Basilikwa. The shortage of anthropological materials and manpower has made it a daunting task for the people of Kenya to vividly trace their history and antecedents. Take for example, the Luhya people of western Kenya. What’s recorded in the books taught in the Kenyan curriculum indicates that they originated somewhere around the Congo forest and came into what’s now known as Kenya through the south-western part of the country. However, what they themselves know to be true is that they came from Egypt through Uganda then across River Malaba (Lwakhakha) into the boundaries of what’s now Kenya.
An account told by the Babukusu of Bungoma District suggests that they, as a people were known as Basilikwa Mbai (needs being further researched because there’s another group in Kapchorwa, Uganda, that calls itself Sirikwa Mbai) , who originated from Egypt and came to a place known as Silikwa then into Kenya through Uganda. This is a bit confusing since most of the Kalenjin tribes tell of a similar story.
Due tobthisbconfusion, in my attempt to demystify the Basilikwa, I have looked at the accounts of both groups of people and tried to piece them together.
So, who are the Basilikwa?
These are people who occupied the territory between Lake Turkana and Lake Eyisi to the south. The cross-sectional range of this land cut from the eastern escarpment through to MT. Elgon. The specific areas where they lived in this region included Cherangany, Sabwani, Kapcherop, Sirende, Moi’s Bridge, Wehoya, Hyarx Hill, Rongai, Moiben, Turbo, Timboroa, Ainabkoi, Namgoi, Sounds and Sotik (source Maina Kiarie). They spoke a language that resembled Kalenjin, Masai and Ogiek. In fact, they had a hunting and gathering culture that was exactly like that of the Ogiek.
Whereas the Baluhya called them Basilikwa, the Kalenjins called them Sirikwa, the Kikuyu called them Ejoe or Thiriga, Merus called them Muoki while the Masai called them Embogatta (source: Kalenjin History and Culture–and online source).
The Sirikwa/Basilikwa dug depressions with diameters ranging between 10 to 20 metres and depths of up to 2.4 metres. They were surrounded by stone or wooden fences. Every individual settlement area usually had 5 to 100 plus depressions, where they kept their cattle safe from raids by their neighbours. These must be what the Babukusu called ‘chingoba’–‘lukoba’ in singular. Every now and then, they would move, leaving these holes behind. They moved because of attacks from their enemies and the depletion of grassing fields and water. With time, these holes became inefficient, making their cattle vulnerable to raids from the Galla, Borana, Masai and Nandi. The attacks are what disintegrated them, spreading them across all the corners of the world.
When they disintegrated, some moved to new areas but most of them were assimilated by the Masai, Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luhya and many other groups in Kenya and beyond.
According to Kalenjin History and Culture (my online source), the Sengwer claim that Xirikwa (their founding father) was the son of King ak Tabnai, one of the founding fathers of Kalenjin tribes. This source also indicates that the Babukusu clans such as Basilikwa, Bakimweyi, Bang’oma and Basang’alo descended from the Xirikwa ( this source argues that this should be the correct spelling). However, an account from the Babukusu claims that all of their six clusters descended from Silikwa Mbai. It’s, however, confusing that they have a specific cluster called Basilikwa that has the Batukwiika, Bakimweyi, Babulo, Babambo, Basefu, Bachemayi (sounds very Sirikwa-like), Bakolati, Babichachi, Bamutilu, Basimisi, Baliango, Barwa and Bakiyabi (Boniface Munialo). Maina Kiarie on his part, claims that Babukusu are 80% Basilikwa.
We have no anthropologists and enough anthropological evidence. So, we have to do it ourselves. This is a challenge to you all.
Article by : Amos Juma wanda
Amos Juma Wanda. Born in Kitale. is a teacher of literature, football coach and a writer who’s very enthusiastic about literature, linguistics and the anthropology of Kenyan tribes, their oral literature included.
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