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Lwanda Magere story and next year's State House race

By Mohamed Guleid | Nov 3rd 2021 | 3 min read

Abandoned Lwanda Magere site in Muhoroni Kisumu County. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

The main contenders in the presidential elections next year are getting clearer.

The battle lines are drawn and from the look of things, we have two horses. Yes, there are others, but so far they have not shown any prowess. The two horses are Raila Odinga and Deputy President Willian Ruto. Of course, this being a national election, the outcome draws attention and interest from every corner of Kenya.

For a long time, the presidential contest has pitted Mt Kenya region against the lakeside. In 2022, the political duel will be between Rift Valley and the lakeside. However, the contest between Kalenjins and Luo is not new. In the Luo folklore, the two have always been at loggerheads. The Nandi, a subsection of the Kalenjin, have been a thorn in the flesh of the Luo tribe. Inter-ethnic fight between the Luo and Kalenjin is best described through the story of Lwanda Magere, a mythical Luo warrior who kept the Nandi at bay for many years. In the story, there were many battles between the Nandi and the Luo in which the former terrorised the Luo.

Dignity was restored after the emergence of warrior Magere. In battle after battle, Magere led the Luo to victory against their enemies. Because of his courage and valiance in war, women were attracted to him, and he captured some of his wives from the defeated enemies. In all, he had more than 20 wives. 

For years, he successfully led the Luo against the Nandi. The Nandi sought ways to overcome him and finally got a solution: As a gesture of peace and friendship, they offered Lwanda Magere a wife, a beautiful Nandi princess. But her true mission was to discover the secret of Magere's strength and to report this to her people. Luo elders pleaded with Magere not to accept the wife, but he refused to listen. And soon, she begun to ask him about the source of his strength. After much seduction, he obliged her.

Magere told his wife that his strength lay in his shadow; no arrow or spear aimed at his body could harm him, even if it penetrated his shield. To protect his shadow, he always chose to fight his battles in the evening or at night. The Nandi wife and spy immediately reported this secret to her people. She told them to lure Magere to a daylight battle and to aim their spears directly at his shadow. On the day of battle, the Luo elders cautioned him about going to war. But his pride would not allow him to listen to them.

Taking his shield, he led the Luo warriors to war. And the strategy of the Nandi worked. The Luo were defeated, and Magere was hit where he was the weakest—his shadow. He died on the battlefield that day and his body turned into a rock. The story of Magere teaches us an important lesson. In my view, it is a kind of allegory that reflects real life realities like we are witnessing today.

Politics in Kenya is largely seen through an ethnic prism. Even in this contest between Raila and Ruto, it is primarily a duel between two communities that expect to largely benefit from the largesse that comes with the presidency. It is 'our time to eat' is a mindset that many Kenyans naturally expect. The interesting part is to see whether Magere's story will once again play out in this presidential election. Ongoing campaigns appear to be a do or die affair.

Mr Guleid is CEO, Frontier Counties Development Council. [email protected]

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