Family Life  
Social Relationships  

Click on arrows
to find more
these themes


(KENYA 14)








Village elder




November 1996


This is a clear and concise interview, focusing on the conflicts with the Bukusu, and local community issues such as development, education and marriage. The narrator is particularly concerned with what he perceives as the “moral decline” of the youth today, and the poor relationship between parents and children. The responses can seem a little impersonal and he often presents an overall view of the Sabaot community (this may be because he is a village elder). The general theme is the changes in the Sabaot community over time, and his wish for them to be strong and unified against what he sees as particular threats, such as HIV/AIDs, the Bukusu, etc).

Hezron highlights social changes brought about by the advent of education: Our children these days spend most of their time in school, and it is in school that they pick up bad habits. In school they interact with children from different backgrounds, and due to peer pressure you find that a child you were trying to mould into a good citizen changes drastically. When these children come back home during holidays, they seem to have a lot of contempt for the way the parents advise them, for they see us as being obsolete and old-fashioned….Therefore it is true that parents are nearly failing in their role to mould upright youth, because we don't have much time to stay with our children the way the old generation did.” And yet he does go on to stress the importance of education for the general development of the Sabaot: “Right now when we talk about development here, we emphasize the education of our children as the key to development.” These ambivalent feelings about education are echoed in many other testimonies, and in other collections on the site.

It is difficult at times to ascertain what is the narrator’s personal opinion, and what is the commonly held view of the Sabaot community, but Hezron’s sometimes contradictory thoughts shed light on a life that has witnessed some major social upheavals. He discusses the history of the Sabaot, from their origin myth to their gradual domination by the Bukusu and the “white man”, as well as the Christian and educational penetrations into the Sabaot culture. “…People would listen to the preaching in the church, but they would not change their way of doing things at home. They would continue with the offerings to their God, drinking the traditional brew, and even continued to circumcise their daughters - something the Christian religion was condemning. Therefore although education was resisted, it wasn't resisted as much as Christianity, because Christianity was listing many things, which were close to the hearts of Sabaot, as evil….This kind of criticism was seen by many Sabaot as an affront to their way of life.” Interestingly though, Hezron explains the conflict between the Sabaot and Bukusu with strong Christian references: As you can see, it is not us who are doing this, but it is God who is telling us, as a reminder to the Bukusu that they should go back to their land. And because the Bukusu don't want to go in peace, conflicts must arise.

detailed breakdown

You will need a password from Panos to view the full transcript of the interview. To apply for a password, click here.

Once you have a password, click here to go to the beginning of the transcript. You can also click on any section of the breakdown of content below and go straight to the corresponding part of the transcript.


Section 1  Compares having been brought up in a polygamous and monogamous family (although he was only one when his father took a second wife). “…Life in a polygamous family can only be good if the head of the family has enough charisma to hold the family together…But it is definitely easier to manage a monogamous family.”
Section 2  Experience of going to school and his grandfather trying to prevent him from going. How the Salvation Army, who sponsored the school, enticed the children to school. “They encouraged us to go to school by promising good things; as you are aware that sweets and new clothes for a young child were really good things. Therefore some of us liked school because of the things that we were given to entice us.” First to be educated in the village encouraged and inspired others to do the same.
Section 3  Marriage arrangements in the Sabaot community - differences between past and present. Laments the moral decay of today’s youth. “The community…encouraged ladies to get married early, between 16-20 years, because it was believed that they would get "spoiled" if they continued to stay in the custody of their parents. But today things have changed so much, and the youth of today have scant respect for elders. Today you will even find young men purporting to marry ladies the age of their mothers.”
Section 4-5  Continues theme of moral corruption of today’s youth. Says the leisure activities of youth in the past were connected with work and particular ceremonies. Poor relationship between the generations: “The assumption many of our youth make is that, because they have gone to school they know everything and cannot therefore be advised by illiterate parents. This kind of situation has made it difficult for some parents to exercise authority over their children.”
Section 5  Discussion of bride price: “Those thinking that payment of bride price is buying a woman are very wrong. In our community bride price is simply given as a token of appreciation to the parents who bore and brought up the girl you are now taking as your wife.”
Section 5-7  How the Sabaot came to be in Mount Elgon as told to him by his grandfather. The arrival of the Bukusu and the “white man” to the area, bringing conflict and Christianity.
Section 7  Discusses changes in the community since 1950, notably the expansion of education and changes in livelihood: “…originally, us the Sabaot had a lot of contempt for the people who cultivated crops. We were pastoralists, and virtually everything we used was obtained from the livestock. But right now the people have responded positively to the changes in the society, and crop production is taking root in the community. However, the Sabaot still hold livestock keeping in high esteem and you can hardly find a household that has no livestock.” The meaning of development for the Sabaot now: “When we talk about development, we mean progress as far as today's way of life is concerned. Generally we want to see that the community participates effectively in commerce, agriculture and education.” Stresses need for good leadership and unity to achieve this.
Section 8  Medical facilities and the use of herbal medicines. Fear of HIV/AIDs: “Presently the major scare in the community is the dreaded AIDs disease, for which seemingly no cure has been found. As parents, we are very much worried because of the immorality in the society right now, and we fear AIDs might wipe out whole communities.”
Section 8-9  Conflict with the Bukusu. Believes God is telling everybody to occupy their original land and therefore the Bukusu should leave the area, as the Sabaot were there first.
Section 9-10  The struggle for Independence and the role of the Sabaot. How life worsened afterwards because of “Bukusu colonialism” – led to conflict. Believes independence only came for the Sabaot in 1993 when they obtained their own district.
Section 10-11  The Sabaot and politics.