KHU BUNG’OOSI BWA ELIJAH MASINDE, OMUBICHACHI.
By Prof. Julius Wangila Mukhwana
On the question of Elijah Masinde’s prophecy,
as asked by some of our Lumboka members
particularly Omukiyabi Mwalimu Kukubo Barasa,
I have this to share with all of you and thereby
contribute to responses by many members.
I hope you do not mind my lengthy explanation.
I knew about Elijah Masinde when I was growing
up in Kibingei. His religion “Dini Ya Musambwa”
had intensified and gathered speed across our
Masaaba community (Babukusu and Bagisu) and
beyond in what is now Kibingei Location.
He used to preach to people that gathered on
Kitayi Hill in our village. All herd-boys
in the village would bring around “Bibiaayo”
(grazing cattle, goats and sheep) to hear
him along side the adults.
I was one of those who brought my maternal grand
mother’s goats and sheep as well so to listen
to his preaching. I believe, and presumably with
the other boys of my age not yet attending
school,the attraction was not what he preached.
It was rather the spectacular crowd of people
that were all dressed in white, long garments.
That fascinated me. The adults said he spoke in
parables and told them about what the community
should do for the days ahead in future.
His inner circle of followers, we told, used
to go up-stream to the sources of Lwakhakha,
Kuywa, Kibisi, Kibingei, and Kamukuywa rivers
to pray and conduct traditional rites.
They slaughtered sheep and supplicated to
ancestral guardian spirits of our community.
He did the same thing in various caves and
climbed the foothills of Masaaba (Mount Elgon)
to worship Wele Mukhobe we Bakuka (the Almighty
His following grew and eventually all
Christian churches in Bukusu shrank in
membership because they had joined “Dini Ya
Musambwa.” A religion that was described by
colonialists and other Christians,
the non-believers (who included our own
Babukusu, Bagisu, and Batachoni) and those far
away in Buluhya and Kalenjin as worshipers
Yet they were not.
Dini Ya Musambwa dedicated itself to ancestral
spirits, and accepted the power of super
natural force in the universe or the world in
which we live. Something that our people
traditionally related to well from time
immemorial. Suddenly, we heard that Elijah had
gone into hiding. They looked for him every
where. As we were children, adults never told us details.
I started school a year after he
was arrested. It was then that I learned more
about him from my Quaker parents, villagers
and other School children.
It was reported that the Kimilili police found
him in a well dug out hole around Chesamisi.
As he left with them, he allegedly “cursed”
an old man called Isaya and his family for
revealing his hideout. He also “cursed” Chief
Namutala for accompanying and guiding them to
that hide-out. It is well known that told him,
“When I return you, Mayeku’s son, will no longer
be around as Chief of Kimilili; Location.
Our religion as a movement for chasing away
these evil people you are protecting will have
assumed different dimensions.”
Chief Namutala countered that he was crazy and
gave orders to his aides to give Elijah Masinde
some more flogging. As he was led away and
driven in an open police land-rover, flanked
both sides by police men, throngs of our people
stood by the road side from Chesamisi to Kimilili
and cried. Elijah just waved all the way, as he
assured them of his return and reminded them of
undertaking the “Offerings and rites to rid
themselves and the community off the bad spirits
(Mwihosia ki wele kimibii, mukheebilila ta.”
All these things have been said over and over
in Bukusu. My father told me, and while working
in Nairobi, Omukinyikeu Willis Wangila Wanyonyi
told me after he returned to Nairobi to work as
an accountant with Treasury in the late 1960s.
Also, mzee Isaya’s son who was kuka Mark
Barasa’s driver when he was an MP, and stayed at
my flat in Nairobi when parliament was in
session, told me, too.
As Omukananachi Elijah Masinde had predicted,
when he was released from detention in
Kismayu, he found mzee Isaya economically
badly badly off. Omukolongolo Chief Namutala
khwa Mayeku was no longer Chief of Kimilili
(which had then split into Bokoli, Kimilili,
and Ndivisi). The prevalent politics were of
KADU and KANU demanding independence. All the
protestant and and catholic churches were full
to the brim with members as before the peak
of Dini Ya Musambwa during 1945 – 1948.
However, our Bukusu Brotherhood East Africa
(BBEA) based in Nairobi had split to
reluctantly create Bukusu Welfare Society
that was based in Bungoma. The former received
Omusakhulu Omukananachi yuno in March 1962
after he had been released from detention.
The split was as a result of the late Willis
Wangila Wanyonyi going to Bungoma in 1960 as
Treasurer of the African District Council of
As president, he believed that the association
was best run from home in Bungoma. Ordinary
members and the Executive disagreed. So from 1961
onwards, Bakokiwe Alfayo Wekesa Lurare from
Muchi and his supporters refused and continued
to run the Bukusu Brotherhood E.A from Nairobi
as before. The Bukusu young fellows, including
myself, from various Secondary Schools and
working in Nairobi, did not like the way it
was run by the older generation. We felt that
they were not radical enough.
