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Tribal warfare with Masai, Nandi, Teso and Luo

Warriors usually were between the ages of 18 and 40. There were rules that all warriors had to observe, especially when preparing for war.  For instance, in some places they were not to associate with women. They had to know how to handle the various weapons they were to use. They had to know how to hold the shield in various positions to defend themselves against the enemies’ spears.
In some sub-tribes, young men of between 18 and 21 were taken to camp for some weeks in a year and trained in the various rules and techniques of war. Here, in addition to the general rules of warfare, they would learn that women were not to be speared in a war. Other persons that were not to be killed were: a messenger of an enemy tribe who came to announce a war; or a messenger of an enemy tribe who came to announce the surrender of his tribe.
Treatment of prisoners of war

War captives were usually made slaves. The men had to become abasumba (bachelors) to work for their master. In time, if they were good, they would be given a plot of land and maybe a wife too, so as to make their own homes. Captured children were made to grow up as members of the new tribe, though they kept their clan names. Girls and women were often married without any bride price.
Many Luhya villages were protected either by a wall, or by a ditch (olukoba), or both. These went all round the village, and were useful in resisting raiders who came at night. These raiders were mostly Nandi, Masai and Teso. More...

Women were never killed in war
Warriors had to look fierce and threatening. Photo: coverbrowser

Warrior uniforms

When going to war, the warriors usually painted themselves so as to look as frightening as possible. Some wore horns on their heads and feathers. The weapons consisted of spears and special javelins. Sometimes these were attached to a long string so that, after spearing an enemy, the spear could be pulled back again and used once more. A fight with spears required shields for protection. These were cleverly made out of the hides of certain animals, notably the buffalo. At the back of the shield was often painted the symbol of the clan of the warrior. Arrows were also used, especially by sub-tribes neighbouring the Nandi or Masai. Swords and special knives, as well as clubs, were also used.

Reasons for war: Many of the tribal wars in Luhyaland were caused by cattle raids from neighbouring tribes. The Teso fought many wars against the Babukusu, Bakhayo and Samia. The Luos fought wars against the Luhya near Maseno and Luanda in Bunyore, near Musanda in Mumias and in Usonga. Local wars within Luhyaland were mainly caused when young men kidnapped a girl of another clan or tribe. More...
War of Eshiatikho

The war of eshiatikho is of special interest to all Luhya because it led to great changes in the arrangement of clans and sub-tribes. It is known as the war of ‘Ifunikho’ in some parts and as the war of ‘Eshiatikho’ in others, notably in Kabras and Bunyala in the Kakamega area.

This war occurred in Bunyala in Busia near Lake Victoria, between the Rivers Nzoia and Yala. It was really a war waged by all the clans of the area against the Abakhoone, a powerful clan which lived close to the mouth of River Yala called Ndekwe. The Abakhoone had fought and expelled many clans from nearby. These clans had to leave the area and cross River Sio to the area of Busia in Uganda.

Others had to go to Luo country. Those who remained near the Abakhoone continually suffered from the cruelties of this clan. So, around 1800 circa they organized themselves against the clan. The following clans took an active part in getting rid of Abakhoone: Abalwani, Abaniatseke, Ababoro, Abang’oma, Abamulembo, Abamakhia, Abanyifwa, Abanyekera, Abasinyama, Abayineki and Abakhumatsi. More...

War of Chetambe

When the British began to introduce colonial government in Kenya, they received strong resistance from some tribes. In Luhyaland, those who resisted most were the Babukusu. Between 1894 and 1898 they caused much trouble against the Sudanese soldiers who had been hired by the British. The most memorable of these battles was fought at Chetambe's fort, near Broderick Falls (renamed Webuye Falls). Actually, Chetambe belonged to the Tachoni, but the Babukusu entered it while escaping. More...

Did you know that Chetambe was originally owned by the Tachoni?

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