Friday, February 28, 2014


A student in Elgeyo-Marakwet has been denied admission to a secondary school for having long hair.
Ruth Jemutai Kongin, 14, who scored 356 marks and earned herself a place at Metkei Girls Secondary School, was turned away by the administration for her long hair which she says she cannot cut because of her religious beliefs.
The school’s rules do not allow students to keep long hair.
The girl is a member of the Kenya Local Bible Believers church which does not permit women and girls to shave their hair for any reason.
She was turned away on February 6, 2014 even after paying her fees in full.
Her parents sought the intervention of County Director of Education Sabina Aroni who personally took the student to the school Wednesday but failed to make any headway.
“I have been here for more than four hours seeking to talk to the principal but shockingly, she left a message with her deputy that the student should not be admitted,” Ms Aroni said.
She said the principal had broken the law and she would subsequently advise the Teachers Service Commission on the issue.
The girl’s mother, Ms Dorcas Kongin, said her daughter’s hair has never been cut.
“Our Christian beliefs and teachings tell us to keep our hair long as clearly spelled out in the Bible. 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 categorically states hair is a woman’s covering and shaving it is a disgrace to God,” she said.
Ms Kongin said her other three daughters are members of the church and have never shaved their hair but had not experienced such problems when going to high school.
“This is discrimination based on our religious doctrines and we are not ready to compromise our faith,” she said.
Ms Kongin urged Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi to intervene and enable her daughter to continue learning at the school.
The student said she was ready to go to another school which would allow her to keep her hair.
Pastor Silas Kiptui of the Bible Believers of Kenya says he has written to the school about the issue but to no avail.
The school’s principal Jennifer Rono referred the Nation to the school’s board of governors which she said had the final say on the matter.


Friday, February 21, 2014


The Eldoret high court today gave the Sengwer community the go ahead to challenge their eviction from the Controversial Embobut forest.
Eldoret resident magistrate justice Silas Munyai read the rulling saying that what the community is fighting for is embedded in the constitutional provisions for human rights.

The lawyer representing the marginalized community Mr Alfred Nyairo said the community will file a court suit against the Attorney General, office of the Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner and the officer in charge of forest conservation in the region. They are challenging eviction from what they call their ancestral land. The case will be heard 11th march this year.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Recording the Marakwet

We left around 9am from the Eldoret Club to start our third day of recording, this time with the Marakwet tribes.  The drive was long but spectacular.  Our journey took us from Eldoret to Iten, the home of Kenya’s world class athletes.

The Journey

Most the Olympic gold medallists among Kenyan athletes live within 100 kms of Iten and it has become the legendary source of great long distance runners.  Over 1,000 Kenyan runners train here and the roads are filled with athletes training for London 2012.  In addition, over 300 foreigners train here, mostly from Europe. We went to the main training centre and interviewed a project manager about why so many people travel all this way to train on the red dirt roads around Iten.   She answered:  “First, the altitude (roughly 2300 meters) is perfect – right at the peak of natural altitude where you can still train hard, but so high that the lungs are pushed to the limit.  Second, for such high altitudes, the weather is great and allows year round training.  Few places at this altitude allow year round training.  Third, Iten is all about inspiration.   Foreign athletes are motivated by all the Kenyan runners.  You feel part of something huge and are surrounded by amazing runners.  But there is also a mystique to the place and foreign runners feel like some of the magic might rub off on them.”   Because the Olympics were approaching the place was filled with runners and documentary makers, all telling the story of this beautiful place.    In fact, we were confused for a CNN crew!

You can read more about Iten and its famous athletes here: Running with the Kenyans
From Iten there is a beautiful tarmac road that leads to Nokuru travelling down the Rift Valley.  We will take this ride tomorrow.  For today, however, in the words of Robert Frost, we ‘took the road less travelled.’  We left Iten on a red, dirt road.  The athletes ran on the sides and our car and jeep travelled in the middle.    While the countryside was beautiful, the roads left a bit to be desired and we bumped and jostled for about 80 kms.   The land is tilled now, waiting for a new planting season, so we are surrounded by red.  The red roads, the red tilled soil on either side, the red dust filling our eyes and lungs as cars pass us.  We have the opportunity to interview Tabu in detail about his ancestry.  The only issue was, the more animated he became, the slower we went. So we knew that the more interesting the trip the longer it would take and tried to get the balance right between good questions to Tabu and long silences to let him drive faster.
80kms later we rediscovered a beautiful tarmac road that led us directly up into the hills.  Long, winding roads taking us up and down hills.  Every acre was farmland, even those acres on steep hill sides.  Every few acres there was a beautiful homestead, similar to where we recorded yesterday.  Each had a round house with thatched roof, each had several chicken coops and pens for goats.  Every twenty had an additional rectangular house with pitched roof balcony.  There were no other buildings or dwellings for 10 kms of travel and then a little market would pop up which would be filled with thirty or so stalls. Then more empty roads and lovely hillsides.  We travelled this way for another 80kms or so.  Finally, at one hillside, there was a flat area and we stopped and 50 Cows announced ‘we’re here.’  We tried to find a recording site out of the burning sun but failed.  We wanted the lovely 360 views and sacrificed shade for our art.

