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Photos: Ruto steps out in Maasai traditional regalia during Maa ceremony

 President William Ruto was dressed in full Maasai regalia during the Maa Cultural Festival. [Peter Muiruri, Standard]

Since independence, it has been the custom of Kenya’s presidents to don business suits, with or without a tie during official functions.

However, when President William Ruto stepped out for a game drive and later, to grace the Maa Cultural Festival in Sekenani, Narok County, he spotted a look many rarely associate with the country’s Heads of State.

Dressed in full Maasai regalia, one could easily mistake him for the thousands of morans gathered for the festival. This, though, is not unexpected of Ruto, who has in recent months changed his wardrobe to include the Kaunda suit, eliciting a robust debate among Kenyans.

His Maasai garb was befitting the occasion meant to celebrate the culture of the Maa communities in Kenya and Tanzania. And he never hid the fact that he liked his new look.

Si mimi ni rais wa Kenya? Si nimevaa shuka?...alafu,” he joked.

After the event, we sat down with a local moran who took us through the different parts of the president’s regalia and their significance.

Richard Kipukel began by describing the loose outer garment known as olchiti. “This is worn in the same way one would use a coat for warmth,” said Kipukel.

The olchiti is worn over the ilkarash, the main piece of clothing worn by the Maasai and usually held at the waist by the familiar beaded belt, or ntore.

 President William Ruto adjusts his belt while addressing the crowd during the Maa Festival. [Peter Muiruri, Standard]

The president also wore the olkisungu, an ornamental necklace befitting a special guest while from the chest downwards hung the nkopilani, another set of thin, beaded straps. On both hands, the president wore the enkirina, the beaded bangles worn by both men and women in the Maa nation.

No Maasai outfit can be complete without the rubber sandals, nginyera. We could not establish if this was the first time he was wearing this particular pair for they can be tight and a bit uncomfortable in the hot climate.

As an elder in his own right, Ruto held the encharkaka narok, a black staff normally carried by elders and leaders on special occasions.

To cap it all, Ruto had the olalem, the popular Maasai sword carefully slid in its red-dyed sheath, or enchashur made from two light pieces of wood and cow hide. “Usually, a Maasai would use the olalem to cut pieces of meat during a feast. It is not for fighting as many people think,” says Kipukel.

And since the president has declared the festival an annual national event, it is hoped that he will wear the traditional attire during subsequent events.

 President William Ruto in Maasai regalia, complete with sandals. [Peter Muiruri, Standard]

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