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Friday, July 18, 2008

Kalenjin Secrets

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 Kenya.

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 Kenya at the height of the post election violence showed security personnel firing off camera. There were two groups. One group was wearing red berets and was firing while lying flat on the ground. The other group was standing and was firing almost non-stop. Their attire told you immediately that those were the Kenya army and the less courageous folks on the ground were the Police General Service Unit. But who were they exchanging fire with so intensely off camera? Who was the unseen foe, so to speak? I urge your patience because by the end of this weekend you will fully understand the answers to those questions.

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 Nairobi, shooting to death stone throwers and innocent Kenyans fleeing from the scene, while in the Rift Valley the terror that had terrorized the British barely 100 years earlier was unleashed once again with devastating consequences.

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).

Kalenjin Secrets Part 2

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Anonymous said...

Yes the largest and most influential tribe within the Kalenjin community are the Nandi, kalenjine leaders and influential family’s have roots Nandi or masai , this come about as result of war with British, lots of Nandi’s had to flee from their original home and settled within other kalenjine community ,e.g. moi mother was Nandi his father in-law was Nandi, all kale educated elite schooled in kapsabet, top military kales are from Nandi, for every kale teen ultimate test of manhood was going through the traditional Nandi initiation ritual in old than days 60% made it back home from the bush

Anonymous said...

Yes the largest and most influential tribe within the Kalenjin community are the Nandi, kalenjine leaders and influential family’s have roots Nandi or masai , this come about as result of war with British, lots of Nandi’s had to flee from their original home and settled within other kalenjine community ,e.g. moi mother was Nandi his father in-law was Nandi, all kale educated elite schooled in kapsabet, top military kales are from Nandi, for every kale teen ultimate test of manhood was going through the traditional Nandi initiation ritual in old than days 60% made it back home from the bush

Nandi Kaburwo said...

Please cross-check your facts before you feed us with half-baked truths. I am a Nandi and I know that in terms of population, the Kipsigiis are the most populous. As to whether the man in that picture is the revered Koitaleel Samoei, I doubt.

On 20th Oct 1905 at 9:00AM when the deranged Col Meinartzhaggen led column four from Fort Ternan through Kavirondo and landed at Kaapnge'tuny in present-day Nandi Hills on his assassination mission, there was no camera to take that picture.

The Orkoiyoot, a mysterious figure only met by a few messengers called maotioot (pl. maootik) could not have been fotographed.

So, consult some of us who have spent time on our history, before you fall prey to sensational distortions which will only help to further the ignorance of our country's rich culture and diverse ethnic composition.

I recommend you read Kalenjiin blogs rather than second-guess.

For purposes of records it would be important to indicate the motive behind this expose because you will realise as you have hinted that no Nandi, or Kalenjiin for that matter, requires any millitary training. At initiation, there is an elaborate introduction to formations and brigades ranging from the initiation hut (menjeet) to the age-set (ibinda) and even a further sub-division within an age-set (siritieet). Let alone Kokweet and our very innovative political parties (bororieet). Wwe are not talking religion and God (Asiis, which is not the literal Sun).

What I am saying is that any call for war triggers an automatic columning and re-organisation with elaborate command lines and attack strategy. To allege that anybody could fund the Kalenjiin to go to war is to under-estimate what goes on during the seclusion after initiation. An outsider cannot understand it.

What happened in Kenya after the election was stolen is sad and regrettable, but the duly rigged-in man at the house on the lonely hill must never fail to script his memoirs to help future likely thieves like the ones we see angling for 2012. Thank you.

--Nandi Kaburwo--

Anonymous said...

Good one.Chris.
The Nandi and Kipsigis, in response to Maasai expansion, borrowed from the Maasai some of the traits that distinguish them from other Kalenjin: large-scale economic dependence on herding, military organization and aggressive cattle raiding, and centralized religious-political leadership. The family that established the office of orkoiyot (warlord/diviner) among both the Nandi and Kipsigis were nineteenth-century Maasai immigrants. By 1800, both the Nandi and Kipsigis were expanding at the expense of the Maasai. This process was halted in 1905 by the imposition of British colonial rule.

Daniel Waweru said...

This would earn you you a failing mark if it were a first-year history essay.

The Kipsigis are the most numerous and used to be the best educated of the Kalenjin. The woman in the picture is definitely not Samoei - who was actually of Maassai descent, and a well-known cattle thief (among other unsavoury things). The resistance lasted, at most, ten years, and is most accurately dated as beginning in 1898 and ending in 1905. It was broken by the Brits; not ended by negotiation. Indeed, Koitalel's relatives - senior men of the Talai clan - were quite happy to accept chieftainships from the Brits after the wars.

In common with most pastoralists, the Kalenjin are overrepresented in the army; a direct consequence of British colonial policy, derived from crappy turn-of-the-century colonial anthropology, which divided Africans into warlike and peaceful tribes. Gikuyu, Luo and several other tribes which had had some missionary education were discouraged - and in some cases actually banned - from serving in various of Her Majesty's forces. (Although the Kamba were discovered to be a warlike tribe and disproportionately enrolled in the army after their land and livestock had been stolen en masse) So much for the historical sociology of the Kenyan army. Are you sure you want to be perpetuating these stupid stereotypes?

