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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Kalenjin Secrets: While Kenyans Slept And Ignored The Guys Who Speak English With A Heavy Accent…

There was a superb movie released last year simply called 300. It highlighted the brilliance of the ancient Spartans in war and the military training that was their way of life from a very tender age.

There are interesting similarities between the Spartans and the Nandi. For example in the culture of the Nandi so severe were the circumcision rites initiation programs that they often claimed casualties and only about half of those who went for it returned alive. Then also when the Nandi were not at war they would hold violent competitions amongst themselves where combatants frequently fought to the death.

Therefore it is hardly surprising that by the end of the 19th century the Nandi were the dominant community in the Rift Valley having replaced the dreaded Uasin Gishu Masai

But let us stay focused on our area of interest for now which was the battle with the British. Kimnyole is the name of the Nandi leader (Orkoiyot) who is best remembered for the amazing prophecies that he made one of which he died for. He clearly predicted the coming of the “devils” who would subdue the Nandi community and rule them. The Nandis recognized the British as the “devils” that Kimnyole predicted would rule them and fought them vigorously in a vain effort to ensure that the prophecy would not come to pass.

Kimnyole was stoned to death on suspicions that he had caused famine in the land. However the real reason was that his prophecy on the Nandi being subdued upset powerful tribal elders. But before he was executed he summoned his sons and made them promise him that they would never accept any positions of leadership amongst the community. One of his sons, Koitalel Samoei, did not keep that promise and is today considered the greatest leader and Orkoiyot that the Nandi ever had. Interestingly it is widely believed that current agriculture minister William Samoei Ruto is a direct descendant of the great Nandi military strategist and leader, hence the great respect the community has for young Ruto. It will be remembered that when things threatened to get out of hand at the funeral of the late assistant minister in home affairs, Lorna Laboso, a few weeks ago it was Ruto who managed to cool down the aggravated crowd.

The Brits were known to easily subdue any tribes that resisted them by invading their villages and burning down crops and everything else thus starving the survivors into submission. So how were the Nandi able to survive this? This is an interesting question because it brings out the extremely crafty nature of the Nandi. Even before the Railway came, the sparsely populated community had defeated other fierce and much larger tribes like the Masai, the Luhya and the Kisii. They thwarted the colonialists by hiding their cows amongst those of the Kispsigis, so even when their crops were burnt down, they were still able to survive because of their herds.

This is an appropriate place to tell yet another tale involving the Luo and their great hero Luanda Magere, that clearly illustrates the craftiness of the Nandi. It is said that long before the colonialists arrived, the Luo were easily able to subdue the Nandi using their great warrior whom it is said possessed such great magical powers that a spear could not penetrate his skin.

The Nandi hurriedly called for a truce and held a beauty contest in the land to choose the most beautiful young girl who was given to the great Luo warrior and leader as a gift to cement the peace between the two communities. Luanda was delighted at this “gift” because it is said that the young girl Kalenjin girl was a real stunner. And like most present day Luos who are said to have a “weakness” where women are concerned, he saw no danger at all in having a wife from the fold of his enemies.

Peace reigned between the two communities for sometime until one day the great warrior got sick and he gave instructions to his youngest wife as to what needed to be done. It involved cutting his shadow with a razor to draw blood, which she did and Luanda recovered. Shortly after that incident she asked her husband for permission to visit her parents which she had no problem obtaining being such a dazzling beauty who charmed the fierce warrior immensely. She was sent with many gifts and on arriving narrated what had happened when Magere had fallen sick. The Nandi promptly declared war on the Luo and somebody speared the shadow of Luanda Magere, killing him and winning the battle for the Nandi.

There are many Kenyans who do not attach much importance to such tales. Some of them made the grave mistake of greatly underestimating the intelligence and craftiness of former president Daniel arap Moi. It is common amongst western powers to assume that Africans who can speak English well are intelligent and those who can’t are idiots. This kind of thinking has rapidly spread amongst Kenyans and is one of the reasons why Moi was able to rule the country unchallenged for 24 long years. The truth is that many of his enemies always greatly underestimated him.

In the same way Kenyans have for many years taken the Kalenjin for granted assuming that because they cannot speak flawless English too well and always have a heavy accent, they are not really that intelligent.