On one hand, Willis and Tom Katenya, who
was Organising Secretary for the Bukusu
Welfare Society, had the enormous backing
of the Chiefs and elders who mattered most
in Bungoma district. They collectively promoted
the Bukusu Welfare Society amongst our people.
They argued that older generations preferred to
have their own association. They claimed that
Bukusu Brotherhood E.A suited mainly young and
urbanised Bukusus working in various towns of
East Africa. In effect, that is how we
Anyhow, our BBEA executive met with Elijah
Masinde, Israel Khaoya, etc in Nairobi.
We discussed the prevalent KANU-KADU politics.
Masinde Muliro had already received him at home
in Bungoma with a big party. He had bought
Elijah a modern transistor radio that he loved
so much that wherever he went he carried it.
I remember how he asked each one of us after
the meeting started, “to first of all, state our
clans and our fathers’ names and their
circumcision sets, plus what side of politics
After hearing what he requested and that all
of us were for KADU, he looked at kuka Israel
Khaoya, turned to us and said, “You must ask
your fathers to tell you what I told them
before Europeans imprisoned me. Tell Masinde
Muliro and his friend from the Coast, near
the Ocean, that their party will not win
government.” All of us executive members
believed in KADU and so his revelation
There was silence in the room.
Then he added, "“Muliro should have no
political association with Kenyatta because
this man had brought too much blood shed in
the country.” He asked us whether we had u
nderstood all that he had said. When we
replied in affirmative, Elijah Masinde stood
up and said that the meeting was finished.
We were kind of confused. However, after that
meeting, Bernard Barasa Cheloti, who now
resides in Cherengany, and I went with
our visitors to Nimmi Photograghers Studio
at the corner of Duke Street and River
Road to have a photograph with them.
I gave that photo to Wandayase Fred Makila
in the late 1960’s when he was researching
for a book on “Elijah Masinde and Musambwa.”
If any of our Lumboka historian needs a
copy of it, I suggest that you check with
him or Bernard B. Cheloti.
Admittedly, I have not seen a publication
on Elijah Masinde by Fred Makila or
anybody since then.
Anyway, when the General Election results
of May 1963, under the Lancaster House
conference Constitution were declared,
KADU had lost. And KANU was victorious.
In effect fulfilling Elijah Masinde’s
prophecy or prediction. I still recall
vividly how Tom Mboya and Mwai Kibaki hugged
each other and performed a bear-dance in
Jevanjee Street in jubilation. Since the
offices were opposite each other,
those of us gathered in KADU office
looked like people at some wake and observing
vigil. Despite that euphoria, KANU did not
want to form government without Jomo Kenyatta.
Governor MacDonald asked KADU to form the
required “Responsible Government” which
ultimately brought Kenyatta Home Again.
Hence Ronald Ngala’s and Masinde Muliro’s
cars, and a similar one given to Kenyatta
were registered with plate numbers KHA 2,
and KHA 3, and KHA 1 respectively.
Prior to the General Election of May 1963,
a number of elders and chiefs in Bungoma
led by my uncle Pascal Nabwana, had been
urging Masinde Muliro to side with the
Luos on grounds of Arithmetic and Geography.
Uncle Pascal Nabwana used to tell me
that he kept telling Muliro, “ Khuuba ne Barwa
nende Baswahili, Papa, aba olinga oweikame
mumurongoro, efula nekwaa. Soli munju ta.”
Apparently these were same sentiments Elijah
Masinde had expressed to Masinde Muliro when
the latter sought his support for KADU policy.
Elijah Masinde refused to support any political
party or endorse KADU’s policy.
Then in 1964, Elijah Masinde, who had fallen
out with Muliro earlier before the General
Election, stated that “Masinde Muliro nali
owulila, Baana Babukusu, ahambane ne Bajaluo,
nyanga balimuwa Bubwami.” And in 1965/66 he said
in Kimilili that “ Nabone omwana aselukhe mu
Babukusu. Omwana mwenoyoo aliamiha.” He continued
as the gathering grew bigger around him, “Omwana
wefwe alichaa amihe, ne Muliro akhapanila bali
ele khu sisala sya Kenyatta tawe. Alekha busa
okundi elekho, eye kamafuki khundebe ng’eneyo.
Mala owililekho oyo, aliaahachililisia babandu
At that time, Elijah Masinde also returned
from his visit to Bugisu. He had gone to confer
with his Musambwa flock and Omuyinga, the Bagisu
ruler/king, and other Kombololo (County) Chiefs
especially Wanambwa. But Prime Minister Apollo
Milton Obote ordered his arrest. Upon release
from jail in Uganda, he was escorted to the
Kenya border. He looked for “Sihuna” from the
shrubs, uprooted it, and dragged it along.
