What is in a name? Why elders want new Asumbi Town sub-location renamed

Kabuor clan

Members of Kabuor clan in Rangwe, Homa Bay County, protest in Rangwe town on February 22,  2024 against the recent administrative boundary review. 

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

The creation of new administrative unit boundaries by the Interior Ministry last week may have been welcomed by some communities in the country as it will make it easier for people to move around in search of government services.

New units, especially locations and sub-locations, also provide job opportunities for residents who are employed by the government as chiefs and assistant chiefs.

But for one clan in Rangwe, Homa Bay County, the government has erred by creating a new sub-location in their area and naming it after an upcoming urban area.

For them, the new unit should be named after the clan to preserve its identity.

When the government created new units in a gazette notice published on February 14, 2024, one of the new sub-locations in Homa Bay was identified as Asumbi Town in Rangwe sub-County.

The government's intention was to allow the people in Asumbi to have a national government administrator closer to them.

But members of the Kabor community want the name changed and the boundaries of the new sub-location reviewed.

For them, a new administrative unit in the area should have been called Kabor sub-location, and it should have covered a different area from the current location.

Some members of the clan staged a peaceful protest in Range town on Thursday afternoon, where they sought an audience with Rangwe Deputy County Commissioner Alphet Jill to explain why the government had not considered a petition they had filed prior to the boundary review.

In the petition filed by the Kabor Community Development Forum to the Interior Ministry on May 25, 2023, the clan said they had proposed the name before the boundary review and wanted the new sub-location to be named Kabor.

Group secretary Stephen Ochando said the area is vast with at least 420 households and 17 learning institutions.

"The area is also home to markets, health facilities and dairy projects. We humbly request for a positive consideration of this (creation of Kabor sub-location) as it will bring services closer to the people and hence easier to manage," reads part of the petition.

Currently, Kabor is the name of a clan whose members cover some villages in Gem Central location, which had two sub-locations - Kajulu and Wikoteng' - before the new sub-location was created.

Members of the clan said their numbers entitled them to have their own sub-location named after them and had filed a petition to the Interior Ministry.

But they were surprised when their request was not granted.

Another petition was filed on February 6, 2024, just days before the new units were gazetted.

Mr Ochando, in the second petition, still said the community wanted the creation of the Kabor sub-location.

Mr Caleb Amwata, a community activist who led his clan during the protest, said the subdivision of the boundaries makes it easier for residents to access government services with ease.

Their anger was directed at Mr Raymond Omollo, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Interior and National Administration, who comes from the neighbouring Rachuonyo North sub-county and has been telling residents about the government's intentions for the new administrative units before they were created.

But when the Nation contacted the PS, he explained that the Interior Ministry does not determine the names of new administrative units.

He said the names are decided through a process led by national government administrators, including county commissioners and deputy county commissioners.

Homa Bay County Commissioner Moses Lilan said the creation of new units involves a lot of process which includes public participation where residents are asked to suggest suitable names for a new unit.

"We also look at various factors such as population and availability of amenities," Mr Lilan said.

However, he said that during public participation, some residents do not turn up to give their views on the government's plans. Mr Lilan said this was sometimes the reason why some people opposed what the government was doing. He said community members are the ones who decide the best name for a new unit.

"During public participation, some people may have a different opinion but fail to let the government know what they think," Mr Lilan said.

However, he said the name can be changed before the new unit becomes operational.

"I am aware of their complaint and the name can be changed before the new unit is operationalised," the county commissioner said.

According to Mr Amwata, the name of their clan came before Asumbi and this should have been taken into consideration before naming the new sub-location.

"We should not have Asumbi Town sub-location before Kabor becomes a sub-location. We need a new unit named after our Kabor clan," he said.

He further said the name Asumbi Town sub-location was likely to lock out local people who want to serve the new unit as assistant chiefs.

He said the word town makes the area look like a cosmopolitan place where anyone can apply for the position of assistant chief and get the job.

But if the name is Kabor, residents will have a better chance of becoming administrators.

Mr David Winyo, a resident of Kabor, said naming the new unit Asumbi was misleading.

According to him, whoever came up with the name Asumbi may have been influenced by the population in the area.

According to him, what makes Asumbi more populous are the local learning institutions, including a national secondary school, primary schools, a teacher training college and vocational training centres.

The name Asumbi became popular in 1912 when Catholic missionaries settled in the area and built a church.

They later built learning institutions.

"The people there are not permanent residents, unlike us who live on our ancestral land. They are there temporarily and will leave after completing their education," said Mr Winyo.

Ms Jilo received their petition and promised to forward it to the relevant offices.