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Sabaot community conducts ceremony to appease haunting spirits

By Osinde Obare | January 31st 2017
Saboat elders conducts a traditional ritual at Tumunyeng cave in Endebess sub-county Trans-Nzoia County. PHOTO: OSINDE OBARE/STANDARD

The Sabaot community converged at Tumunyeng cave on Saturday for a traditional ritual to ward off their ancestors' haunting spirits.

Hundreds of members of the Kapnyeega clan that lives in Trans-Nzoia and Bungoma trekked over 100 km to reach Tumunyeng cave near Kenya's border with Uganda for the ceremony locally known as kandesimeetaap kebeneet.

It is believed that 10 elders from the clan left behind a curse after dying inside the cave a century ago and that their families have been haunted since.

The elders were locked inside the caves to protect them from a battle between the Sabaot and the Karamojong from Uganda, who were out to steal their cattle.

The battle, which took place around 1917, lasted for days, cutting off food supplies to the elders who died from starvation, but not before cursing their families for abandoning them. 

"Before they died, they cursed our generation saying there would be no peace for 90 years. Since then we have been experiencing mysterious deaths and puzzling incidents," said Pastor Peter Chemaswet, a Sabaot religious leader.

To counter the curse, both the young and the elderly braved the rough and hilly terrain to attend the ceremony that went on late into the night, presided over by elders and religious officials from the Sabaot community.

To appease the ancestors, the clan slaughtered a white cow at the cave. Certain parts of the meat were roasted and shared among the families.

Before the feasting, traditional and religious prayers were conducted.

A respected elder, Ms. Picha Siret sprinkled milk from a guard on a group of elders, who, armed with blood and cud from the slaughtered cow said special prayers to appease the ancestors.

"We are here to seek forgiveness. We are your sons, please accept us. Free our generation from bad spirits and recognise our lives," intoned Joseph Machin, the clan's chairman.

The last ritual to appease the community's ancestors was conducted in 1976. Elders said despite the rite, mysterious deaths have continued to stalk families, necessitating another ceremony.

The clan urged the Government to preserve the cave as a cultural site.

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