Murder that shaped the future of Kenya
Posted Friday, December 5 2008 at 13:40
Nandi Hills in Western Kenya is one of the most beautiful and fertile areas in the country, the proverbial land of milk and mursik (Nandi for sour milk).
Yet in 1905, a gruesome killing of one of Nandi’s strongest leaders Koitalel Arap Samoei took place here.
It was on October 19, 1905, on the grounds of what is now Nandi Bears Club that Koitalel was asked to meet the infamous Englishman, Col Richard Meinertzhagen for a truce. Instead, Meinertzhagen killed Koitalel and his entourage in cold blood.
Sadly, not much is available to the public about the legendary Nandi leader; Wikipedia describes Koitalel as a local witchdoctor.
As I set off for the place, I imagined the town would be bustling with celebrations on the 103rd anniversary of the leader.
According to an e-mail from the organisers, celebrations would begin in the morning and we would have no trouble in locating the venue.
However, by the time we reached Nandi Hills, there was little sign of activity near the post office, and nobody knew of the event in town.
It was the same story at Nandi Bears Club. The only thing that everyone knew was that the Koitalel Museum was opposite the Post Office.
We finally spotted the sign for Koitalel’s mausoleum by a small plot adjacent to the golf club.
A nondescript single-storey house stood on it with a building under construction squeezed next to it.
This is where the mausoleum dedicated to Koitalel was being built. Outside, by the fence of the Nandi Bears Club, if one looked carefully, another signpost directed one to the Koitalel Arap Samoei Memorial Site erected by the National Museums of Kenya.
A sizeable crowd at the gate signalled some activity. We met with a small crowd gathered for the occasion.
There were Koitalel’s descendants, community leaders and councillors seated by the house and a few curious children and people hanging around, attracted by the loud music, waiting for the celebrations to begin.
This wasn’t quite what I expected. All the same, I sought out Ricky Ngeny of the Koitalel Samoei Nandi Foundation who had sent the invitation.
“Koitalel Arap Samoei was Kenya’s first freedom fighter,” began Ricky, a tall and lean Nandi.