Friday, March 14, 2008

In which event were you born? How the Kenya government determines age of pastoralists

Looking back at the past history of our people of Cushitic extracts or of like features residing in Kenya's Eastern and North Eastern Provinces (formerly the Northern Frontier Districts or in short NFD)-who share cultural and linguistic approaches-will, if we are truly serious about knowing part of missing Somali past, irradiate concealed treasures of chronologically historical episodes retrievable from the few surviving super-centenarian storytellers with narratives worthy of recitation-a sequence of events worth deciphering-that seem to be far from the reach of our local historians in far away libraries or for some unknown reasons that have not been documented to this day.

It is a history laden with courage and wit, maladies and famine that afflicted humans, wild and domesticated animals alike; it is one of murder, locust invasions, blizzards, rape, and cattle rustling; it details a cornucopia of occurences during the colonial adminsitration; it features immeasurable wealth of information regarding past tribal clashes between the Borana, Ogaden-Somali, Sakuye, Garre, Ajuran, Murille and Degodia tribes which dragged on for over a hundred years.

Ironically, since majority of pastotalists were illiterate, these events became a tool for ascertaining the exact birth dates for people of the same age groups as the few semi-literate able-bodied men familiar with the Gregorian and Hegirae calendars migrated to the towns in search of better prospects-most probably to work for the colonial administrations as spies, cooks, translators, watchmen, and as armed askaris (soldiers but in the real sense Administration Policemen locally known as "Duubcas" as they were known to wear turbans for headgear).

What mattered most to these people about time was not birthday celebrations with cakes and cookies but having strength and equanimity, a wealth of livestock and sons, religious conviction, abundant water and pasture, poetic eminence, and dependable tribes during difficult times.

The sense of humor chronicled in these events despite containing vulgarities and utterly promiscuous exploits is not intended in any way or form to malign the good name or reputation of any entity or tribe but is being presented here in order to show cultural correlations between these tribes and their recorded important historical events.

Chronology of events

1901. Baahale civil war between Mohamed Zubeir, Auliyaha, and Bah-Geri.

1904. The year of Khalu. Perhaps he was a great Borana warrior who wanted to wage

war against Somalis but gave up the idea after he entered Kenya from Ethiopia.

1906. The year of devastating famine when all camels were eaten in Garisaa District

because they were the only animals available.

1907. Breakout of Mohamed Zubeir-Abdalla war.

1911. Borana commanded by Ali Buke fought the Somalis.

1912. Borana and Samburu fought at a place called Kome. Samburus were defeated.

1912. Abdwak-Mohamed Zubeir war ingintes.

1913. The Borana warrior, Kote, who was born without fingers on one hand, dies.

1915. Borana warrior Guyo Gutu dies after being killed by an elephant.

1917. Is remembered as the year when the Sakuye killed two Somalis and were

collectively fined 400 heads of cattle as compensation.

1918. Mohamed Zubeir-Auliyahan war kicks off.

1919. The year the Borana and Gabra could not reconcile forcing the Gabra to move to


1919. Auliyahan-British war.

1920. Sannadkii biyo fuud. A year of drought and the introduction of tea and sugar

in Garissa District.

1922. Koodhi kacarar. People escaped to Somalia to avoid paying poll tax.

1923. Kenya-Somalis crossed into Italian Somaliland.

1925. Borana killed a Somalia and were fined 100 heads of cattle as blood money.

1925. Sannadkii Saangur (Sankuri) ladhisay. The year Sankuri was built.

1929. Tribal war beween the Garre and Murille in Elwak.

1931. Angered by the killing of Borana by Somalis, the Borana, seeking compensation,

appealed to the District Commissioner, a Mr. Dadlocks, who in turn confiscated

Somali camels.

1932. Deer Fanta. Outbreak of Small pox.

1933. The colonial administration fined the Borana 1200 heads of cattle for the

killing of six Somalis.

1934. British-Auliyahan war.

1935. Deer Ayax. The year of locust invasion.

1936. The year Garissa was built.

1937. Sannadkii caano arag. The year of abundant milk.

1937. Sannadkii kala carar. The year of pandemonium when people ran to unknown

destinations in search of food.

1941. Sannadkii Lo' duraay. The introduction of veterinary services.

1944. A Borana named Abduba Ali was killed by Somali Shifta (bandits). The Shifta

was killed by the Borana in retaliation.

1944. Sannadkii dhul qod. The introduction of dams.

1944. Mohamed Zubeir-Bartire war.

1946. The death of Sultan Sambul.

1946. The year people slaughtered young calves for food due to famine.

1948. Borana killed two Ajurans; fined 200 heads of cattle as compensation.

1948. Kadhaqso kudhufo. A war song warning a rapist to hurry up with his immoral act

as the husband of the wife was coming to bay for his blood. It was a year of

rejoicing for Somalis after a long drought.

1949. The year Sultan Maalim Muhamed was stabbed.

1953. Garabgooye. A killer disease that decimated cattle and elephants and anyone

who ate them.

1955. Boran galaay. The year when many Somalis moved to Modogashe (Madoogaashe) and

Borana land due to severe drought.

1956. Guskii caano teg. A young Somali man, who, after attaining age 20, raped every

woman he met each time paying as compensation 5 to 8 cows until he ran bankrupt. He

finally repented his sins.

The Kenya Census Bureau deserves credit for chronicling such important historical events in its experimentation of past census exercises despite small margins of error.

From these events we are able to adduce evidence of incest in past tribal social makeups, territorial rivalry, and adverse living conditions-conditions dictated by mother nature in poor tribal societies-whose only source of income was livestock-livestock that solely depended on scarce rain followed by intermittent drought that decimated a great many populations scavenging for the few available resources in a vast desert-whipped Somali Abbo and Somali regions stretching from the Northen tip of Moyale to the southern terrains of Garissa.

Students interested in the history of NFD need exploit the atrociuos wars between the Auliyan-a sub clan of the Ogaden-Somali and the heavily equipped British Colonial Administration. Names like the Sakuye and Murille may at first sound non-Somali though the vast majority of these tribes concentrate in Wajir and Mandera respectively to as far as Moyale, Marsabit, and Isiolo in the expansive Eastern Province.

Though little has been mentioned about the exquisite Wardey-a clan that originally owned this vast region-students of history need to remember that their original name was Gabbra or Galla. Names like Hargeisa, Garbaharey, Afmadow and many other towns, places, and villages that now form Greater Somalia political irredentism, have their origin in Wardey vocabularies.

From the little historical knowledge we have about NFD, the first batch of men on horseback consisted of 250 Ogaden bachelor warriors who started their journey in the current Ogaden region occupied by Ethiopia almost three centuries ago traversing thousands of miles until they reached the foothills of Nakuru long before the struggle of Seyyid Muhammad Abdille Hassan-alias "Mad Mullah". These dedicated men intermarried with the Wardey and thus set up settlements for Ahmediya Islamic religious propagation.

Our absolute dependence on European colonial writings and our failure to undertake our own research has made the task of writing our own history redundant and obsolete. The governments of East Africa have not been much better as their inclinations to European colonial ideals retarded our young historians pursuit of our past. It took the combined efforts of three independent minds to spread Communism to the entire world. Karl Marx was not alone; someone published his ideas while a third figure disseminated his ideas-an idea that became an ideology to reckon with even to this very day.

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