Nandi appears to be mistaken about the nature of Kalenjin political organisation: a pororiet is closer to a parish council than a political party. Further, we know that there was funding of the evidence from (i)eyewitness evidence and (ii) basic reasoning: when significant numbers of suspects from different locations possess, on arrest, large, roughly equal sums of money in cash, it is obvious that they're being paid for their trouble. Your absurd piece of mystification remains just that.

Anonymous said...

I see you have embarked on the fictious road of history and as Daniel Waweru rightly said, this halfbaked essay would have earned you a failing mark in school.

And one small personal remark: you said you have been a womanizer some time back.




REMEMBER ???????????????

Anonymous said...

The Nandi resistance is actually not that well documented as the Mau Mau resistance for the simple reason that History was written in favour of our independence rulers. This was 1911 and Nandi country was untouchable by the Brits. Nandi Country was at that time from Fort Ternan (present day Kericho) to Kapsabet and Nandi Hills. We need to revisit this and also ask for for Koitalel's head which is was taken by the British Colonel to Britain. Then all the Kalenjin tribes were known as the 'Nandi Speaking tribes' but the most populous is the kipsigis.

mariannebriner said...

I know it is off the topic - but would it not be most appropriate also for Kumekucha to celebrate the 90th Birthday of Africa's most esteemed sons - Nelson Mandela?

Maybe you could memorize him in publishing the private photo showing him and Jeff Koinange?

Jeff sent it to me with the remark " Sharing a special moment with a special friend" .....

Chris - I had sent it to you on your request some time back - but just in case: you can find and download it via my blog

Maybe people will realize - looking at these two so very different men - what life is all about:

One once seemed to have lost everything when he was imprisoned - but then he gained everyhting because he never lost his vision and more important his humanity -

The other one had everything or at least believed he had - but he lost everything because of his own faults and weaknesses.

You could even say that this photo shows Africa - the two sides of it - the honest and sincere one and then the dark side, men chewed-up and consumed by their greed and self-destruction.

I therefore ask you today:

Choose to which side you want to belong. It's up to you to make a difference.

I know it would be easier to follow the 'old' ways and structure of corruption - but if you really want to achieve changes, you have to follow Nelson Mandela - even if this is the most difficult and dangerous road.

Think about it - it's up to you to decide which way Kenya will go.

I therefore beg you to look at this photo of two very different men:

The left side (Nelson Mandela) represents your future: clean and bright - the right side (symbolized by Jeff Koinange) is your past - dark and full of corruption.


Anonymous said...

For sure the Luos are stupid.Raila will never be the president of Kenya.And in 2 years the Kikuyus and Kalenjins will come together and live in brotherhood again.I was a supporter of Raila ,but having seen Luos Idolising Raila, I made up my mind and now I see the truth.Raila or for that matter Luos are not fit to rule Kenya.Period

Shaddy said...


This is very revealing. And the additional info by Nandi Kaburwo and other informed bloggers is fantastic. With such a rich history of resistance, don't you wonder how the larger Kalenjin community fell prey to the wily schemes of the Kenyattas who settled thousands of Kiambu peasants in their midst? How was this pulled off?

Sam Okello

Anonymous said...

Much to my regret I have to agree. What did Raila do upto now besides spending some 'much deserved' holidays in the luxury of a Mombasa Hotel, travelling to South Africa to see his business partners, to Germany to buy his new vehicle and some tailor-made silk suits? He is more busy to take care of his private matters and his business than to at least pretending to fulfill some of the promises he made before being elected. He slowly enters the same league as Kabila and others who pretended but never even tried to make changes. All of them are only interested to increase their own wealth, not matter how. That's the sad story of Kenya - it it no better off now than it was after Independence. Raila just as Uhuru are of the same breed, they are both the sons of their fathers, including all their weaknesses. It needs a new generation - an untainted one - to finally help Kenya to come out of this misery.

Shaddy said...


The Luos are stupid,
The Kikuyu are thieves,
The Luhya are watchmen,
The Arabs are terrorists,
The Maasai are primitive,
The whites are smart,
The Africans are backward...

Ever heard those stereotypes before? That's the stuff bullshit is made off. Wisen up!

Sam Okello

Shaddy said...


Listen, if your child was sitting in the middle of a super busy highway and a huge truck was rolling down its way, if Raila hurled himself in the line of danger and saved the child, you'd still call him worthless.


Sam Okello

Anonymous said...

Oh Chris pliiz spare us ua nonsense we kales r not that stupid as u want the world to believe n hey u cant start creating an hedge btwn us kales we r more clever than that!!! or uv seen arap samoei drifting from ua guy so u want to make devils out of us????? check ur facts boy!!!
n hey we r not proud of wat happnd in Jan!!!

Nandi Kaburwo said...

When the Mzungu came to Africa he started by lecturing us.

We all remember the haughty distortions in those history classes:

Who was the first man to see Mt. Kenya? Well, all the Kikuyu, Ameru, Aembu and any other black African were too blind. It took a white guy to 'discover' Mt Kenya, River Nile, Mt. Kilimanjaro..anything and everything about the African including the African him/herself! Shame!

