Tuesday, January 18

A Memory of The Gallant Shujaas of Chetambe

Great heroes are recognized in the world ever because of their role in making their countries progress. Bungoma has not been left behind and follows in the footsteps of awarding its heroes.

The heroes are awarded based on their Knowledge, Spiritual perspective, cultural values, Environmental basis and Entrepreneurship. The ranking was last done in the year 2016.

“The rankings are done based on the community, they choose people whom they think they are their heroes and we get their data and call them for further assessments. ” Alice Wafula, Director of Sports and Culture Said.

 Bungoma County has history of heroes who are remembered till today. In  March-May 1985 arrival of Charles William Hobley, the ruler-ruled relationship between Nabongo and the Bukusu had much deteriorated. Through strategic alliances with Swahili merchants and Arab slave traders, Nabongo Mumia’s might had increased. Hobley’s arrival cemented relations between Nabongo’s throne and the British. This British-Nabongo alliance could only mean the worst for the Bukusu.

Especially because Hobley was on a mission to subdue the Bukusu. Hobley’s arrival at Nabongo Mumia’s headquarters of what was then known as North Nyanza ushered the upgrade of the colonial desk there to a full-blown British administration station.

Unfortunately for the Bukusu, a powerful Nabongo meant a continuation of abductions of their kin. The abducted kin was then traded to Arabs to be sold on as slaves. Further, the desire by Bukusus to emancipate themselves grew as a solidification of Nabongo’s rule by outside powers resulted in punitive laws being rammed down Bukusu throats.

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This law or directive must have been in response to British suspicions that the Bukusu might have been planning a resistance. Possibly through intelligence, the British had gotten wind of a looming Masaba threat to Nabongo’s throne. Thus, having invested so much in collaborating with Nabongo Mumia.

A Memory of The Gallant Shujaas of Chetambe 1

In response to this threat, the British, particularly Mr. Spire, was in charge of the then temporary colonial post at Mumias, designated guns as government property. Having designated the guns as such, the owners, the government, demanded them back. Initially, this disarmament process was fronted as a voluntary exercise.

Through craft and political guile, and in spite of the new law, Bukusus continued to accumulate a considerable stockpile of firepower. On one hand, wealthy Bukusu elites like Wakoli the warrior son of Mukisu had bought guns from Swahili ostensibly on a willing buyer- willing seller basis. However, the load of their stockpile came from clever machinations of these Bukusu elites in concert with tribal Chiefs and Headmen.

Through the offering of gifts, including heads of cattle for every gun received, the Bukusu were playing the game of Nabongo, only better. Other than the reported four-five heads of cattle, other dubious tactics helped further Bukusu goals. One clever tactic by freedom fighter Wakoli Okhwa Mukisu was to supply the Swahili commanders and Sudanese mercenaries under the Nabongo-British hierarchy with much needed Bukusu warmth.

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To date, the Bukusu have a reputation of being particularly warm people. But the ‘warmth’ we speak of here supplied in plenty by the strategic genius Wakoli Okhwa Mukisu goes beyond the warm smiles, hospitality and laughing hearts that Bukusus are known for today.

In a typical westernized military psyche, the British had placed restrictions on the amount of necessary warmth that their soldiers needed. Considering the outcome, it’s laughable to realize that these restrictions on warmth had been instilled as an attempt at ensuring discipline of their forces.

As a result of Wakoli’s actions, Nabongo’s ranks suffered dissertation of men and their rifles. The mercenaries, to type, switched sides. And not only that. It happened at such an alarming rate. Coupled with raids on Nabongos troops passing through Bukusu land, Mr. Spire and his assistance saw it wise to change their disarmament strategy. More force, or threat of force, became their new mode of operating.

And so it came to pass that Mr. Spire dispatched twenty-five, Sudanese soldiers. These mercenaries came from a garrison stationed in the village of Chief Majanja. They worked under a Swahili commander/negotiator named Namisi. And their brief was to head to Olukhoba lwa Lumboka to demand guns belonging to their master.

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With that move by Mr. Spire, the wheels of history were set in motion. By the time these wheels came to an end sometime in 1898, death and destruction had taken root in Bukusu land. Hundreds of lives were lost. The property of an obviously wealthy Bukusu had been destroyed. Most importantly a people’s way of life had been rudely disrupted. For not only were they displaced but also defiled. Without doubt, wiped from the face of the earth they also were.

However, we cannot fail to give the likes of Omwami Chetambe Ifile the honor they deserve, hosting Bukusu fleeing from Lumboka in the lead up to the Chetambe war.Shujaa Wakoli khwa Mukisu were among those on the run, the courage of the community of Chetambe will never be forgotten.

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