To some it may just be a hill but to the Luo, it is a point of unification where they can come together in celebration of their community’s uniqueness.
Ramogi Hill in Yimbo, Siaya County occupies a special place among the Luo. It is a revered place — considered the spot where the Luo first settled during their migration from Uganda before occupying various parts of what is present day Luo Nyanza.
According to Ker Willis Otondi, the current Luo Council of Elders chairman, Ramogi is no ordinary hill thanks to its rich history and the magical powers associated with it.
“The name Ramogi is not only equated to the hill as a physical feature, it is also the name of our founding father Ramogi Ajwang who was a warrior with magical powers to boot. He settled on the hill when he came from Uganda, hence the name Got-Ramogi (Ramogi’s Hill),” Otondi said.
He continued: “Ramogi Hill, therefore, serves as a unifying factor for all Luo in Siaya, Kisumu, Migori and Homa Bay counties”.
In folklore among the Luo community that has been passed down from one generation to another, a tragic story is told of two women who had a dispute in Ramogi Hill over a grinding stone, locally known as pong.
As fate would have it, one woman pushed the other to her death on the grinding stone. The stone then became an isolated and sacred site from where people would take oaths in case of a dispute within the clan.
When an evil event occurred, or whenever two clan members quarreled over an issue, the parties involved would head to the grinding stone and swear by it. They would each take a stone hammer, locally known as nyatieng’, and hit the grinding stone. The guilty party would bleed after this act was performed.
“The stone is associated with ancestral spirits and that is the reason why oaths were taken there,” Otondi explains.
He continues: “If one knew they were guilty of the offense they were being accused of, they would admit it before getting there to take oath.”
It is also widely whispered that Ramogi, the warrior, sharpened his weapons on Rapogi rock and this place is now considered sacred and with mystical powers.
“Magicians usually visit this place, rather secretly, while some politicians seek to feed off Ramogi’s spirit and will eat from the Rapogi rock considered to be concentrated with his spirit,” says Onyango Olum, an elderly man who lives at the foot of the Hill.
The hill’s rich history continues to bring the community together as was witnessed in November last year. A one-week festival, to celebrate Luo history, was held at the famous Got Ramogi which culminated in the crowning of Cord leader Raila Odinga as the community’s warrior.
And just to show the significance of the Hill among the Luo, over 200 elders drawn from Luo speaking counties of Siaya, Homa Bay, Kisumu and Migori were in attendance together with scores of elected leaders.
The cultural week saw thousands of visitors and locals flock the ancient hill in Siaya to witness the spectacle. The festival dubbed ‘Duog uru dala nyikwa Ramogi Ajwang’ (come back home descendants of Ramogi Ajwang) brought together Luos from the four counties for the celebrations.
While the relevance of Ramogi Hill could be waning in the eyes of the younger generation who have spent so many years in urban areas getting an education and working, the older members of the Luo community still hold it in high esteem.
“We have plans to build 12 huts to represents the various larger clans that today’s makes up the Luo nation,” Otondi says adding there is need for future generations to appreciate their history and culture.