Kenya glossary


(KENYA 22)















Section 1
Kibocha which year were you born?
I was born in 1967

Where in particular?
In Toroso

Was Toroso by that time small as it is right now?
[Unclear answer]

What types of developments have been going on since that time?
Sasuri coffee factory has been put up. Otherwise people here are farmers.

Why do you think people resolved to take up cultivation?
Because of poor development in the area and the diet of ugali which was not there before. They've learnt farming methods.
[It means that due to modernisation, people's tastes have changed as they now need ugali - substance made by kneading maize/sorghum flour in hot water. This has made them adopt farming]

You talk of learning, whom did they learn to grow ugali and the rest?
From the neighbouring Bukusu and Teso people. These are the people who had this knowledge of cultivating other crops.

Have they seen any changes from that time?
What type of changes

From that time, with cultivation, are they doing it on a large scale or they are still on the same small scale at least development from that time?
At least on large scale, otherwise subsistence farming.

Was it introduced by the same people?
Well not really most of the subsistence farming on these other cash crops on small scale.

Was coffee introduced by the same people?
Yaa. Most of the societies. It was introduced when we were still under Bungoma District. The union of Bungoma. The coffee union was run mostly by the Bukusu around. We had the Cheptais factory-union in Cheptais Division. We have other factories coming up.
Section 2
In the same Division?
In the same division. We have the Sasuri, Cheptais then Kapkurong.

And what are your feelings about the development of or the introduction of such… What are your feelings over your own people in the division about the introduction of this new type of crop? Has it any importance?
Of course, yes it is important. Now that we are in a position to get the cash when [the crops are] taken to the factory.

What is the difference between the introduction and adaptation of coffee and there before. What other crops did they have before the introduction of coffee? What type of farming did they practice?
The farming that was there was subsistence and the crops that were planted were sorghum, millet and some bananas, and sweet potatoes.

And what do you think made them change into adapting the new crop... venturing into other people's kind of life?
I think that there are many reasons for change. One reason I think is intermarriage. Inter-marrying with Bukusu dates back to 1960s. Bukusu had cultures which were different from ours. When you intermarry, these cultures are married. Of course you would expect changes in those things.

So you marry their women and marry their culture?
Of course yes. The children will try to adopt the two. They will learn to speak the mother tongue and also the father's tongue.

You want to say, it is women who came with this new technology to the Sabaot land?
No. Look here, if you marry a woman.... for us what a woman will cook is what you will eat. If it was for men cooking [who cooked], then we would say that would [make it] different.

What is your experience on this practice as per the new technology you've had? What is your experience in farming of maybe coffee and any other crop that is there here in Cheptais?
Well, I am also a small-scale farmer, coffee being the main cash crop. But of late there’s another cash crop, which is new and coming up very nicely demanding attention. That is horticulture. Very few people are now going to that because it is too expensive. To manage a tomato garden you have to work extra hard like spraying, as some chemicals are needed.

Do we have any non-governmental organisation helping our people in development of the different areas?
Well the main bodies, which have helped in development more so in my division, are churches. Many churches are under the umbrella of NCCK. They are trying very much to put up schools in the district and most of the schools were started by churches others by other organisations. We have ActionAid drilling some water for some people in different areas. Not in all the areas We have some areas like Chelebei Chengeywo. I think those are the only ones.
Section 3
And is there any need for infrastructure development in the area.
There is a lot of need for infrastructure.

Why do you think so? Do the churches still have part to play in development?
Of course yes

Like which part. Cause you've only named the NCCK and not talked of which part they play in development.
The part they have tried to do very much is building schools. Recently when there were clashes, some church bodies were dishing out materials for the displaced. So they were giving food to clash victims. There was no activity like farming, therefore what followed was hunger because there was no food to eat. So they had to supply food to the displaced.

