Pastoralists in Kenya value their livestock. They attach great importance to dairy cows and bulls. Among the Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana, Borana, Somali and the Samburu, every homestead and Kraal has a bull. The most versatile and prolific bulls are carefully selected and nurtured to help in the building of family herd. Without these bulls, livestock progeny and milk supply that constitute the diet and well-being of homesteads is greatly curtailed.
Before Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale and the Luhya nation took to bull fighting as a major sport and tourist attraction, pastoral communities used to enjoy and cherish spectacular bull fights. As livestock graze in the arid plains of the South and North Rift Valley, bull fights are a major source of adrenaline rush among the pastoral communities and herdsmen.
The fights occur when animals from neighbouring homesteads meet in the grazing field or at watering points. Before one could imagine the bellowing of bulls fill the air as huge animals throw a cloud of dust into the air and wrestle ant-hills to the ground. The herdsmen will worsen the situation by encouraging the fights through a choice words which drive the mighty bulls into frenzy. Soon, they lock horns and epic bullfights begin that can last up to half a day.
The fighting bulls can bring down trees, fences and even rocks. Quite often, the herdsmen fight among themselves to vent their frustration on each other if their bull is gored or chased across the hills. The embarrassment, ill will and bitterness herdsmen and homesteads experienced when their bull is beaten can only be compared to the feeling experienced by super league teams and their supporters when they lose a match. The political landscape in Kenya now has a strong correlation with the pastoral landscape. The Kalenjin nation is divided into many homesteads, each with their choice bulls. The Kipsigis of Bomet have Governor Isaac Ruto and former MP Julius Kones whereas the Kericho Kipsigis have Governor Paul Chepkwony, former minister Franklin Bett, Senator Paul Sang and CS Charles Keter. The Nandi have DP William Ruto, Governor Cleopas Lagat, former minister Henry Kosgey and MP Alfred Keter. The Keiyo have politicians Lukas Chepkitony, Samuel Chepkonga and Nicholas Biwott whereas the Marakwet have Governor Alex Tolgos, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and former police chief David Kimaiyo. The Tugen have Senator Gideon Moi while the Pokot have Senator John Lonyang’apuo, former minister Samuel Poghisio and Governor Simon Kachapin. The Kony have politicians John Serut and Joseph Kimkung. Besides the Maasai, Turkana, Samburu, Borana, Garre and the Somali have their well nurtured and pedigree bulls as well.
However, Ruto has taken a decision that has far reaching livestock management implications across the pastoral communities. He has ordered urgent and immediate castration of all village bulls so that only one dominant bull will remain that will be used to serve all animals across the Great Rift Valley and beyond. The idea started this weekend when all Kraals were collapsed into one where all animals will be accommodated to enable the champion bull serve them efficiently and effectively.
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This arrangement is indeed great except that it has grave logistical and management crises. First, the champion bull will not serve all the cows and heifers in the great herds established in this new arrangement. It will take approximately five years for the champion bull to effectively serve the great kraal. This will delay the cows and maturing heifers from having new calves. The herd size and the milk supply for the welfare of the homesteads will be severely limited. Some naughty cows and heifers will soon bolt out and may consort with the inferior bulls of the neighbouring nations. This will threaten essence of our existence.
The second crisis is that some of the bulls earmarked for castration are very pedigree and extremely popular with the cows and the heifers as well as the herdsmen. The Senator for Baringo for example, is called Kipsiele (the bellowing bull). He has fanatical following among the cows and the heifers. Even young calves of his progeny like milling around him. The herdsmen sing serenades in melodies unbeknown. His pet name is ‘Taramito’ (available) and he is considered handsome. Young heifers and small bulls lick him as he chews cud in the Baringo kraal. How can such bull be castrated at the behest of one bull which does not want competition?
The way forward in the Great Rift Valley and the pastoral nations is to develop corporate political dispensation, not the collapsing of kraals into one huge one. Each homestead will nurture their choice bulls and subscribe to the common good of the Kalenjin nation and beyond. This arrangement will see each kraal develop its own identity with the Kalenjin interests at heart.