Discovering the North: Finding East Pokot, Founding Kamrio Mentorship, Kuwa Mwenyewe

FGM in Tiaty, East Pokot
A Glimpse at the Humble Beginning, a Journey of a Thousand Miles, Kuwa Mwenyewe
April 8, 2018
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Obsurvative with mentees at Kamrio

Millicent Chelatan (far right) with fellow mentees and Mentor Obsurvative

In early 2015, I started a live twitter chat under the handle @WenyewePoetry that debuted the concept of Kuwa Mwenyewe through the hashtag #KuwaMwenyewe on January 6th. We held discussions every Thursday picking different topics relating to current and prevailing events.

I then happened to visit East pokot for the first time ever in April 24, 2015 and wrote a story, the Account of my first journey to East Pokot that went viral on Facebook.

I had developed interest in the northern communities, trying to comprehend the state they’re in; high levels of illiteracy, poor infrastructure, and lack of adequate social amenities. This had me digging into the history discovering the Northern Kenya and I led discussions about #NorthernKenya on Twitter from April 9, 2015.

The discussion #NorthernKenya brought to light the plight of the people in the Northern Frontier Districts and Contiguous Districts.

I learned about the Outlying Districts Ordinance that gave the British colonialists powers to isolate certain regions, declare them Closed; The Special Districts Administration Ordinance that gave the British power to impose restrictions of movement into and out of the Closed Districts including deliberate restriction of infrastructural development and trade, arbitrary confiscation of communities’ resource (Cattle and Goats) on suspicion, arrests for not having a pass into the district, etc.

These laws were later employed by the Kenyan Government after independence as the Preservation of Public Security Act and Special Anti-Stock Theft Act to “curb” the “hostile communities” in the North.

As a result, inhuman acts were committed by the government security officials in attempt to control pastoralist communities. This led to the enactment of the Indemnity Act of 1970 that exempts security and government personnel from the guilt of atrocities committed while carrying out security operations that have mostly been marred by gross human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, rape, and mass murder.

As we delved deeper, discovering the Norht, the twitter discussion narrowed down to #EastPokot as one of the regions in #NorthernKenya with the intent of gaining an understanding of the Pokot people, their culture, livelihood and history.

This direction was motivated by the efforts being made then towards rewriting the history of the least literate district in Kenya, East Pokot.

There was a marathon fundraiser that was being organized to pool funds to fully sponsor 16 pioneer students from Kamrio through high school. The students were the first to have done KCPE in Kamrio primary school the previous year, 2014.

The main aim of the event was to attain peace in Baringo through education and was dubbed “Education for Peace”. This principle gave Kamrio Mentorship the footing to advance efforts towards realization of education for every Pokot child in East Pokot.

At the time, East Pokot was all over the media on several accounts of insecurity ocassioned by banditry attacks. In fact, Kamrio Marathon should have taken place the previous year but was postponed due to security concerns when in November 1, 2014 approximately 22 Administration Police Officers were reported dead gunned down by suspected Pokot bandits near Kapedo.

The incident had heightened tensions in Baringo through to the year 2015. The County Speaker, Hon. William Kamket, a Pokot, was arrested and tried on allegations of inciting his community; the Tugen Members of the County Assembly who were majority were moving a motion to impeach the Speaker even barring Pokot MCAs from attending the County Assembly.

The social media was filled with hate, curses and mudslinging from either side. I recall I later wrote a story of a Pokot girl who was constantly taunted by her Physics teacher, a Tugen, for being a “cattle rustler” that the girl and many other Pokot students like her had to quit the subject.

The Nadome Massacre, early in May, 2015, scared off outsiders that some stakeholders, including the main event sponsors, pulled out of Kamrio Marathon the last minute citing security concerns.

But while the media were quick to associated violent conflicts with the Pokot, there was no light or little, if any, shed on the efforts made by the community in attempt to achieve Peace.

There was an incident in 2015 where 3 young Pokot men had raided the Tugen community and made away with some cattle but were confronted by their own near Nginyang to surrender the cattle to be returned to the Tugen community.

A tussle ensued in which one of the villagers was shot on the leg but they successfully apprehended the three handing over the stolen cattle to the police at Nginyang to be returned to the Tugens.

In addition, Kamrio community had sacrificed a lot to realize the success of Kamrio Marathon and against all odds the event prevailed on May 30, 2015: the villagers cleared the path for running, each household contributed Goats for the ceremony and for pricing the winners of the race all in bid to see their children fare on well through high school.

Such efforts, though often unmentioned, revealed to me that the Pokot too are human, moral beings, with a conscience, an understanding of peace and that they were not just bandits, a hostile tribe, a narrative the media always sold.