So it is hardly surprising that as the intelligence community was sound asleep and as other Kenyans focused their attention on stone throwers in the Kibera slums and elsewhere a disaster of unprecedented proportions was unfolding in Rift Valley.

N.B. In my previous post I erroneously indicated that the Nandi had the highest population amongst Kalenjins. As one of our readers quite rightly pointed out this is NOT true. The Kipsigis were in fact the most populous tribe. Indeed this tends to highlight the amazing military success of the Nandi since they were so few and yet so successful and influential in the entire Kalenjin community.

Kalenjin Secrets Part 3

P.S.: What is in this week’s raw notes (aiii, wacha tu)!! In fact I cannot dare mention it in this public forum. That’s how HOT it is. No kidding!! However you can get a FREE sneak preview of this red hot saga from my weekly Kumekucha Confidential. Email Me right away for it. It’s FREE kabisa.


Anonymous said...

Just FYI - William Ruto's parents are Kipsigis and moved to Eldoret about 40 years ago from Ainamoi in Kericho.

All the Kalenjin were called 'The Nandi speaking tribes' until a few decades ago.

I give you credit for spinning a good story.

Anonymous said...

my oh my

the more we talk the less we discover we actually know

could somebody point us to a good and authoritative source that has written the history of our people (kenyans) not through the prism of colonial rule or political eye but of the kenyan people.

granted as seen from the previous threads, people appreciate more the history that portray "their people" as heros but still lets hear more of these divergent stories.

and please spare us the "out of africa" types

Anonymous said...


This is absolute nonsense. It neither a story, history, or nursery rhyme. At best, it is a poor mixture of street corner gossip and fantacy. Now, I see why some of your friends & bloggers say you did not excel at anything at school.

In your next quasi-historical post, I suggest you try rudimentary research and self-editing.

Vikii said...

A beautiful kalenjin girl? Aai yawa!

Anonymous said...

"Interestingly it is widely believed that current agriculture minister William Samoei Ruto is a direct descendant of the great Nandi military strategist and leader, hence the great respect the community has for young Ruto"

Please get your facts right. We all know that Ruto is a Kipsigis. If he is a descendant of Koitalel, please give us this lineage tree. Also, why is it that it was Kipruto Kirwa who fought for a mausoleum to be built for Koitalel and not his "direct descendant"? When the Kipsigis were complaining that Raila had given them a raw deal in Ministerial appointments, they were reminded to count in Ruto. None of them refuted this. Ruto himself never disowned that reply. This assertion is a figment of your fertile imagination and it has now watered down an otherwise good exposition that you have began to give.


Shaddy said...


That beautiful girl that led the Kalenjin to my backyard must have been knockout gorgeous. It's always the cuties who do us in, isn't it? Men, be warned!

That said, this is the kind of story that leads to introspection. The question that comes to mind is...can Kenya's fourty two tribes bring their unique strengths together to mould a super Kenyan identity? Can Kenya become the melting pot where tribalism is buried and a national image fostered?

If anything, the great story of the Nandi Resistance must inspire each of us to absorb from other cultures what advances our own. We should shun influences that have a negative impact on our morality. For example, can the bravery of the Orkoiyots inspire us to shun prostitution? Can it lead us to work for national unity? A hunger-free society?

I'm touched by the bravery of those who went before us. It's our turn to advance Kenya along the lines of heroism set by the Nandi warriors.

How about Lenana? How does he fit into the scheme of things, Chris?

Sam Okello

Anonymous said...

That was a piece of a story but has dwelt on the nandis and not the kalenjins as the title promised. I expected something related to PEV. Most of it his common hearsay and some of the well beaten myths. The orgoik are a special sub- tribe of the kalenjins known for fore-telling about the future well into decades. Maybe you can find out why Kenyatta is a kalenjin word, and how it came about, from the researcher Kipkoech arap Sambu in new york.

papa plus said...


You are being fasticious, right? Every tribe has beautiful women. The Kalenjins are no exception...

Interesting read but a little shallow on related mataphors. I think, and this is my uneducated opinion; the Nandi/Kalenjin derive most of their character from strict social hierachy. The elders of the community are very very well respected. The fact that Moi received so little challenge from within the community testifies to this fact. Even when they all agree that they did not benefit greatly from Moi's reign. Secondly, the KAlenjin are very community oriented. If you go to most villages you are unlikely to find an extremely poor household within. They tend to take care of their own.

