As a young child in Kakamega in the late 60s I remember my Kalenjin playmates fairly vividly (including the son of a very famous Kalenjin family). Very cheerful folks, these guys, with hearts of gold. Extremely generous too. Much later in life I retained this image of the community that produced the second president of
Indeed in the 1980s when there was a serious food crisis in the country I was able to visibly see this generosity in action as a very well known Kalenjin man who used to be in the police would deliver bales of maize flour to my father’s office regularly and stubbornly refuse any form of payment for it. Pelekea watoto chakula mzee na uwache hio upuzi ya pesa,(take food to the children and forget that nonsense of wanting to pay for it) he would say. That good man (and also very corrupt) is now 6-feet under.
But something happened in January 2008 that Kenyans are yet to understand. Indeed it has been puzzling this writer for months on end why a community I thought I knew so well suddenly turned into animals.
Regular readers of this site will already know that I am a firm believer of going back in history to understand stuff.
For instance, next time you see a hopeless drunk wasting his life away on the bottle shortly before you dismiss them, remember that they have a history. Human beings do not behave the way they do without reason. Delve into his background a little and chances are that you will discover a very sad story that may just make you a wee bit more sympathetic. In fact next time you see that hopeless drunk bear in mind that you are seeing Kumekucha himself as he was a while back. (And a serious womanizer to boot. But that is a story I will probably never tell in detail because I am so ashamed of that part of my life.)
Anyway I have done just a little digging into Kalenjin history and their past and what I have discovered has shocked me to the core of my bones. The information you are about to read proves that what happened in the Rift Valley was almost inevitable and more alarming still is the other conclusion I came to. Namely that this is a time bomb that is bound to explode again and again, if Kenyans (including the intelligence community) don’t wake up.
For starters it is important to note that there is no such tribe as the Kalenjin, just like there is no tribe called Luhya that exists. Both are mainly terms used to cluster together numerous similar tribes under one umbrella for administrative or political reasons.
Having said that, the largest and most influential tribe within the Kalenjin community are the Nandi, their influence within the entire Kalenjin community has been so immense that they have literally overshadowed almost into oblivion other smaller tribes within the same community like the Turgen (retired President Moi is a Turgen).
During the building of the Kenya-Uganda Railway in the late 1800s (interestingly this railway line has also been in the news a lot lately with the so-called “foreign” investors that own Rift Valley Railways clearly in very serious financial straits) there is a part of history that the British have been careful to hide and not talk too much about. It is only recently that scanty information has begun to emerge. I suspect the reason is because of sheer embarrassment more than anything else. Embarrassment that the mighty British empire of the time that literally ruled the world could actually be brought down to its’ knees by a tiny group of savages numbering no more than 40,000. Those “savages” as the British liked to call them, were the Nandi community.
It amazes me immensely that the Nandi managed to resist the British, not for a few months or even a year or two. This tiny group of “savages” who had obviously never gone to school for even one day managed to resist the British for 11 LONG YEARS!!!
Think about that for a moment. 11 years!! In fact the Brits finally had to make peace with the Nandi and it is only during that brief truce that they were able to complete the railway line.
The mighty colonialists had guns and canons, the Nandis only had bows and arrows but so terrified did the British become of the Nandi that at one time they brought into the country two armored railway wagons as they carried out their final assault against the Nandi. Now why would one need armored wagons to defend themselves against some primitive tribe with only bows and arrows, you must be asking? Why bring in bullet-proof armored wagons?
When you begin to understand the answer to that question you will fully grasp the events of January this year and the reason why Safaricom’s Michael Joseph told the Economist magazine recently that he believes that at the time the Kofi Anan peace deal was finally signed, the country was barely 2 weeks away from shutting down. Probably forever.
It is instructive that one of the clips that amazingly made it into national TV in
But to quickly sum it up for the terribly impatient the truth is that the Nandi are masters of guerilla warfare and you don’t want to mess around with the people who resisted the mighty British for 11 long years. Indeed the culture of the community seems to have remained intact and most of these skills have clearly been passed down the generations as security forces in the country realized too late and were caught completely flat-footed in the recent skirmishes. A lot of effort was expended in Kisumu and
But let us start from the beginning shall we, with the intriguing tale of how the Nandi executed their own leader by stoning him to death. His crime? They suspected that he had used his magical powers to cause a drought in the land. But the real reason was that this Orkoiyot (ruler and spiritual leader of the Nandi) had made a prediction that the Nandi did not want to hear.
As Martha Karua and the duly elected president have discovered in recent times, the Nandi have not changed much since then and you DO NOT tell them what they do NOT want to hear. You just don’t do that.
Oh and the prediction that the Orkoiyot uttered that cost him his life was spot on. He had foretold that the White man (devils as the Nandi called them) would one day subdue and rule over the Nandi. The fierce Nandi could not bear to hear that, so their ruler had to die for saying it. But there is much more fascinating stuff…
Caption: This man was the military genius behind the troubles the Brits suffered in the hands of the Nandi for 11 long years. Some of his devastatingly brilliant offensive tactics were unleashed in the Rift Valley last January. Read his spellbinding story in my next post (click the headline below).
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