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Luo historical site in ruins despite Sh20m disbursed for restoration

Some of the dilapidated structures at Ramogi Hill. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard].

Every time he feels depressed and in need of some spiritual nourishment, Meshack Okoth heads to Ramogi Hill.

Okoth, 54, stays on the hill for four to six days, fasting and praying.

This has been his routine for the last two decades. 

The hill is not only sacred to Okoth, but is also a reminder of the history of the Luo migration.

Once revered as a sacred shrine, whose history is shrouded in flowery myths and mystery, Ramogi Hill is now a distant memory, only awakened during the Siaya County annual Got Ramogi Cultural Festivals.

But the memory fizzles out as soon as millions of shillings are spent on the three-day event.

On other days, the forest that covers about 283 hectares and is home to at least four historical sites, remains neglected, only left for wild animals and vandals to roam.

Situated in Yimbo East Ward, Siaya County, on the northeastern shores of the Lake Victoria basin, the hill serves multiple purposes.

For archaeologists, it is a historical site rich in traditional artefacts that remind people of early life.

Some of the dilapidated structures at Ramogi Hill. [Isaiah Gwengi, Standard].

But nine years after the inception of devolution, nothing much has been done on the hill despite it being identified as a tourist site.

At least Sh20 million has been allocated for its rehabilitation since 2013.

In the 2017/18 financial year, the Siaya County government allocated Sh6 million to develop Got Ramogi Cultural Centre. 

However, dilapidated cottages, lack of electricity, water and hundreds of bats hanging on the ceilings remain the hallmark of the facility.

According to Luo Council of Elders Secretary Adera Osawa, the development and preservation of Ramogi Hill as a tourist site has not been taken seriously.

“We had agreed for the site to be developed but our politicians have never implemented it,” said Mzee Osawa.

County Tourism Executive Charles Ogada said there was a delay in the handover of the resort by the national government to the county.

However, he said they obtained a special operating licence for the resort in July last year.

According to Ogada, fencing and construction of traditional huts has been done at a cost of Sh2.6 million so far. 

“We allocated Sh1.5 million in the 2020/21 financial year to rehabilitate the facility,” he said.

The hill’s significance might be losing its place in the history of the migration of Kenyan communities, but it still features prominently in local lore.

A legend is told of a dispute between two women over a grinding stone, locally known as pong’. 

One woman pushed the other to death on the grinding stone.

The grinding stone then became a sacred site from where people take oaths in case of a dispute. 

In the event two clan members quarrelled, the parties involved would go to the grinding stone and swear by it.

Each party takes a hammerstone, locally known as nyatieng’, and hits the grinding stone.

The guilty party would bleed after the act is performed.

It is also widely whispered that Ramogi, the warrior, sharpened his weapons on Rapogi rock, now believed to have mystical powers.

A guard, who sought anonymity, said magicians and politicians always visit to feed from Ramogi’s spirit.

They are said to eat from the rock considered to contain his spirit.

“A month does not pass by without important visitors coming here. Most of the visitors are politicians,” the guard said.