I had a chance to grow up among them and that is what I observed.

papa plus said...

Oh yaah, before I forget. Moi himself believes that the Kalenjins are direct descendants of the house of King David ergo the African Jews. On his first ever vacation, Moi paid a visit to Israel to pay homage to his forefathers.

papa plus said...

In my opinion that boat has sailed. One thing I have admired the Americans for is PATRIOTISM. These fellows will die for their country. For some reason, they managed to exalt the values and tenets of their founding fathers and the constitution.

It is too bad that during independence, many Africans thought they could perfect the mzungu way of life and even those that were educated abroad ended up assuming a bourge0is type lifestlye and discarding our cultures. Had we stuck to some of these values, we might have better control of our destiny and sense of unity and oneness and not engaged in what I like to call shiting-where-we-eat type corruption.

Anonymous said...

anon11:39 AM
I totally agree, it is like Africans hold the bible and shout all the muzungu teaching?? what happened to out African way of worship?? why was it and is still not acceptable?? why do we believe in what the white missionaries forced on us?? why is it more superior than our own cultures and believes from beyond our ancestors- why is it that when things go bad even in the courts of law we go seeking our elders to help- because we then turn to our traditions

wake up and stop being foolish Africans that is what they call us and we smile and bow and say ndio afande - now it is yes sir.....

then we scream and shout when we use the same courts and law to kill each other like we are at war?? isn't time we looked at what governs as closely and why it is so easy for us to destroy each other?? what happened ??? many of you I'm sure can answer that in English but not in your mother tongue!!! sue me for pointing it out!!!!

Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

'IVY' (indeeed)

Why focus on small fry when we are chocking in the MKM/Kikuyu big time thieves. We are not foolish you know.

Anonymous said...

?Ivy 6:49 PM""this is the fake kikuyu Ivy spewed on here by the devil himself- why don't you go try prostitution since you are already good at stolen identity??? shenzi wewe.....

Anonymous said...

When the British saw that they were not going to defeat Nandi resistance soon .They decided to sign a peace deal with them but Nandi instisted that they traety was to be done their own way by slitting the throat of a dog and all troops from to lick the blood when Arabs and Waswahili who were building the rail saw this they were like " Ala hawa ni walambwa?" and that is where the name Lumbwa come from.

chris said...

Anon @ 10:23

I wonder what your real objective in leaving such a comment is? And also in the liberal use of the word "nonsense". Are you not intelligent enough to argue without using abusive language? If you were half as knowledgeable as you claim to be, you would know that Koitalel's brother's connection with the Kipsigis.

Read this;

Koitalel Arap Samoei

A Nandi leader and an orkoiyot, a diviner. He detested the invasion of the British into the Nandi territory while building the Kenya-Uganda Railway. He prophesied that a black snake would tear through Nandiland and it would be spitting fire and would make its way into peoples' life. The construction of the railway saw this as a fulfilment of this prophecy.

He led the Nandi people into a fight against the builders of the Railway line for ten years. The British were determined to build the railway line and they tricked the orkoiyot into a meeting for an agreement, where a British commander shot Samoei and killed him during the conference. Without a leader, the Nandi were finally defeated in 1905 and the construction of the railway line continued without resistance.

Talai Family and Koitalel Arap Samoei PDF Print E-mail
Around 1840, war, famine and disease resulted in the wholesome decimation of the Uasin Gishu Maasai. Among them was a member of the Laibon family, one Barsabotwo who left the main body of refugees and established a home near Kaptelegei Hill in the south-west of Nandi District. He quickly made an impact as a respectable and wise man.

He had 4 sons Turugat, Kipsogon, Marasoi, Sonet and a daughter Chesang. When Barsabotwo died in the 1860s, he left four possible candidates for the role of senior Orkoiyot among his sons. The jostling for positions saw Nandis divided in backing each one of them and increasing the likelihood of civil war in Nandi. This was eventually avoided through a compromise system of joint senior orkoiyot. The Joint senior Orkoiyot during this time were Turugat and Marasoi.