The Music

The first group was the Sagat Traditional Dancers.  Kathy talked to the tribal elder about them.   They come from Tot, about 50km from where we were recording. They had walked here the night before and had been practicing all night and morning before we arrived at noon.  Most of their songs are about peace and unity  between the Marakwet and Pokot tribes. They are also about important historical events and praising ceremonies such as weddings, births, circumcisions and funerals. They are also used for passing information on from generation to generation. The younger generation also sing but they did not come today. They mainly have older members in their group.
The group have never been recorded before today and they were very excited about others hearing their traditional music.  Kathy spoke to them about their dress and its significance. The white paint in lines and crosses on the men’s arms represents the River Nile and where the tribe originated from. They came from Israel to Egypt along the Nile to the Sudan. This occurred in the 18th century. The women have white dots on their arms and faces representing the soil and harvest. The white paint comes from a special kind of soil and only one person in the tribe keeps this soil as the custodian. Their aprons are made out of goat or cow hide and signify prayers and blessings to the rain the river they came from. The aprons are decorated with beads, cowry shells and bottle caps hanging from the bottom. The chief’s hat is made from Colobus Monkey fur and his cloak is made from goat and cow hides. Usually this cloak is worn by a man when he comes to ask a woman to marry him. One singer carries a horn used to call people to come together, if there’s an attack or a meeting of the tribe.
The women wore small gourds around their necks that would contain oil used to smear on people after circumcision. They also wear beads crossing their chest which are given to them after female circumcision. Their belts are decorated with cowry shells and are used to drape over a woman’s abdomen when she is giving birth to protect the baby. The cowry shells hanging down from the woman’s neck signify that she has had twins. This is a huge honour and the women wear them while they sing as celebration of fertility and women.
Sagat Traditional Dancers songs include:
  • ‘Kirap’ : a blessing at the end of the harvest in December. This is only sung once a year.
  • ‘Chesiben’ : goes together with Kirap as a blessing of the harvest.
  • ‘Chemurwombai’ : this song is about the origin of the Merakwet who came from Israel then to the Nile to the Sudan to Mount Elgon and then to here in the 18th century.
  • ‘Arum’ : goes together with Chemurwombai.
  • ‘Kiseng’ : a blessing and a thanksgiving to us for coming. A welcome blessing in which grass is given as a blessing and to honour us.
  • ‘Kirongo’:  part of a blessing to say good-bye and come again. Used in initiation rights for men.
Adapted From Singing Wells


And while burning the midnight oil to ensure I fall within the over 60 or so percent of Kenyans who marry from within their communities, settling for a right Kalenjin Lady is almost driving me insane!
We, boys from the countryside do not just bump into that Tomato faced girl we meet at the university, or in M Pesa queues, or in lifts and take them home for a wife, that would be tantamount to committing cultural suicide.
We are very careful, we know the insights of the irreversible venture that is Marriage today. With this in mind, every young man from the mountain will visit their grand parents for a direction on where to head for a better or hopefully best half.
Now, doing that just kept my head spinning. Everything just hit a barren end. To my elders, unlike yester years, majority of today’s maidens across the Kalenjin nation are just what traitors are to their casualties.
A typicall Kalenjin Hut, their girls are briught up in such environments 
Half of the ladies among my Marakwet, on top of getting lost in the confines of Eldoret after enrolling for courses in town, have failed to hold on to matrimonial unions with others beating up their husbands, stepping on our rights as traditional heads of families.
More than half, if not all Nandi ladies have been brought up to a crazy belief that a man without some cash under his name is just another lunatic out there to fleece their old men’s hard earned wheat cash. Good news is that, there are a few chosen good ones, the worst news is, nobody has ever taken one home.
Most of our sisters from South Rift are very viable, or so some old woman once told me, viable here means the rate at which she will fall into anything like a marriage proposal, they will come with all their feet (toes to hip) , hands, mouths/lips and leave having opened a posho-mill and a kiosk at their home from your money and sleeping around with few village casual labourers.
Many modern girls from Keiyo, my county sisters are just what many kalenjin girls will be, given serious beating and a couple of send offs to their mothers, good wives. A warning I was however given is their low affinity to domestic chores. Many of them, will sit, stretch their legs, call the house girl a thousand devilish names and yawn to everything, even bathing.
My friend once had been so serious about Marrying a Tugen but one thing hampered his efforts, efforts in futility; he was forced to go meet several old men to be helped sort out the clan, lineage, family and dialect that has been producing ‘award winning’ women and those with only the ‘best selling ‘ ladies. A task he refuted and postponed his plan as he waits for the Godly ‘Mke Mwema’.
The Pokots! No let me not even go there, an unbooked pokots girl will siphon all the cows your old man has kept since his youthful days for dowry.
Now, for until God ‘Tumas Msaidizi’ to help me with this hopeless venture, I am sitting and lying here in the cold until I get that energy to go probing Elders across this nation to help me get a wife out of the ‘Tyranny of numbers’.
For my friends who’ve successfully gone through and have made sure that they didn’t set a time ticking explosive in their lives. Hold on to that and pray to your God for the rest of us.