Forgotten 'palace' where spirit of the great chief of Yimbo rests

The popular shrine Bur Dimo in Misori village, Siaya County. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

A weather-beaten and neglected hut standing on more than three acres of land is all that remains in Misori village. 

What now stands in the middle of the compound is a big tree. The place, known as Bur Dimo (Dimo’s cave) was the home of the once powerful chiefdom in the present Yimbo.

A herd of cows grazing and chirping birds are the only sign of life here. The once protected territory now remains unguarded, with human activities taking a toll on the historic site.

Kadimo or the people of Dimo, is the largest ethnic clan in Yimbo with a total population of more than 20,000 people.

The Kadimo people were predominantly pastoralists. Their frequent migration and wars made them seasoned warriors. The warlike nature and formal political structure of the clan enabled Dimo to drive away or assimilate any community that he came across on his migratory path.

Resident Thomas Achando notes trouble began when a power struggle ensued between Dimo and Kisodhi –sons of Ramogi. Both of them had mula, (a brass armlet symbol of power) and none was ready to give up power.  “It is this power struggle that led Dimo to move out to go and stay among the Mur people,” narrates Achando.

It happened that Dimo had a prestigious bull that was powerful and had sharp horns. It used these sharp horns against Mur people during bullfighting.

They wondered how a bull belonging to an alien could dominate their own bulls.

A section of Bur Dimo. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

“They hatched a plot to humiliate Dimo by forcing him to de-horn his bull in public. This forced Dimo to visit a medicine man, who advised him to move out of Alego,” says Achando.

He adds that the medicine man prophesied that Dimo’s land was situated towards the setting sun, Yimbo, across the waters of River Yala. And just like the biblical Moses, the present-day Yimbo was Dimo’s Promised Land.

Days before the de-honing ceremony, Dimo took his wife, Nyan’gidia and travelled secretly up to the foot of Usenge hill in the land they were to possess. He surveyed the land from Sanda to Misori, and down up to Ramogi hill.  

As Dimo, Owil and Mnyejra dispersed and they agreed that since Dimo was going the farthest, he was told to beat a drum once he reached the present-day Sindho market.

“This was to confirm that he had arrived safely but the sound of the talking drum startled the inhabitants of the land. These people were Kanyiyuen, Wahanya, Wahwa and Wasawa,” explains Achando.

A day after the drumming, these people decided to track down the invaders through the animal tracks and found where Dimo and his people had spent the night. 

A battle ensued as the original inhabitants of the land demanded compensation from Dimo. His son Julu, who is said to have been an object of sacrifice to conquer the land, was killed.

Dimo finally built his home by heaping soil and boulders around the settlement such that his village looked like some trough or walled all around. The soil and boulders acted as a fortified wall.

Sources say that after the death of Dimo, a member of the clan, who was named after him was inspired by the spirits (juogi) to build a hut in the same compound.

Bur Dimo in Misori village, West Yimbo. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard]

“He would speak with the spirits of Dimo (juogi dimo) and other great warriors of Luo who died a long time ago,” explains George Aremo.

Attempts to sell the land by some clan members have proved futile because of the fear of ancestral spiritual forces that are against any activity that could defile the sanctuary.

Although some members of the clan still hold the myth of ‘Bur Dimo’ to be true, Mzee Achando says that there is an urgent need to safeguard the sanctuary for cultural purposes.

“The sanctuary is our cradle and there is an urgent need by members of the Kadimo clan to repossess the sanctuary as it has a great history and it can as well be a tourist attraction site,” he suggests.