You have talked of clashes. What effect did it have on you and what are your feelings on the causes of the clashes and this other group? Why did our people fight this other group? What were the causes?
Well some of the causes were political and some were related to social economic changes in the country. The main social economic cause that brought the clashes is this: you find that the people, the number of people is growing. Therefore as it grows, there is need for more land, other activities like cultivation. People were staying up the mountains like Chepyuk. There was a settlement there. Very many people stayed there. They were told to leave the forest because it was not gazetted for people to stay. The government displaced them from there. Some of these people had sold their past pieces of land to the Bukusu. Having been told to leave the forest up there, they went back to this land the Bukusu now occupied and quarrelled with them.

Their landlords?
They maybe felt that the government sort of hated them. You see the displacement was not gazette then mainly [under] the government would have tried to give them plots up there for them to settle. Now when they were displaced, then the only thing was to come down to the place they were staying formerly and also try to displace the Bukusu.

So their’s was to play a fair game, sort of tit for tat. Ours was from the government...what were the feelings of our people about the happenings, did they feel they should do it or did it look as though it was incited [by others]?
Now that is why I said it is a bit also possible because, we have an MP Mr Kisiero. Probably, he would have tried to present our grievances to the government but usually there is no reaction from either side. There is for example insecurity now. Mount Elgon is bordering Uganda, many people maybe enemies, can come as cattle rustlers, some take animals and they kill people. Now if people die in that manner, you hardly hear it being announced. They just die and are left rotting up there in the forest. The owners will just go and collect them and go and bury them. Now when this information is taken forward, it will just be received by the provincial administration and it ends there.
Section 4
Now, I heard one time you were given home guards, don't you think it was a step [forward] by the government's to have given you that chance to have the home guards?
Now home guards were given duties, but these home guards were not given full freedom to exercise what they were supposed to do, because more often they were mistaken to be cattle rustlers.

Now who mistook them? Again if its government, the government has given them a chance to guard you.
The mistaking resulted from what it is (?). Now, we live with the Bukusu and we are not on that good terms. Now, if some of our boys are made to be home guards, the Bukusu are not and they feel they are equipped as they are given arms therefore they (the Bukusu) feel threatened, so then they are in a position to fabricate stories.

From the same. Now what was the importance of clashes to the Sabaot people.
Well, there is no importance really from the Sabaot point of view. When it took place, they felt now that they will be given land. Let these people leave and go economically on. These people depend on keeping animals and once they see that there is a big area for him to graze, it is just all right.

Did that clashes affect you personally? Or your family may be.
Yaa. Some of my family members were affected.

How were they affected?
When the government came in to stop the clashes, some of our boys were taken to prison. The disadvantage with the clashes to us Sabaot was the young boys dropped out of school. Now when they were in the midst of that excitement of clashes, no child could go to school. They were actively participating and after that nobody could accept to go back to school. And as time went by, the same boys during clashes could go and take animals from the Bukusu as the Bukusu had gone away. They were used to eating meat from the stolen animals. Now if that urge for eating meat and enjoying in the manner they were during the clashes occurs to them again, they take to the bush and eat it. So it is bad and it is a crime.

It is a crime and in fact to all people. Has there been any other type of clashes may be you've heard of before?
Between the...

Between the Sabaot and the Bukusu as neighbours?
Yaa. I heard there was something of that sort in 1963. That was immediately after independence. Now these people were fighting over leadership. You know during colonial time, the chiefs were Bukusu. After independence, the Sabaot felt that they should have there own chiefs, their own division. Something of that sort.

So that is the cause of the first time they clashed?
Yaa. Cause they wanted their own chiefs their own Sabaot to be a chief. The Bukusu also wanted theirs to be the chief in Cheptais division. Now you see the Bukusu were many and Sabaot were few. The only way was to fight in order to get that post.
Section 5
What is your own experience over the clashes, the recent clashes. Did you engage yourself in it.
I felt it was not good for me to do it.

And what about the experience of the community? Do they feel it should happen again? What are their feelings? What are their recent experiences combined with the other happening?
The recent as compared to the others?

Yaa. The difference that is? Do they feel, we should continue with that type of life, maybe in future.
Now we know Sabaot are sort of a closed community, that is they may be very much unidentified [invisible]. Maybe because we are very few. It is difficult for these people to be heard. Learned people among the Sabaot are very few and they do not have good advocates to advocate for these people. Now the only advocate whom we think should advocate for us properly is mainly the MP. He has not been doing that. Counsellors are somehow illiterate, as are the chiefs if they are there. There are very few who are educated. Most of them are semi-illiterate. Now these people feel that they can not be heard.

