By The Sailor Team.
Our search for the descendants of Koitaleel Somoei and more particularly those who took over the reign of Kalenjin traditional leadership after him gains momentum day by day.
Immediately after Koitaleel Somoei’s brutal murder on 19th October 1905 at the foot of Keetparak Hill in Nandi Hills, the British government hunted down his other brothers and sons and made sure that they are banished, detained or killed. In an attempt to replace the occupant of the Nandi chief Oorgoiyot, the colonial government appointed their collaborator and puppet Kibeles in 1909 following the dubbed Muhoroni Conference. Under mysterious circumstances Kibeles died in July 1912 barely three years after his official appointment as the first Talai colonial chief.
After this, some Nandi elders advised the colonial government to recognize Lelimo araap Somoei as the heir of his father’s office. After a short stint at the helm of Nandi leadership, the colonialists hired one of the Nandi askari to spy against Lelimo and report back to them. Knowing what the colonial government has done, Lelimo took the law into his hands and killed the spy who had been disguised as his body guard. After this, he went into hiding and his brother Barsirian araap Manyei took over the leadership of the Nandi and the wider Kalenjin community leadership.
Barsirian araap Manyei of Nyongi age set was Koitaleel Samoei second born son by his second wife Taparchook Chepo Chebwai. His elder brother was Surtan Lelimo araap Somoei and his sisters included: Titau, Kopot Kiboor and Kopot Chepo Siror. Barsirian was born around 1890 in Samitui just before the stoning of his grandfather Kipnyolei araap Turugat. As Barsirian took over the mantle of leadership- he was installed into office secretly without the knowledge of the British colonialists who wanted someone they could control to replace Koitaleel. He came to the fore during the Nandi unrest becoming the target of British government especially as he advised the Nandi community to restore the Sakeetap eito ceremony where power is handed over to successive age sets.
The ceremony was scheduled for twentieth day of October nineteen twenty three. Three days before the ceremony, Barsirian Manyei and four other elders of prominence were arrested by Nandi District Commissioner accompanied by armed police officers. One Kiptoo araap Kimais was very instrumental for spying secretly for the Europeans against members of the Talai community. A week later, Barsirian Manyei was arraigned in Eldoret magistrate court charged with sedition and he was sentenced and deported to Nyeri, then moved to Meru by the new year. He was detained in Meru for seven years until the Nandi Local Native Council members demanded that he be brought near home. He was then brought and placed under house arrest at Kamatargui at the outskirts of Kapsabet town. During this time he became sick and was treated at Kapsabet Health centre. His health worsened and the British colonial government released him to die. He joined his family at Kababii in Sang’alo where his brothers and wives treated him with traditional medication until he became healthy again.
When the colonial government overheard that Barsirian is alive and healthy, they went down for him. They arrested him and placed him in another house at Kapinpin near Lessos. He stayed there until the attention of the colonial government was taken by the Mau Mau uprising. He took advantage of this and departed to Thomsons Falls. He was later arrested and banished to Mfangano Island where he was joined by some of his kinsmen until just before independence when they were released but continued under the watchful eye of the government.
During all these detentions, Barsirian lost his property and his family was subjected to serious life threatening conditions. He lost his land at Keet parak, Kipkarren and Lessos. Later in his old age, he lived in Uasin Gishu as a squatter until he died as a poor man at Lemoru in 1974. Some sources asserts that such great freedom fighter even in the world of the dead is a squatter in unmarked grave in another man’s’ land.
Barsirian Manyei had nine wives and several children. Chepo Rorio kobot Motolo was the mother to Motolo and Chemutai.Tapsiyei Chepo Kaap Sitima and Taporisei Chepo Kaap Melguut were childless. Chepo Kaap Keenik mothered two daughters Meru and Chesanga. Tapbarbuch Chepo Labose was the mother to Kiptoing’eny, Kibiwot, Jepkering’ and Jepkurgat. Kobot Somoei Chepo Kaaplaal was the mother to Somoei and George. Tapsiargaa Chepo kaap Beruut was the mother of one son who accompanied his father to Mfangano as a young boy. The name of the boy now an old man during the time of writing is Cheruiyot Limo alias Muzee. Taprongoei chepo kaap Leel Kobot Siratei was the mother to Cheleel and Siratei while Taplelei Chepo Kaapbuiguut who became barren but later she ‘married’ and got children.
After his release from Mfangano Island in early 1960s, Barsirian was kept at the District Commissioner’s compound at Kapsabet town. It was during this time that bitter exchange of words erupted between him and the then senior chief Elijah on the morning of June before ADC delegates left to Nairobi for a tour. One source present during that morning reported to us how Manyei told Chief Elijah that he will not see another morning. As fate might have had it Elijah with two other members of the council Jonathan Kipchumba araap Maiyo and Eligi araap Bitok perished few hours later in a road accident near Rongai.
At independence he was one of those who gathered at Uhuru garden to witness the hoisting of Kenya’s flag as his persecutors watched. Dressed in his ceremonial Sambuut that befitted the reigning Nandi chief Oorgoiyot, he took a longer time looking up as the independent Kenyan flag flapped high. After a short stint as a traditional prayer in the independent Kenyan parliament, Barsirian Manyei crowned Kenya’s first Prime Minister Jomo Kenyatta with Nandi tradition gown when he visited Rift Valley in January 17, 1964 at Nakuru. Some Nandi elders interviewed during the research for this article alleged that Kenyatta government later intended to arrest Barsirian Manyei. The reason for this attempted arrest is not clear but it is our assumption that it might have been because of Manyei’s criticism of illegal land allocations by the government.
In his old age Barsirian Manyei was a squatter at Lemoru-Ngeny where because of his role in the freedom fighting was given a strategic place to occupy. This led Hon. Morogo Saina to ask in parliament why such great freedom fighter was languishing in abject poverty and landless. His neighbors had constructed him homestead where he was finally buried. After his death in 1974, his surviving widow and her children continued to live in the homestead until early 1990s when their tribulation began. When the land allotments letters came out, they discovered that they had been pushed to the rockiest part of the farm away from where Barsirian Manyei had been buried. Since the widow and her children are poor they could not bribe to be allocated the same place they had lived.
As at now Barsirian Manyei lies in the bushes, shamefully isolated, awfully neglected and in another man’s land! This has really affected his aging widow until she sometimes become withdrawn and recluse. When we visited the neglected graveyard on the afternoon of 4th June 2013, the trees planted by Barsirian Manyei still stands next to where the homestead was and the kitchen ashes are still visible. The sky was dry but the raindrops that fell as we left the place assured us that Manyei approved of our wishes. How long he will lie alone in another man’s land is left to the fate to determine, but it is our wish that his widow should see his grave reclaimed before joining him.
Kipchoge araap Chomu and Fredrick araap Ng’eno could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org