The Cliff Dwellers of Kerio
My great-grandmother, Kabon, who passed on in 1953, once walked up the Kerio valley all the way to Kakamega with the women from her village to seek for food. She spoke of a great famine that struck the valley, so severe that breast-feeding mothers could produce no more milk and had to feed their babies on boiled herbs. The babies died of course, and there was such pain as the mothers carried the corpses all the way to the bush to be devoured by hyenas. As was typical in Keiyo culture, mothers served themselves last, after feeding any guest, the husband and the children, and since there was no food, women would sit beside their families as they ate, waiting for anyone to pass onto them a scrap of food they could afford to give out.
Kabon watched as her mother would tie a stone tightly around her belly after serving them food, to keep the hunger pangs away. Yet the drought persisted, despite the pleas the Keiyo sent to Asiis, the nine-legged goddess, and children walked about with baboon rear ends, since their rectums began falling out as their abdominal muscles collapsed. Kabon spoke about one of the saddest events in the history of the valley, where parents began selling off their children to the Nandi in exchange for food, telling their children not to cry when they left them behind, that they were giving them away so as to not watch them die.
It is at this time of such horror that information about Kakamega began trickling in. They heard stories of pumpkins so big two men had to carry them, of huts so tall and with such thick thatch that you would not hear the rain at night, of food so plentiful that people washed their hands in milk. Kabon joined a team of women that walked up the valley to Kakamega to seek for food. They were guided by warriors only upto Sergoit hill, since the Karamojong, a hostile tribe, had at that time formed a camp around Moiben and they were renowned for cutting of a man’s legs and leaving him to bleed to death. They did not kill women however so the women walked on, sleeping on trees at night to keep safe from animals, till they reached Kakamega.
The people of Kakamega were friendly and gave them food and shelter, but warned the women from stealing anything otherwise they would tie them up on trees to be eaten by hyenas at night. Kabon said that she never wanted to leave Kakamega because it had so much food, but the women had an obligation to bring back food to their communities. Their journey back was more eventful since they met a gang of Maasai men who chased after them, till some dropped their bags of the grain, which the Maasai poked with their spears, scattered the grain on the ground and proceeded to urinate on it. The women salvaged all they could and walked back to the valley, where they cried with joy to see that rain had fallen.
Wow….. Those were terrible times. Who told you about it?
This story was passed down first-hand to my mother. But it is also well known within the community. Not my great-grandmother’s story perse, but the drought.
I am slightly jealous you trace you can trace your lineage that far back and know the stories. Mine stops with my grandparents and they don’t share much of their past.
There is so much happening around the world and we are blissfully ignorant toward it. I hope these awful days never return to anyone’s lives. Though this tale was passed on through the word of mouth, I am sure your ancestors would have faced these challenges with strength.
They faced them with strength. That is why I am here. I thank them everyday for their courage.