Wenyewe Team

I took a team with me to perform Themed ‘Entertainment on Education’ at Kamrio Marathon. My prior visits to the event had enabled me to develop a poem in Pokot Language reiterating the goodness of education and calling on the community to embrace it. The journey stories also inspired a team comprising of youth from Baringo, Nakuru and Nairobi to the event.

After the event, our host and the vision bearer of the marathon, Sylvia Cheyiech, shared with us her greatest fears regarding the students.

Being the first lot to have made it to high school from Kamrio Primary School, Sylvia cringed at the thought of the students losing sight of their dreams along the way, falling to prey negative peer influence and pressures.

She insisted that the students needed consistent mentorship so that they realize the value of education which would inspire the younger ones following in their footsteps.

I was touched by the need and I willingly offered to take on the mentorship offering to indulge my team, Wenyewe, host of talent mentorship programs, Wenyewe Poetry, at Eldama Ravine, Baringo County, Kenya.

Sylvia, Komen S.K and I later met and sketched the idea of the mentorship which I knit further, integrating ideas and Kamrio Mentorship the baby was born in August, 2015.

The main objective of the first mentorship was to make acquaintance with the children and it was then that I realized we couldn’t just focus on the pioneer students but all the others too.

This informed the course of action and strategies for the next mentorship trip that happened in December, 2015 preceded by a Kid’s Festival in Eldama Ravine held to pool funds to aid the mentorship program.

From then on, I learned to consistently audit and improve the Kamrio Mentorship program and it now serves as a successful model of Kuwa Mwenyewe mentorship.

Kamrio Mentorship has since had several mentorship trips, a growing talent development program and drip irrigation program for the mothers installed in December, 2016 for a group of 16 mothers in Kamrio.

Women working in the field

This irrigation project provided readily available vegetables in the village which were initially brought by traders from Koloa, more than 40 kilometers away, and Marigat, almost 100 kilometers away. This food availability also enabled the community survive the 2017 prolonged drought between January and May, attests one elder from the village Mr. Long’iroi, also a father to some mentees.

The project is also a source of income to the mothers, and has since inspired another group of trading mothers to purchase their own drip system which we installed in December, 2017.

The greatest challenge in this journey has been providing consistent, sufficient and timely technical support to the mothers to expand, increase food production and better manage their crops enterprise. This is because of unavailability on account of how often we visit the village due to financial constraints.

We, however, believe with time and with support and appropriate partnerships, we will be able to accomplish this.

The mentorship program currently hosts an ever increasing number of mentees who attest that the program has enabled them to gain a better understanding of themselves. The mentorship has also pooled children from distant villages to join in the program.

The harvest

In the year, 2017, the average performance of Kamrio Primary School in KCPE greatly improved and was attributed by many to the impact of the program, which the teachers say, complements the school.

I have seen an ever increasing gap in mentorship among young people, not only in Kamrio, but the entire nation of Kenya and probably this is the trend globally. I have since offered myself wholly to this service using using Music and Poetry to reach out to more youth out there. And I am currently working on a song which based on Kamrio Mentorship and the song ‘I Will’ is a testimony of my journey.

‘I Will’ is a personal reminder to myself to accomplish what I’ve committed myself to do. This song is an encouragement to me to break free of any qualms I may have in my thoughts about my purpose and abilities to accomplish my purpose. It’s a statement of my faith and hope in God to see me through.

It is also a reflection of what we’re doing currently in East Pokot, and my commitment to continue doing this, to take Kuwa Mwenyewe mentorship to ends of the earth, to inspire and nurture a generation of individuals who are self-aware, confident of their abilities, willing and doing great works to make a difference in their homesteads, villages, neighborhood, cities, countries and regions in the world.

I believe that education and mentorship are the greatest solution to the problems bedeviling the Northern Kenya. Therefore, I urge everyone to consider joining me in this journey.

By Obsurvative Kimutai – (Agricultural Engineer & Poet – Founder of Kamrio Mentorship Program)

12 Comments

  1. Kuwi Arts says:

    amazing

  2. Lucy says:

    Great job there kijana may God bless you always

  3. Catherine says:

    Good work keep it up

  4. Aizac says:

    It’s such an awesome move, bringing the whole of self to the rescue of a society. Narrowing the gap, lowering the illiteracy level, boosting the food supply via breaking off the pastoral mindset. Keep doing it. Good job… #IWill

  5. wicked says:

    Man you are a blessing to the community.

  6. maureen kiprop says:

    wonderful job d…may God reward you accordingly dear

  7. Bundotich says:

    Amazing stuff bro…

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