The day Wanga-Bukusu war broke out

It was inevitable after the Bukusu rejected call to surrender

In Summary

• War unfolded on the rocky slopes between Britain and Wanga kingdoms and Bukusu

The calm before the storm in a village
The calm before the storm in a village

The war of the Sawa age-group of the 1890s started from a fort in Lumboka near Bungoma town. Wangas were assailed by Bukusus. They rushed to Mumias and reported.

The leaders with Esipokoto of the Bukusu there were asked to return the weapons. They laughed. The king of Wanga sent a letter to Nairobi. The allies from Europe responded by sending a punitive expedition. 

War. Broke. Out. In the land. The peace of old was destroyed. The Bukusu rallied around their regiments and met the Wanga and the Maasai mercenaries, Waswahili with their guns and a few wazungu officers in Lumboka. The battle cry was sounded as far as Sirisia and Teremi. War. Broke out.                       

The old simmering tensions between the kingdom and the Bukusu finally came to a head. Makokha, the father of Makokha, the father of Makokha my father, was a young man and newly married. War. Broke out.

The Bukusu fought at Lumboka. The reinforcements kept arriving from Mumia's. They fled east. You know why? Had they not fled West when the Maasai arrived from the North? Safety is where home is, or vice versa. They moved east towards their old lands of Uasin Gishu and stopped near Webuye.

Here, there was a massive fort and encampment that had been shared by Bukusus and their cousins and allies the Tachoni. When the war got hot near Bungoma, the Tachoni abandoned the fort and moved into the Kabras region near Kaburengu and Kipkaren River. The thousands of Bukusu fleeing the hot war zones near Bungoma entered Webuye, entered the hills of Chetambe, took over the fort of Chetambe. The war was in the air.

In May 1895, the Wanga king received reinforcements from the Kabaka of Buganda. They were led by Semei Kakungulu. Read more about him. The king received reinforcements from Nubia, which was a British dominion. He combined these two with his own Kwavi Maasai mercenaries and Waswahili gunners, led by Capt Christopher Hobley. He equipped this massive army with thousands of his own Wanga spear warriors. It is this force that arrived in Webuye one morning in May 1895. 

They dug a huge ditch round where the Bukusu and their leaders with Esipokoto were dug in. They erected five machine guns on either side of the encampment. They asked the Bukusu to surrender. The elders of the Esipokoto felt nothing. They held a war council. They isolated all the finest cattle and sent to Hobley. A sign of peace. But not surrender. Hobley returned them back to the Bukusu. A sign of war.

To cut a long story short. War. Broke. Out. 

The war drums of the encampment were sounded and the Bukusu warriors of the Sawa group and their Tachoni allies who had remained blew the war conch. The dice was cast. They opened the gate of the fort up the mountains of Chetambe, outside Webuye, not far from Broderick Falls. And in their thousands, they descended down the rocky slopes to meet Britain and Wanga kingdoms.

A minute of silence.

The machine guns waited for the war to intensify. For the two forces of history to meet. The old and the new. Then began chattering in their death grammar. Kimirundu. Guns. Kimirundu! Kirundukha. KIMIRUUUNDU! KirundukhaAAAh. Bulila! 

We died like flies in that year of history. Yet we are still here. A living memory to those who paid the ultimate price to work for our freedom.

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