Madaraka Day, what it means to the forgotten indigenous heroes

Madaraka is a Swahili word that stands ‘freedom’ and as such Madaraka Day is commemorate as the day that Kenya achieved independent internal self-governance from the British colonists. Madaraka Day is celebrated every 1 June in every year in the Republic of Kenya , 2023 will be the 60th Madaraka Day.

It is one of the three national holidays that have been created under Article 8 of the 2010 Constitution. With the aim to honor all Kenyans who have contributed towards the struggle for Kenya’s independence. Those who fought for our independence like Jomo Kenyatta, who was first Prime Minister and then President of Kenya.

Kenyatta was arrested in October 1952 along with five others (Achieng’ Oneko, Bildad Kaggia, Fred Kubai, Kung’u Karumba and Paul Ngei) on charges of being members of the Mau Mau Society, a movement engaged in rebellion against Kenya’s British rulers. The accused were known as the ‘Kapenguria Six’. While their stories are told, their those who played a big role as well and who stories remain untold.

The Maa Museum brings scientific and anthropological studies to some of the heroes who contributed to pre- independence and those who fought colonialists in Kenya to defend their lands and atrocities in colonial period. They include Controversial politician John keen, who walked out of Lancaster meeting, Joshua Lekoko (Ilkisongo) who was released from Manyani prison in 1959, Lekasailie Leshore of samburu , Mama Loise Mpaayei (still alive, lives in Kimana Loitoktok) and Samburu Laibon Leaduma commonly referred to as ole Dume , whose some road, hotels , suites and apartments in Nairobi are named after him and his story covered today in this article to celebrate him as hero.

His name also appears when Laikipia is mentioned, a synonymous name associated with his struggle with Laikipia and colonial presences in Laikipia. A street is named after him in one of the West Africa states could suggest he may have been detained there on his way to Britain or elsewhere.

The colonial history of Kenya dates to Berlin conference of 1885 when EA was divided into territories of influence by the European pioneers. The British government founded the EA protectorate in 1815 and soon after opened the fertile highlands to white settlers.

Ole Dume was a colonialist’s corrupted name Leaduma who fought for independence of Kenya and later in 1933 deported to unknown destination and unknown burial site . Leaduma was alleged to be associated with the death of a settler called Theodore Powy who was killed by a heard of lions and the five Samburu Moran’s and the Laibon’s Leaduma found not guilty.

According to Elliot Franklin, in a journal of EA Studies, (published in 2014), ‘The Samburu Laibon’s sorcery and the death of Theodores Powys in colonial Kenya; ’Theodore Powy was a settler and the events and trials occurred as conflicts increased among the Samburu pastoralists , the white settlers and the Kenya colonial administration in early 1930s .

Although the Five Moran’s were acquitted of murder charge, their Laibon’s Nkaldayo Leaduma was arrested before the trial under the witchcraft ordinance act and deported for intimidating witnesses and interfering with investigations using sorcery and powers of a Laibon’s. The larger Samburu community just like what is happening today, faced heavy fines, disarmament and their cows confiscated.

As for what is happening today in Laikipia , studies show that conflicts covered three areas namely ; conflicts over grazing lands especially during droughts , colonial responses to local rituals leaders (called sorcerers)  and Samburu conceptualization and use of spiritual powers in political related conflicts . All this conflicts between the Samburu, the white settlers and colonial administrators over authority, culture clash (laibon’s powers and sorcery) and resource use.

Kordidi , one of the Lmekuris age sets and uncle to Laibon Leaduma related to the aerial of Marsabit county , in his interview referred Ngaldayo Leaduma as the greatest Laibon’s that Samburu’s ever had and was known to make rains , protect warriors for battles and to date his 64 tools of work taken away by the colonialists during his deportation , to ensure he does not pass the tools to anyone else.

As a researcher and indigenous cultural activists and museologist, these tools are suspected to be stored in the River Pitts museum or British museums in the UK, where thousands of artifacts are stored to date. 

The spear too that Olesendeu of Loita , used to kill DC Hugh, following taking his favorite bull, is also suspected to be in the same museum.  The Laibon’s was not the first to be deported from his home area but other leaders drawn from the Nandi were deported behind the attacks of workers and squatters, mainly kikuyus living in the white farms in neighboring Laikipia district.

Both Laibon’s and elders were checked by the colonial administration infringing on sorcery and cultural rights of the Laibon’s and resources such as through heavy fines, disarmament and legislation, such as the witchcraft ordinance of 1925 and deportation order of 1923.

While the case of Theodore Powy (Laikipia) and that of Grant Hugh grant (Loitai, Narok) received much attention from anthropologists and historians, who focused on the ability or inability of colonial administrators to control the actions of the Samburu’s and satisfy their desires of the white settlers. 

This today is demonstrated by the big chunks of lands owned by about 22 settlers and struggles the Samburu go through seeking pasture and water for their livestock, and drought that was also declared a national disaster by the former president Uhuru kenyatta.

The anthropologists and historians like Bilinda straight, Jon Holtzman and Kenyan historian Peter Waweru examined in their papers, the memories of the events suffered from the militarized levy force in the 1930s and studies around contestations between the British colonial administrators and ritual leaders. 

As we therefore celebrate Madaraka and such heroes, it’s wise to incorporate scientific related histories and evidence in long lasting interventions to demand for the artifacts , end conflicts in Laikipia and other regions and to use dialogues and not force or killing their livestock, as this reminds them of colonial questions like still answered or resolved to date like the deportation of Laibon’s Leaduma who has yet to be given a heroic send off as per the Samburu traditions and unwritten indigenous constitution. The Maa Museum is pursuing the British government for compensation and return of the 60+ artifacts and tools of Laibon Leaduma.  

By Lepantas Charles Leshore

The writer is the founder and director of Maa Museum and Centre for indigenous culture – (MMCIC)

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