Elijah Masinde was a religious leader, traditionalist, and a social and political activist. His courage and dedication made him an enemy of three subsequent governments that consigned him to detention or jail for most of his adult life – including two independent governments.
Starting off as a member of the Quakers, Masinde broke ranks with the missionary order to embrace the indigenous Dini ya Msambwa – the religion of the ancestors – which pushed for the expulsion of Europeans and a return to traditional worship.
Masinde was arrested in 1946 and committed to a psychiatric hospital for two years. He would be committed to mental institutions many times. But every time he was released, he would return to his activism. Dini ya Msambwa managed to stoke the emotions of more communities beyond the Bukusu, attracting Lukas Pkech, who led the Pokot in a brave rebellion against the British at Koloa. The Msambwa movement grew beyond the borders, into Uganda, and established contact with other freedom movements.
After Masinde was eventually arrested and jailed in Lamu’s notorious prison, the Msambwa movement proscribed. Masinde was only released in 1960, having served more time in detention than anyone else. He joined KANU, breaking ranks with his compatriots who were all members of KADU.
Disillusioned by the independent government, he was in and out of prison for his outspoken nature. The attempted 1982 coup proved the last straw. He was subsequently arrested for holding an illegal meeting. In November 1985, he was committed to a psychiatric hospital for the third time in his life. He died shortly after his release in 1987.