1976 to 1979 were good years for the Kenyan smuggler. US President Jimmy Carter banned US importation of Ugandan coffee. This followed the abduction of Archbishop Janaan Luwuum by the Idi Amin regime when the man of God, and fierce critic, was delivering his Sunday sermon. He was never to be seen alive again. As a result of the embargo, the coffee sector in Ebukanda, Uganda, was hit. As is often the case, in the midst of chaos and gloom, there are those who thrive. Every tiff/war has its profiteers. In this case, there was a Ugandan coffee slump which, thanks to smuggling, manifested itself as a Kenyan coffee boom. As a result, a hitherto unknown border town seeded and blossomed. Embargoed from a key market, most of the trade in Ugandan coffee occurred in the dusty border town of Chepkube, or Chebukube, as the locals called it.
Finding your way to Chepkube
Chepkube is 39.3 kms North of Bungoma town central business district. If you start off your journey from the Bungoma County Referral Hospital along Moi road, it will take a 1 hour 10 minute drive to get to that town that almost half a century ago swallowed mothers and fathers; breaking marriages and families.
Chebukube: Money, sex, broken homes and lost futures
For the life and the money all manner of profiteers, all the way from Nairobi and beyond, migrated to cash in on the windfall at Chepkube. The illicit trade in coffee beans was booming. From Luwakhakha to Mombasa, Kisumu and Nairobi, new millionaires were minted.
Crossing the dangerous waters of river Luwakhakha with bags of coffee on their backs was the remit in the dead of the night. With margins in excess of 100%, the day was for making merry. Back in the villages, the children suffered.
Many songs were sang by artists within and without Bungoma. None captures this period as this famous song. And oh, In case you wonder where the coffee went once it got into Kenya, you might find answers in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa. But that’s a story for another day.
Mayi mutiti sali nga mayi
Papa nende Mayi (Father and mother) Bakhulekha (Left us) Bacha Chebukube (Went to Chebukube) Enjala yabao (There was hunger) Engalii (A lot of it) Khwabalondakhoo (We followed them there) Khwola Chebukube (We got to Chebukube) Khunyola Papa (We found father) Ali yeng'ene (All alone) Khureba Papa wefwe (We asked our father) Mayi wefwe (Our mother) Ali waena (Where is she) Papa kakhuchibaa (Father answered) Mao wenywe (Your mother) Khoro wairaa (A crow killed her) Sindu sii (What is this) Sili mwipesa (In money) Mayi mutiti (A step mother) Salinga Mayi (Is not a mother) Mayi mutiti (A step mother) Salinga Mayi (Is not a mother)
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