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How restitution money for Koitalel arap Samoei’s murder ‘birthed’ Sachang’wan blackspot

 Nandi chief Koitalel arap Samoei was shot at point-blank range by Richard Henry Meinertzhagen.

Orkoiyot Koitalel arap Samoei was the face of Nandi resistance against the British colonial rule. He was shot dead by British colonial officer Richard Henry Meinertzhagen after luring him to a truce meeting that never was. When Koitalel arrived at the venue in the morning of October 19, 1905, Richard shot him at point-blank range as the Orkoiyot stretched his hand to shake the Briton’s. The chief’s death effectively ended the Nandi resistance. Years later, Richard sought to mend fences with Koitalel’s family. According to historian and preacher Peter Chemaswet,  chief Elijah and Malel offered to mediate, but failed to bring the two parties together and instead pocketed money the Briton had brought as restitution for killing revered Orkoiyot.

 “He was coming to apologize to Koitalel’s family through Elijah and Malel who took the money but did not take the gift to the family,” says Chemaswet while trying to trace the genesis of accidents around Sachang’wan.

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One of the chiefs used the money to buy an old Chevrolet car, according to the elder who cannot confidently tell who between Elijah and Malel bought the first to own an automobile, before their deaths at the Sanchang’wan black spot. Chemaswet claims the two chiefs paid for their “sins” after a curse was cast on them for being too greedy when their infuriated locals further by crowning a British princess against the wish of the community. Elijah and Melal were accused of honouring the Briton with a Sambut (traditional regalia) that belonged to the late Koitalel. The two chiefs became outcasts after elders performed a ritual, repeatedly uttering the words: barak korgo (may you be killed by a woman).

“After crowning the princess, the Chief’s left Kisumu to Nakuru but on reaching the exact spot where the tanker exploded, they were involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle driven by a white woman. The Chiefs died on the spot but the white woman survived, confirmation of the curse,” explains Chemaswet.

 “That is the reason their blood is killing other innocent people because of the sins they committed were never forgiven, even their children have been dying mysteriously,” claims Chemaswet.

 A blackspot road sign at Sachangwan.

Based on his recollection of events, a reprieve can be through conducting special traditional rituals by respected Kalenjin elders or the clergy holding prayers. The traditional ritual involves slaughtering a goat, use of special bitter water, honey and milk to be shared among scions of Koitalel, Elijah and Malel.

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“The ritual involves the slaughtering of a ram of which its blood will be used for cleansing, then special water known as bek che ng’onech be drunk with honey. All the families involved must be reconciled with each of them bringing milk in a gourd that will be mixed and the shared amongst them,” explains the historian.

John Seii, former chair of the Kalenjin Council of Elders, on his part, is rooting for Sachang’wan and Salgaa to be given different names as their current names evoke memories of fear “whenever motorists are navigating along the dangerous stretch,” and for which he’s mooting a name change. 

Other elders link the stretch the bloody ancient war over pasture between Maasai’s, Nandi, Ogiek and Kipsigis communities. They say performing of kemugut kor or kemugut koreet rituals is thus necessary.

Owino urges Kenyans to be cautious on the road always and avoid buying into the superstition debate. “The solution is collective acceptable discipline. Anybody talking about superstition is not being scientific,” states the police spokesman.

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