odinga did not help his cause. His close friend Dr Fitzval De Souza had tried to convince him to get out of Kenya politics (in fact, Pio Gama Pinto was planning to do just by moving to the Tanzanian border to closer to helping the fight for the independence of the Africans in Mozambique, Angola, Southwest Africa (later Namibia). After a swearing match with Jomo Kenyatta in the grounds of Parliament House, he had written his own death warrant. As a freedom fighter, Pio Gama Pinto stands with the best. Pinto was the cleanest politician you could find anywhere. As a political and armed struggle strategist, there were few who were his equal. In the final analysis, JM Nazareth and Dr Fitz de Souza made some genuine contributions in Kenya’s political arena. However, no one really pushed the cause of the Goan.


Like most Indians, the Goans kept to themselves. Were inter-marriages rare between Goans and Africans? One or two maybe!


What was the Goan contribution to the Lancaster House Conferences? Nil. Jomo Kenyatta invited Dr Fitzval de Souza to be present at two or three conferences on the path to independence. But it was as a Kenyan and not as a Goan that Fitz de Souza found a seat at the Lancaster House conferences.


Many Goans chose to migrate to the west when the Brits left perhaps making the Africans wonder if they were not really keen on contributing to Kenya? Is this accurate and thus in a sense self-serving?


We do not hear much about the Hindu Goan contribution to Kenya. Were they too few to make a difference? Did not know they existed growing up but then again, the only Hindu Goans I met were in Goa. There must have been some in East Africa but I never met a single one.


The Indian community was recognized as the 43rd tribe of Kenya. Was the decision in your view motivated by political gains (Uhuru) or did the Kenyan leadership genuinely acknowledge the contributions of Goans and Indians? I think it was a political joke.


Finally, what was Kenya in the Goan imagination of those days? Before independence, it was akin to paradise. We lived as if we were in Goa only a much better quality of life, employment, social quality, a much larger array of sports, East African and international sports. It was a life that dreams are made of. These days I share long talks of friends grew up within East Africa. The reason we celebrate this nostalgia, it was for most quite a brilliant life, even the less fortunate still speak lovingly for their time in East Africa.





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