Maragoli elders in community unity push

Some of the residents of Vihiga County having a view of the cultural Mungoma caves and slopes at Maragoli hills. Cultural elders have said they are seeking to start talks for the return of unity among the Maragolis ahead of cultural events to be marked later this year and next year.

Photo credit: Derick Luvega | Nation Media Group.

The Maragoli Council of Elders in Vihiga County has begun reuniting the subtribe following cracks that emerged during the election period over the governor's seat.

The subtribe was the most affected by divisive campaigning that saw two major politicians – Moses Akaranga and Alfred Agoi – unsuccessfully battle for the governorship in the August 9 polls.

Some among the Maragoli, the largest subtribe of the Luhya in the county, abandoned the two in favour of the incumbent Wilber Ottichilo, who hails from the second-largest group, the Bunyore.

The 10-member council, who spoke through their acting chairman, Rev Christopher Govedi, after a meeting at the Moses Budamba Mudavadi Cultural Gardens in Mbale, said unity needed to be restored among the Maragoli before two impending major cultural events are marked.

The subtribe is planning to mark the annual Utamaduni Day that has been observed regularly for over 40 years on December 26.

ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi is the patron of the Maragoli cultural festival, a role he inherited from his father, the former powerful politician, Moses Substone Budamba Mudavadi.

There are also plans to hold traditional circumcision rites next year. The practice is performed every 10 years.

The Maragoli consider the two events uniting forces and the elders push to advance the unity agenda before they are marked.

The subtribe has also practised traditional circumcision, another uniting rite, for several years and has a 10-year interval age set naming system.

The elders' council has not been meeting, further undermining the unity bid.

Rev Govedi, who was joined by other council members, said resuming their meetings is key to the unity bid.


He urged locals to embrace each other in line with their traditions as was envisioned by their forefathers.

"We are finding out ways to continue living together like our forefathers taught us,” he said.

"We are sharply divided. The council elders have decided to hold a meeting over this matter and we will take a position."

Mr Akaranga and Mr Agoi, both from the vote-rich subtribe, failed to agree on one candidate ahead of the 2022 polls and resolved to go their separate ways, dividing the Maragoli.

Mr Akaranga, the first governor, was seeking to recapture the seat he lost to Dr Ottichilo in 2017 through his own party – Progressive Party of Kenya.

On the other hand, Mr Agoi, a former Sabatia MP, fought for the plum seat through ANC.

The two hail from Sabatia constituency and were seeking to oust Dr Ottichilo at a time the Maragoli of Vihiga constituency were angry with their Sabatia counterparts for fighting to "take everything" at their expense.

As a result of the division, Mr Akaranga, who was seen as Dr Ottichilo's bitter rival, emerged second with 42,432 votes.

Dr Ottichilo was declared winner with 82,313 votes, while Mr Agoi was in position four with 26,088.

Most Maragoli voters in Vihiga constituency and Hamisi West voted for Dr Ottichilo, helping him win a second term.

Dr Ottichilo, who hails from Bunyore, said he received votes across the county.

He said he would work for everyone in the county and pledged to work with Mr Mudavadi to ensure the county gets the much needed development.

Mr Jotham Avodonya, a member of the Maragoli Council of Elders, said the elders want to correct what went wrong so that the subtribe can forge ahead in unity.

"Our culture has many teachings and lessons to learn from. We want everything to fall back in place," he said after the meeting.

The council's acting secretary, Mr Ainea Mwugusi, hailed President William Ruto's decision to nominate their patron, Mr Mudavadi, for Prime Cabinet Secretary.

Mr Mwugusi said this brought "a lot of joy to the county" and prayed that the new leadership would also work to revive the ailing economy.