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SENGWER ETHNIC MINORITY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

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“…Once the Cherangany were a powerful race called Sengwer….”[1].

 “We are not Marakwet, but Sengwerr.”[2]

 Sengwer (Cherangany) is a minority, unrecognized, marginalised, oppressed and discriminated against hunter-gatherer[3] indigenous ethnic group. “…The Cherangany is a nickname given to us by the Maasai. Sengwer acquired cattle from the Maasai through blackmail.”[4]

 “…We were robbed of our cattle by the Karamojong and then the Maasai laughed at us because we had no cattle, and called us Cherangany (ni).”[5] We are also referred to as Dorobo[6]. “…The Dorobo problem has risen because these people, living in small scattered groups, spread over large areas without any property…lived from hand to mouth by hunting and bee keeping…”[7]

 “…We used to go over to Cherangani shooting and the only people with whom we came in contact along the Cherangani Hills were the Cherangani Dorobo, a small tribe of Dorobo.”[8]

“…to the Maasai menace, it did not exist. If the Maasai shared Kaptiony salt-lick, as they almost certainly did, they did not interfere with the Cherangani. No wise cattleman offends the little from the forests…”[10]

We are currently distributed in Trans Nzoia, Marakwet and West Pokot districts in the North Rift Valley province. Sengwer form a minority in these districts. Sengwer population is approximately 60,000. This population includes Sengwer peoples in diaspora.

Our Ancestral Territory

Commences from Kiporoom River in Uasin Gishu District.  It extends along Kapsumbeywet river through Ziwa (Sirikwa) centre, Moiben Posta and Kose hills in Uasin Gishu.  From Kose hills it goes down to join Moiben river. The boundary goes up river Moiben to the confluence of Ko’ngipsebe and Kimowo streams.  It turns eastwards to cover areas of Maron sub-location in Emboput location in Marakwet District. Turning to the west it then goes to Kamolokon along Marakwet/West Pokot and Marakwet boundary.  From here it drops to Sebit, Somor, then to Kongelai and up along Swom river.  From Swom river to the confluence of Swom and Cheptenden river.  From Cheptenden river to the confluence of Cheptenden river and Moiben river where these two rivers confluence with Kiboorom.

 Before the coming of the colonialists Sengwer lived in these areas from time Immemorial.  They bordered from Nandi, Pokot (Suk), Marakwet, Uasin Gishu, Maasai, Keiyo, Karamoja, Kony and Sebei (Sabiny) communities.  They had good relationship with their neighbors and they used to exchange commodities such as tools, honey, dry meat and food crops in a bartering way.  Sometimes communities such as Uasin Gishu Maasai, Karamoja and Nandi seldom intrude Sengwer community.

 Since the coming of the colonialists and later other communities, Sengwer were termed as a community who does not EXIST.  To date they are forced to identify themselves as Pokot, Marakwet or Keiyo.  This is depicted when registering for national identification cards where recognised ethnic groups are given code numbers to facilitate the issuance of the identity cards. They are not yet recognised groups like Sengwer are forced to register either as Kalenjin, Pokot, Marakwet, Nandi, Sabaot, etc. “...We are not Marakwet, but Sengwerr...”[11].

 Sengwer owned their ancestral land communally on sub-tribe until 1911 when the Colonialists started to interfere.

Sengwer had two sons named Sirikwa (elder) and Mitia. Sirikwa occupied the plains (Soi) of what is now part of Trans Nzoia, Lugari and Uasin Gishu districts. Sirikwa had his first son named Chepkoilel. The plains have since been referred to as Kapchepkoilel. The children of Sirikwa and Mitia form the sub-tribes of Sengwer. These are Kapchepororwo, Kapchepar (Kaptoyoi), Kapumpo, Kaptogom, Kapcherop, Kaki-sango, Kimarich (Kamosus), Kapsormei (Kapseto), Kapteteke, Kipsirat, Kamengetiony (Kopoch & Kapkotet), Kaplema and Kamesieu. Each sub-tribe had their portion of land running from the highlands to the plains.


[1] District Commissioner Elgeiyo/Marakwet, Tambach, Report dated 11th October 1927

[2] Arap Kamussein, Sengwer chief, giving evidence before the Carter Land Commission on 2nd October 1932 at Mr. A.C. Hoey farm

[3] Assistant District Commissioner, Marakwet, letter to the Provincial Commissioner, Naivasha on 1st October 1918

[4] Kenya Land Commission report 1932

[5] Kenya Land Commission report as stated by Sengwer chief Arap Kamussein at A.C.Hoey’s farm on 2nd October 1932.

[6] Kenya Land Commission of 1932 and colonial District Commissioners monthly and yearly reports

[7] Evidence given by Mr. C.H. Adams acting Provincial Commissioner Rift Valley Province before the Kenya Land Commission in 1932

[8] Mr. H.C. Kirk giving evidence before the Kenya Land Commission on 8th October 1932

[9] Mr. A.C. Hoey giving evidence before the Kenya Land Commission on 3rd October 1932

[10] Kenya Land Commission report 1932

 

[11] Sengwer chief Arap Kamussein before the Kenya Land Commission on 2nd October 1932

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