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Koitalel Samoei: Nandi legend who fought colonialists



As the country retraces its history, plans have been concluded for today’s fete to mark 108 years after the killing of Nandi legend, Orkoiyo Koitalel arap Samoei.

His descendants have agreed with the Nandi County Government for the function to be held at the hero’s mausoleum in Nandi Hills.

Koitalel, who has been immortalised as a national hero, was killed on Thursday October 19, 1905 during a peace truce after leading a rebellion against colonial invasion on Nandi land.

His annual commemoration falls on the eve of Mashujaa Day.

The legendary freedom fighter’s leadership batons were sneaked out of the country after his death and to this day, the whereabouts of his head believed to have been taken away after the killing has not been traced.

Koitalel’s lifeless body was found in the present day Nandi Hills after British colonialists murdered him.

Former councillor David Sulo, a fourth generation descendant of Koitalel, said today’s commemoration will be graced by Nandi Governor Dr Cleophas Lagat.

The event will be marked in style, starting with the laying of wreaths at the graveyard, entertainment and display of Koitalel’s leadership batons, regalia and other community artefacts kept in his shrine.

“We shall wear white T-shirts as a sign of peace and prayers for Uhuru, Ruto and Sang,” said Sulo.


       Nandi prophet

Sulo added that they will use the commemoration to thank former President Mwai Kibaki who ordered the construction of the Sh58 million mausoleum in Nandi Hills.

Kibaki also directed that 103 acres of land be hived off at the former Agricultural Development Corporation farm at Kimwani for the establishment of an educational facility in honour of Koitalel.

Scholars Kipnyango Seroney, Dr David Muge and Dr Kipkoech Sambu who helped return Koitalel’s leadership batons from Britain will also be feted.

Kibaki’s directive has materialised into the magnificent mausoleum that has become a landmark in the area. Members of the Nandi community have made their contributions to enrich it with important artefacts and other domestic tools that were used by their forefathers.

The artefacts include ornaments, shields, spears, leadership batons, tools for branding animals, sambut (leadership gown made of monkey skin for men) and legetiet (traditional leather belt for women).

Koitalel arap Samoei was the fourth and last-born son of Kipnyole arap Turgat, a great Nandi prophet.

Samoei was born around 1850 at Samitui in Aldai and belonged to the Kaplelach age set of the Nandi community.

“He was close to his father and could also understand signs of his fathers’ prophetic pot of beer,” read part of the records.

It is reported that Kipnyole had predicted his death and summoned his four sons. Upon the summons he asked them to consult traditional brews in a pot. “It is Samoei who after gazing into the pot of beer, removed his sword, a sign of protest. On being asked what he had seen, he revealed that there were white men and an ‘iron snake’ (a railway),” said one of his descendants. Kipnyole sensed danger of Samoei being killed due to his bravery. He sent the three sons to Kipsigis land while Samoei was asked to move to Tugen land.

     Peace talks After the death of Kipnyole, the Nandi community sent for Samoei who had already taken refuge among the Keiyo community. Samoei started a war against the British who were constructing the Kenya-Uganda Railway. “The Nandi people were autonomous hence saw their region as sovereign. Any unwarranted trespass was to be resisted strongly hence their resistance to the British for about 12 years,” says the report. When the resistance became strong, the colonialists decided to call for mediation with the Nandi leaders for peace. Samoei suspected he would be killed as his father Kipnyole had predicted. He instructed the British General to come with five companions and meet him at Ketbarak, the present day Nandi Bears club. Samoei was also to come with five foretellers. The peace meeting was at 11am, October 19, 1905. Contrary to the agreement, Col Richard Meinertzhagen is reported to have marched from Nandi Fort (Kaptumo) with 80-armed soldiers with 75 hidden near the venue of the meeting. It was at this point that Samoei was felled by Meinertzhagen at point blank as he stretched his hand for a handshake. The fighting spirit of the community was crushed after Samoei’s death and the community was moved to Kabiyet and new administrative locations including Kapsisiywa were created to manage their resistance.

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