Stone-built ruins that preserve Luo history

Thimlich
Thimlich

Thimlich Ohinga is a 14th-century stone-built complex in Migori county. It is a unique dry stone architectural tradition of massive monumental walls. These constructions characterise the early settlement of the Lake Victoria Basin.

The walls exhibit meticulously arranged stones rising to a height of about 3.9m. They were built without mortar and have many complementing features that have made them survive for several centuries. Today, they have been preserved in an unchanged character.

Last year, the 16th

century site in Nyatike was added to the World Heritage List by the United Nations. Site curator Kelvin Somoire says the Oinga appear to have served primarily as security for communities and livestock, but they also defined social units and relationships linked to lineage-based systems.

The property comprises four larger Ohingni, all of which have extensions. The main Ohinga is referred to as Kochieng, while the others are Kakuku, Koketch and Koluoch. The dry stone wall enclosures are constructed in a three-phase design with separately built outer and inner phases, held together by the middle phase.

Each ohinga had its own governance structures, which were ultimately tied to regional structures and became a centre from which territorial conquests into neighbouring areas were conducted.

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Despite being awarded World Heritage status by Unesco, the cultural heritage site is experiencing low traffic.

Somoire says it is only visited by an average of 20 people per month, better compared to days before it was recognised, but still not enough.

He urged campaigns to get more Kenyans to visit such sites to experience and learn the different cultures of the Luo people.

Despite having a well-established nature trail, where visitors can see a diversity of vegetation and lodge at a campsite, the tourist attraction site is in dire need of improvement because it still lacks electricity and has only one pit latrine.

The lack of world-class facilities has no doubt hurt its image. “Tourists, both local and foreign, have complained about these missing amenities. The nearest hotel is in Rapogi, which is nearly 30km from here,” the curator said.

Poor transport infrastructure means the site is cut off from the rest of the world, which limits its revenue.

“If access is improved, this can become a very important tourist destination in the Western circuit,” Somoire added.

He said they have been granted a 10-year window to ensure all the required infrastructure and amenities are put in place in line with the required standards.