This stereotyping built the self-deprecating image of 'Africa is shenzi' and hence the need to quickly 'civilise African(ns)'.

By Waweru dismissing and devaluing the Nandi Bororieet system as a mere equivalent of the same white man's religious congregations called Parishes, he is admitting the inferiority of the 'uncivilized and illiterate African'. You need a good understanding of the social organization along the schools of the Kokweet, Bororieet, Oreet (clan) and others then you will realise that the tenets of conservatism and liberalism in modern democracy was founded in the Bororieet system. More on this is elsewhere.

Wow, we had our own form of counting, writing and dressing. We had our own civilisation and I dare refer you to eye-opening exegesis that point irrefutably to the innovation of Pre-Christian monotheism in Egypt.

Of course, as a brainwashed scholar, anybody would imagine Assisianism as a form of idolatry. Nay. It is from the teachings of Osiris that we find Christianity borrowing concepts as mundane as death and resurrection.

Nor should we forget that among the proud Catholics of this world, The Nicene Creed, the most important decree that Jesus Christ is the ONLY begotten son of God, was formulated by a black African Roman Catholic Bishop. Africa is not shenzi

What will I say about the cradle of civilization that is Egypt and fail to mention that Egypt was the original home of the Kalenjiin. Egypt itself is a corruption of the Greek Kiptaiyoos (aka Kiptaiyaat aka Kagiptai or our original home).

Let me save you the details and refer you to the most authoritative proof that Egypt was a Kalenjiin abode, that we the Kalenjiin of Kenya invented Pyramids and that is why nobody will explain the architecture (proto-Kalenjiin arch means chief, "tecture" possibly a transcription of teech or build!).

Please secure yourself a copy of the monograph: The Kalenjiin people's Egypt origin legend revisited : was Isis Asiis? : a study in comparative religion. Nairobi: Longhorn Publishers, 2007 By Kenya's foremost Egyptologist Kipkoeech Araap Sambu.

Open your mind and appreciate the complexity in African organisation. A good example. The Agikuyu borrowed male circumcision from us, together with our ageset system. Maina, a name common among the Agikuyu had better be explained and don't fail to acknowledge that it is Kalenjiin in origin.

Yes, we have the Kuria too with their prefixed Aba- before known Kalenjiin ageset names like Chuma, Maina, Sawe etc. If this is not true, contradict me.

Haven't we seen research drifting towards justifying male circumcision as a means to curb the spread of AIDS? Even the whites, a good number of who don't 'cut' are now finding it fashionable to do it. It's origin is Egypt, a Kalenjiin home.

So, is the African shenzi? In the eyes of the white man, maybe. But certainly when a fellow African confesses to being inferior, he surely needs mental circumcision to exorcise the inferiority. We, are NOT sub-human. Africans know as much as anybody else that 'necessity is the mother of invention'. We didn't, as Africans, need to have trains and cars because we operated at our pace. That is not to say that we don't need them NOW. We do, but to call us naive and backward, even primitive, just because we didn't invent the steam engine is to confess to the most destructive form of backwardness.

I can almost dare say that African had God long before the whites did. I will resist the temptation to say they rigged God, changed His image to white and exported both Him and a 'black devil' to a scared Africa. Readily, the African accepted that we had no political parties, no God, no food but berries and no water but rivers.

Give me a break.

-Nandi Kaburwo-

Anonymous said...

I have this question for Chris, since we all know you left Kenya for 'safety' to US, leaving your wife and family behind, can you tell us if you miss sex and if you do how do you relief yourself? It’s not personal, just intrigued.

Shaddy said...

Wow, Nandi Kaburwo, where have you been? I love the pride and power you bring into defending our origins. We were coming along at our pace, right? I love that. I may not agree with some the conclusions arrived at by the trailblazing work of Kipkoech Arap Sambu, but the man definitely introduces a new way of looking at where we came from and how some of the brainwashing came about.

Indeed, until we learn to respect ourselves, to stop falling at the feet of the white man every time we have issues that need resolution, we will stay enslaved in our minds.

The time to unshackle ourselves is now!

Sam Okello

Anonymous said...

Shaddy Sam Okello - if you despise the White Man so much, why then does it come that you live since almost 20 years in the States, one of the most racist countries on earth? There must be something you got addicted to which made you decide not to return to your native country, something which Kenya cannot offer to such a Proud African as you try to pretend to be. Tell us what you are missing in our country. Maybe we can help you in finding it so you can come back soon.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:48 AM - Leave Chris and his sexual problems alone. Don't you understand that he is trying to overcome certain lonely hours by starting the posts on those love stories and similar subjects. That's his way of 'chilling out'.

danykilz said...

Am a kalenjin and to be honest what my people did in the wake of 2008 does not go uncritisized. However, kalenjins are animals, just misunderstood people.That picture is definitely not Samoei

Anonymous said...

Kenya wasnt two weeks away from shutting down,a group of God fearing people went from hotspot to hotspot praying,and when they left a hotspot peace sure thats sounds like greek to you.

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