Up to now, they have not had any confidence that can be heard. If in future they will want to have something different, may be politically or something of that kind say if they want a plant or a horticultural factory, they plant vegetables, tomatoes, onions something of that kind. The people feel that they should have it but who will advocate for that.
Now the roads in Mount Elgon are poor. They also feel that they should have good roads. Now if all the roads are good in Bukusu land while ours are bad and these people are taking advantage of the poor roads and everything, the remoteness of the areas in Sabaot. They will dominate all the economy and everything. Now if you want to get what you want, you have to find these people [educated people].

So according to you, in what ways do you think things could be made to be better or more helpful to our Sabaot people? On the aspect of clashes?
On the aspect of clashes. One thing that should have taken place so far and can improve this district they have been given [i.e. their own division], because now they feel they can administer their own things. They can do their own things the way they like.
And maybe some future developments can be done maybe by these young ones and could be given land. If they are to give land so many people there have small pieces. Now you know when the Bukusu came, they forced these people to stay in the mountain. And when these people tried to go to the forest and stay there, the government tells them no. Now they are living in a very narrow area all along the mountain. These people are growing. The number is never going down, it is going up. There will be need in future for these people to be allocated land somewhere or up in the forest.
Section 6
Then how did they perceive the clashes after the clashes? How did they perceive that, the coming of the clashes?
The coming of the clashes?

How did they perceive it?
Well, they are now ready for it because it was there own order of doing things since independence. They feel that something should be done and these Bukusu are the obstacles. Then they resolve to fighting.

And what are the impacts the clashes left behind?
It brought so many problems

To our Sabaot.
Teachers. So many teachers were Bukusu and when the clashes came they ran away or transferred. The children could not learn because teachers were not there. Another effect was... most of our children were just drawn to that old culture education (traditional). There is that interest of academy education (modern), which is now dominant in the country. Then another effect is some developments that were to take place, for example, coffee management and even farming in general was also affected. People could not think of working hard in the economic activities.

So in general people in your division were more affected? How about the Bukusu themselves, what impact did it have on them.
Bukusu had it rough because they were forced to go and stay in centres where there were soldiers who were brought by the government to control the clashes in the area. Most of them were not staying in their original homes. They were chased away.

Now if we look at the types of life of the Sabaot? What did they take as leisure during those old days. What was contained in their leisure during their free time? What did the people used to do?
In the olden days, there were so many more activities: singing, telling stories by the grandmothers in their homes. From them they were taught songs that contained meaning. Not just these songs, but there were some songs that were sung when the teenagers used to organise themselves and maybe sang outside to entertain the old.

Was this in a festival or maybe what? Do you just organise it?
Not necessarily. But you know they had to organise themselves as long as... it was for leisure and so long as they were free.

You were talking of children being taught stories, what about the old ones? The old people …
What they were doing for leisure?

Yaa during their leisure time?
What do you mean by the old?

Parents. Okay if children were to be taught stories or children could be directed to do some activity, what about the old ones, the parents, and even the grandparents at least they had their own activities.
Now more often, during the leisure time they had to sit for example, talk, discuss whatever was happening You know, when they had their own ways of talking and they had their own secrets which were not supposed to be [let] out. And today they will be here, and tomorrow in another place.
Section 7
Are there any changes in these practices?
Now when these old men were doing that, they tried to correct attitudes, particularly among the young, and these ... attitudes from maybe [unmarried?] mothers, that is not encouraged and they had meetings to talk over what should be done to them.

Do you think there are changes from those days in types of leisure activities performed? There's something you touched on about them being taught songs about certain events.... Like which events?
Now events...there were so many events in Mount Elgon. Say for example there is a year where termites (locusts) ate all the vegetation now as a result of that, songs were formulated to remind the future generation that such and such thing happened. Then there were also warriors who could go and get animals from some communities from very far. Now when warriors go out and get animals, there is pride when they come back. People would sing songs in praise of them. Or if there were something strange that happened they would sing songs to commemorate such a thing.