In the 1880s Kimnyolei, the son of Turugat became the Senior Orkoiyot and began to stand out in the quality of his advice and judgement. He is also remembered for some remarkable prophecies. During the late 1880s he advised the Nandi against a raid on Maasai. His advice was rejected and the warriors proceeded with the raid, which was a great success. But the cattle they brought were infected with dreaded rinderpest which rapidly decimated the Nandi herds.

The next raid venture that Kimnyolei gave his blessing to was a disaster and the warriors returned home empty-handed. Hunger and death stalked the land and the responsibility was laid firmly at Kimnyolei’s door. A large group of the Nandi elders decreed he must die. He was duly executed but not before strongly advising his sons, Kipchomber Koilegei and Koitalel Samoei, to refuse to accept any positions in Nandi.

The next years were ones of increasing internal disunity and hardship among the Nandi, accompanied by the disturbing appearance of a major external threat in the shape of armed trading caravans and even some foreign military units.

By the middle of the 1890s the Nandi elders, especially those not associated with Kimnyolei’s removal, determined that the interests of their people required a fresh approach to Koitalel to fill the vacuum and take over as the rightful heir to Kimnyolei’s position. He duly accepted this.

Soon Koitalel was playing the role with such consummate skill and diplomacy that is influence and authority spread rapidly throughout Nandiland. He prophesied that a black snake would tear through Nandiland and it would be spitting fire and would make its way into peoples' life. The construction of the railway saw this as a fulfilment of this prophecy.

Kipchomber, his only p ossible rival, had moved to take a similar position with the Kipsigis. By 1900 virtually the whole Nandi tribe was united again behind Koitalel. The British, determined to build the Kenya-Uganda railway line and reeling from the Nandi resistance, tricked Orkoiyot Koitalel arap Samoei into a meeting for an agreement, where Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen and his troops callously shot and killed Samoei and 23 other members of the family and community during the conference. There was one survivor who managed to escape and narrate what had happened.

The British examined these events in detail by conducting three separate military courts of inquiry after protests were received from other officers concerning the disgraceful and treacherous nature of Meinertzhagen’s behaviour. He was however acquitted, eventually transferred elsewhere. He went on to become Chief Intelligence Officer of the British Army during the second World War and decorated by the Queen.

The fall-out and consequences of the killing of Samoei for the future of the Nandi people were profound and have not been fully resolved even today. After he was killed, the Nandi people were so divided afterwards and until today, the Nandi people still remember that their spiritual leader played an important role in the unity of his people.

During the colonial times the British not only persecuted the Talai clan but made sure that they put under house arrest and in detention. They were dispersed all over Kenya, from Maralal, to Gwasi, to Meru, to Lamu and Songhor, to name but just a few of the places. Today, the Talai clan’s lineage is to be found not only mongst the Kalenjin but also other Kenyan tribes.

Source information, books and articles by:
Talai clan; A. C. Hollis; G. W. B. Huntingford; A. T. Matson; R. Meinertzhagen; P Abraham;


Anonymous said...

True Chris ,some people blive Odinga family has some lineage with the Talai who were deported to Gwasi that is why Raila was given Arap Mibei without much ado!

Knoppix!® said...

Chris your comment at 1.00 is much more incisive than the actual post.
If you would have made the post like the comment.

Nandi Kaburwo said...

Koitaleel Samoei's son Kipnyolei was the world's longest serving prisoner (41 years in prison: 1921-1962). Did you know that? Plus, do you know that there are Nandi people in Laikipia and Nanyuki, and why do they live there?

Anonymous said...

Firstly let me confirm that I am NOT Anonymous @10:15am who used the word "nonsense" in his post.
Secondly, whereas I appreciate the efforts you made in proving your point that Ruto is a direct descendant of Koitalel, I still don't see how your literature quotes prove this. It only says that Koitalel's brother Kipchomber, sided with the Kipsigis. How this translates into a direct descendant relationship between Ruto and Koitalel is beyond my capacity to comprehend.
Please just sort me out by giving me the lineage tree that connects Ruto to Koitalel DIRECTLY and we will stop the haggling anon!!


Anonymous said...

All beautiful Kalenjin women are kipsigis. That's how they get to give birth so much. "Sigis" is Kalenjin for giving birth.

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