The border feud between the Nandi and Kisumu’s Kano Luo has raged on for as long as anyone can remember. It is in fact, the stuff of legend.
For the longest time, the Luo had the upper hand because of their champion Lwanda Magere. However, the Nandi managed to outwit the Luo when they discovered Lwanda Magere’s vulnerability and killed him. I first heard this story from my father when I was about seven or eight. In fact, every Luo knows this story especially those who hail from the Kano clans like I do.
So it was not surprising to learn that the feud has flared up again. In the time of legend, the conflict mainly revolved around cattle. In the recent past, the dispute has centered around boundaries.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang has laid claim to seven towns and trading centres along the border.
At first, I dismissed the dispute as low level background conflict even when three people died in 2016. Nothing more than border skirmishes involving clans. Even in my grandfather’s time, cross border raids were expected but not frequent. But last week, the controversy made news headlines and this newspaper’s People’s editorial covered it. So here I am.
The counties created in 2010 after devolution took effect were based on former districts. It is, therefore, surprising that certain towns were stolen from Nandi county. I have also heard arguments that land was stolen in colonial times. Basically, the colonialist displaced the Nandi, and settled Luo labourers to work on settler plantations.
Governor Sang claims the Nyando River was a natural border in pre-colonial time, but that claim might prove specious. Boundaries were never static back then since the Nandi and Kano Luo were constantly fighting
If the towns are given back to Nandi as the governor suggests, it would be a blatant acknowledgement that the counties are nothing more than tribal enclaves—that each of the 47 counties has its tribal owners.
Does Sang want the land back so that the county can kick out ‘outsiders?’ The former Rift Valley was a hotspot of violence during the 2007-2008 post-election violence because some communities felt that outsiders needed to be cleared out.
It sets a dangerous precedent. Devolution was supposed to ensure equitable distribution of resources. Retired President Daniel Moi often warned against majimboism, arguing that it would lead to even more ethnic divisions.
Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o is also not in the clear in this. If it turns out the ethnic Nandi want out of Kisumu county then certain questions need to be asked. Why are they dissatisfied? Why would they want to secede? Are they being treated as second class citizens? Who will be compensated, individuals or Nandi county? – Writer is a management fellow at the City of Wichita, USA —@janeksunga