The Kenyan Herder who Ended Centuries of Tribal Wars with Festivals

Stephen Nartey September 07, 2022

The Daasanach tribe of Kenya in East Africa are among the most feared people by neighbouring ethnic groups owing to their fighting skills.

They are celebrated for the number of enemy troops they have killed in battle and raids that have led to the capture of thousands of herds of cattle from other tribes.

Their unique culture is valued, and the Daasanach are reluctant to adopt foreign technology. But, the persistent wars took a psychological toll on a herder boy named Hiile Korichir. He was born near Illeret, a border town close to Kenya and Ethiopia.

He was often deeply concerned over the ethnic unrests between the Daasanach, Gabbra and Hammar, according to Google’s arts and culture.

Relative peace between Daasanach and its neighbours was always fragile, therefore endless communal wars became the order of the day.

After learning the history, customs and traditions of his people as an apprentice, he began asking thought-provoking questions of the elderly statesmen of the Daasanach tribe.

Folklore of his exploits posited that Hiile Korichir was always overwhelmed at the consistent war campaigns staged by the Daasanach against its neighbouring communities. They were tagged as enemy by their neighbours. The conflict between these ethnic groups stemmed mostly from the scarce resources available to them as herders.

Another reason for the conflict was the barriers in culture and language between Daasanach and its neighbours, thereby worsening an entrenched hatred and bitterness among them.

It is against this backdrop that Korichir hatched an innovative approach in ending the century old rivalry and communal wars between Daasanach and its neighbours. He designed peace ceremonies which included supervising meetings and ritual sacrifices between the three communities.

During these rituals, spears, bows and arrows were buried as a symbol of peace. The three communities agreed that whoever broke the peace agreement would be cursed.

Research initiative centre, Joshua Project, observed that until the turn of the century, very little was known of the Daasanach, but, they were sometimes called the Merille.

When the scramble for Africa by Western powers started, the Daasanach found their traditional lands divided between Sudan, Ethipia and Kenya. As a result of that, they have moved freely as herders cross the borders of these countries.  

Their ties to one another have resulted from a common place of residence rather than from heredity, according to the Joshua project. Hostility and exiles among the Daasanach have forged a strong tie among them in support of one another.

They have developed a unique tradition and culture, and are open to the inclusion of other immigrants who are willing to abide by Daasanach customs and values.

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