Now do you have such activities going on?
They are there but not as it was

Why do you think there are changes?
Now that changes that occur mainly I think it is because there is a tug of war between that cultural education (traditional) and the present academic education (modern). Now those ones who academically educated and there are those who grew culturally from their own culture. Now those one who went to school maybe feel they cannot listen to or understand what the people learned from the old because the old are the ones most acquainted with the cultural education. Where as also the old may want to learn from the academically educated. Then you will see that they will have to sit together, with that brew in a drinking spree - the old man seated there then a young man seated here. You will find that those that are academically educated despise the old telling them that they are young and do not know anything. Now that the order which used to be here, is no longer there. Long time ago, there was an age one would not be allowed to go and sit with the old, even more so when they are drinking.

Which age was that?
It was about 30 years but not less. But nowadays, you can see even a young boy of 15 years, as long as he is circumcised, he feels a grown up.

What are your feelings about this now? These changes, how do you find them?
The changes are not good. I feel there should be a way to correct and stop the attitude more so from the young. And then I feel also the old should be given enough time and encouragement to bring back the old ways of living. They should also be given power to feel that they have an important role to play in the culture, in the development of the Sabaot.
Section 8
On these leisure lines, did you have or do our people have gender separation during their leisure time?
Well, there are activities, which were meant for boys and other for girls. So girls would stay with their mothers and they were taught their own ways of living. The boys more so with old men and during... maybe drinking leisure, women were not allowed to go and drink up to the time she felt like. There was some sort of control over them.

Why do you think this was so?
The nature of women, they are supposed to be caretakers - to take care of children, animals and the boma (enclosed area to keep animals/homestead). Now if the animals are back from grazing, they need to be milked and to be locked up. The children need to eat, more so early enough, before dark.

Okay. Now how is this different from the present? Because if they used to practice it this way how is it different from the modern way of life?
It’s different from the modern life in so many ways. What used to take place long time ago is not actually happening now. There is a lot of negligence, particularly some other aspects that are supposed to be carried out and I think this is because maybe the old are discouraged somehow in one way or another. Because if they feel that they are not recognised in the community, then any chance of them giving out their experiences or what is supposed to take place ... they will not be in mood to tell them. Because even, who will he tell for example? ...These children will not go to their grandmothers. They'll stick to their mothers until they are grown up. If you look at circumcision, maybe a child is brought from town, circumcised and then disappears, just like that. There is no experience they can relate from their grandparents.
Then another thing is…maybe I will attribute it to that academic type of education, which is dominant today. Those who have learned that a child has to be taken to a good school, such a child will not be around the home, he will be taken to far places maybe Nairobi as maybe the parents are working there. And the children will grow up away from there and learn there.

Do you have an experience to tell may be on leisure today? The activities you normally do yourself. Do you have something to tell of experiences nowadays?
Nowadays for leisure, there is football during weekends. There are football clubs. Wazees (elders) make their own team and they play against the young. That is leisure.

Its leisure really
The day goes

What do you think made the old men just give up like that, and not restrict their sons and daughters over activities, to be taught to the young?
Well, it is because of the cultural changes. Now Sabaot in Cheptais for example, the intermarriage factor between them and the Bukusu in fact brought a lot of changes as far as cultural practice is concerned. If a boy marries a Bukusu lady okay, here I am a Sabaot, the children that they will have will be talking Bukusu as the mother tongue. If they come to me and I speak to them my mother tongue, they will not understand. And then children grow up knowing Bukusu as their mother tongue, and then they go to school. In the school, they will be taught straight in maybe Kiswahili. Then it continues. They learn in Kiswahili, English and they continue like that. There is no time to speak the Sabaot language. Maybe if there was a book for Sabaot to be used in schools. Maybe through that, some cultural values will be maintained.
Section 9
What are your feelings now that it has gone to that extent, pertaining to the present generation in leisure time?
The present generation? Most of the young nowadays take maybe music, dancing as their main leisure. They do not go to their grandparents and listen to stories or ask questions as in their own culture. There is no time for that. After school, if it is not reading, then some of them will be going to dances, land themselves there now who will tell.

