A petition for the British to return the skull of legendary Nandi leader Koitalel Samoei and the quest for Sh20 billion compensation for atrocities committed when colonialists crushed the Nandi resistance will feature in today’s anniversary celebrations.
The 116th anniversary of the killing of the community leader, who was murdered on October 19, 1905, will be marked today at Nandi Bears Club.
The colonialists chopped off Koitalel’s head and spirited it to London, United Kingdom, alongside other cultural artefacts.
The skull is believed to be in Pitts Rivers Museum in London.
“Research by scholars has traced the artefacts and it is now upon the county government to initiate the process to return them,” said Mr Francis Talam, curator at Koitalel Samoei Mausoleum and Museum.
In the past, some of the artefacts have been traced by Kenyan scholars and returned to the country. They include Koitalel’s royal batons.
“These treasured staffs of office of Orgoiyot Koitalel Samoei were recovered through the diligent efforts and guidance of Egyptologist Kipkoech arap Sambu and doctoral student Kipnyango arap Seroney with the cooperation of Col Richard Meinertzhagen’s son Randle Meinertzhagen on 23rd January 2006,” states a plaque on the safe where the batons are kept.
Koitalel, his ministers and messengers were killed by British soldiers led by Col Meinertzhagen after leading a seven-year resistance.
“I’ve been called by the white man for a truce but my spirits tell me he is not sincere,” Orkoityot reportedly foretold.
The ceasefire was a ruse as Koitalel and his team were all shot dead, a move that later troubled the assailant.
“My drastic action on this occasion haunted me for many years. I Richard Meinertzhagen murdered Koitalel Samoei, the Nandi Orkoiyot on the 19th October 1905,” Col Meinertzhagen confessed.
Nandi elders have termed the killing an act of betrayal by British colonialists whom they accused of committing atrocities against the community.
“Koitalel Samoei was shot dead in October 1905 at Ketbarak near the sporting facility after leading a rebellion against British colonialists. The community suffered a lot and is yet to receive justice,” said Mr Samuel Ng’etich, one of the Nandi elders.
Koitalel’s descendants, through the guidance of scholars including Dr Kipkoech, are exploring how the skull can be returned to the country. The Nandi County government and the National Museums of Kenya are also involved.
“What we have been told by the scholars is that there is no specific location where the skull is kept, but most of the artefacts are on exhibition at the Pitts Rivers Museum near London,” said Mr David Sulo, a great-grandson of Koitalel.
He disclosed that they have invited Dr Sambu and other researchers to a meeting in December to brief the family on legal processes to secure the skull and other artefacts.
“We are told there are procedures to follow on tracing and returning of the artefacts. We have authorised the government to negotiate with the British government on the return of the treasures,” added Mr Sulo.
Meanwhile, the community is seeking Sh20 billion as compensation for brutal killings, forceful displacement of families from their ancestral homes and other human rights violations by the colonialists.
According to Mr Talam, lawyers led by Mr Kimaiyo Sego are consolidating facts on the atrocities committed against the community.
“Professionals and leaders are expected at the event and will issue direction on the compensation and return of cultural artefacts,” said Mr Talam.
Local leaders, led by Governor Stephen Sang, MPs Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), Julius Meli (Tindiret), Wilson Kogo (Chesumei) and a team of lawyers led by Mr Sego are seeking redress for crimes against the community.
“What we want is justice and compensation from the British government for the killing of our leader and forceful displacement of community members from ancestral land to pave way for tea plantations,” said Mr Meli.
“Historical land injustices are concerns that have not been properly addressed and my administration will pursue justice through courts and other mechanisms,” Mr Sang said during last year’s event.
A similar push for compensation had been initiated by former Governor Cleophas Lagat.
British lawyer Karim Khan and Lilan and Koech advocates were appointed to collect evidence to lodge a case against killings and forceful displacement of the community before the case is lodged at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
This was after the previous county assembly approved an expenditure of Sh108 million to hire legal experts to file the suit at the ICC and the African Court of Justice.
Mr Khan, who specialises in international criminal and human rights law, has since been elected ICC chief prosecutor.