Now in that type of life, in what way could we improve the leisure part in our community? That is a little bit decent.
Now if leisure clubs could be started to monitor the social ministry in the district, I think the leisure would be lively in the society. So you find some of the youth, if they can have a football team, netball for women, then they can compete with others.

How to the old, our parents now for example? If the young can be going in for these clubs how about them?
Theirs can even be easy because they can be given an agenda to talk over as per the programs affecting the society, Sabaot society. I think for example say if they can be given an agenda say deciding on the best leader - MP. They will know what to do and they will come out with a good person. And you know putting them in that manner if they'll also have that feeling. Then they should be encouraged to participate in decision making in the community. But if they are left the way they are, then they'll feel neglected and there's nothing they'll do.

Now to the Sabaot. Do the songs or dances have any significance to them because as they sing it signifies something to them?
Which songs?

They have songs, dances isn't…
There are songs, which are supposed to be patriotic. This gave the young feeling that they are part of the society and based on the development of the society. There were songs that gave restrictions, limitations to other activities for example one could mess, say another age group, if an old man of a certain age group marries the daughter of the same age group, that sounds very bad. A song would be formulated to... and he will be the best example to tell the young that never do that because it’s wrong in this manner or something of that sort.

Why do you think its perceived as bad?
Now if you marry the daughter of your age group it’s just like marrying your child. Is it possible to marry your own child?
Section 10
Okay. Is this traditional type of practice of dances and songs in the Sabaot community have its respective name and titles. Can you remember any dance particularly performed in the Sabaot?
The dance that was dominant and even now we can sing is called Chorei where they danced while jumping up. A very enjoyable dance.

What was this dance about?
The dance? They were dancing to a tune very commonly played.

So that if they heard it, they knew it was Chorei.
Then using the Bukandit instrument, okay, then Kiringorik. When these things are made to produce music, the tune that will come forth will tell one how to dance.

Is this type of art in Sabaot dying out?
Art of...

Of music dances what... songs. Is the culture dying out?
Yaa, its dying because there is no encouragement, even though schools through music festivals almost succeeded and encouraged ... but now there is not. If one has to organise a music festival, he has to register in Nairobi. There are people, who stay in the rural areas for so many years, how will he know Nairobi? And he has to register in Nairobi, which is another way of killing it. If it is not practised by children, then it will automatically die.

Do we have any artistic expressions like drawings made on rocks in the Mount Elgon, for historical remembrances by the Sabaot?
For that one I can not tell. If there are, then they could be in the caves, history with similar things. People used to stay in particular caves, long long time ago. Even when they died, some of them were buried inside the caves. If they had some arts, then I will make an exploration. I will find out from those people

Haven't you been to those caves yourself
No. Occasionally but not often. Things are risky. There are wild animals inside there. How do you risk going in there and start exploring?

But as an explorer you have a need of going there. There are caves that are used by the hunters. We still have hunters. Aren’t those caves that are used by those guys?
Those ones? Unless you are a hunter you can go and…hunters know how they live. Maybe you could find that from the hunters…how they manage to put up in the caves.

Out of our own music, how did our people relate to the modern music like pop music and alike?
Automatically something new looks good, looks best. To anybody something new is attractive.

Have you ever sung yourself?
I am not a good singer
Section 11
But have you ever performed one?
Dance. No I have not

Don't you know even a song?
No I don't know. If I knew I would have sang right now but I am sorry to tell you that I do not know.

What are your feelings about the coming of the radio and pop music to the community itself?
The coming of pop music radio, T.V and video. Although we do not have them in Cheptais, we occasionally see films. The factual films are not available. Power is not there. Radios are the only ones common.

On the side of the arts and crafts, what do you think if the activities are in line with arts of the Sabaot?
Arts? They were makers…pot makers. The pots they use in drinking beer. Then there were blacksmiths, people who would make arrows and spears. Drawing is not all that common. Crafts were there. Calabashes were made. Then they had their own utensils made from clay. There were no plates.

Did you have particular people who made these things who did such work?
For example pottery.