It gathered rubbish behind him. Then he told
those around and accompanying him “that he
had gathered Obote’s power together that would
He travelled peacefully to his home in Maeni,
Kimilili. Later when briefing his flock, he
declared that it had been revealed to him in
the previous night that “Omulang’o emwalo sye e
Matore, mbone karurire khu Bwami. Lundi mbone
karerire kamafuki musibala. Chia mwekesie ba
Befwe e Mbale.” Indeed, our people went and
communicated the tidings to Bagisu elders
and Omuyinga together with the County Chiefs,
and returned to Maeni. Obviously, you all know
what happened to President Obote of Uganda when
Major General Iddi Amin Dada staged an army
coup in 1971.
That fulfilled Elijah Masinde’s prediction.
Prior to this stage, our leaders had dismissed
him and called him names just as they did in
1948 before the colonialists subsequently
arrested and detained him in Kismayu.
Everywhere Elijah Masinde appeared, our
political leaders and some of the elders in the
community avoided him. These leaders described
him as psychotic and called on the Administration
to control his movements. Suddenly he was
restricted to Maeni village only and not allowed
to meet with people from other villages. Some
leaders outside the community did not heed this
Notably Jaramogi Oginga Odinga maintained his
close contact with him. So did uncle Pascal
Nabwana who had not gone along with government
restrictions. Pascal Nabwana argued that
Elijah Masinde was once more being persecuted
for his views by an independent Kenyan Government
as the colonialists did. The parliamentarians
in our community from Bungoma to Trans Nzoia
distanced themselves as Elijah Masinde
snarled and yelled out insults at President
Jomo Kenyatta publicly.
After all, he had not liked Kenyatta since he
came out of detention. Eventually Elijah was
arrested and charged. Like before, he would
tell the magistrate trying him, “Ewe omwana
wananu. Ne rarao singilo si? Niko nabolelanga
bararao wenywe nebakhawulila ta. Bona wesi
solikho owulila ta. Ngosile sina Papa, kila
wunjimia ano. Sowolaana khukhumbocha kumuse
To those enforcing the law, they took this
to mean Elijah had no respect for the
law and Government leadership. So he was
additionally charged with “contempt of
court.” He was jailed for a bundle of these
petty misdeeds at Kamiti maximum security
prison. He was then later transferred to
Mathari Mental Hospital in Nairobi where
he stayed without treatment.
For he was not mentally sick. Cosma Makhanu’s
young brother, who was a Spdt.Officer of
Prison at Kamiti, was very understanding.
He treated Omusakhulu kindly, and at times
gave him tea and bread, and cigarettes.
This gentleman used to allow us and other
special visitors enough time to converse
During this time, Bakananachi Kuka Israel
Khaoya, Omukitanga khurura e Matili and
papa Wekunda, Omubichachi we e-Maeni, and
their Secretary, from Ndivisi, visited him
regularly at Kamiti and Mathari Hospital.
I hosted them on each visit. Later they told
me that he had demanded that I accompany
them whenever they visited on weekends
since during the week I was unable to visit
with them on account of my employment.
From that time onwards, they empowered me
to be visiting him on their behalf and
convey messages both ways including messages
to Odinga and Pascal Nabwana.
They had travelled to Kisumu and informed
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga of the arrangement.
Jaramogi told them that him and I had been
friends for a long time and he knew that
I was a nephew of Pascal Nabwana. Every time
I visited Omusakhulu Omukananachi at Kamiti
or Mathari, he showed concern all the
time for our people. He repeatedly told me
his previous advices to Bukusu community
that have come to be known as or referred
to in Kimilili, “Elijah Masinde sekwaboola.
Elijah, wase, kang’oola khaale busa.”
I wrote to Chairman Michael Wamalwa
reminding him of “Elijah’s sayings or
prouncements” when he became Vice President.
In short, to me, based on what I outlined
earlier, Michael Simiyu Wamalwa fulfilled
Elijah Masinde’s prophecy. It would have
been complete, in this regard, had he been
around with us now. Obviously he would have
succeeded President Mwai Kibaki. Balii ka
Wele sekamanyikhanga, fwana khuliba nokundi.
Those of you who pore over his archival
records, you are bound to see my correspondence
with him. Previously, I had shared with
him over the phone on many occasions before
anybody knew that he would be a V-P in Kenya
one day. This was during my usual chats of
advice regarding the politics in our
community and Kenya at large.
Despite this constant communication with
Mike, he apparently paid inadequate attention
to viewpoints from various Bukusu friends and
colleagues both at home and in diaspora.
They include people like omusakhulu Omubuya
Zephaneah Wekesa with whom I coordinated
effectively the “Sichikhi & Lumuli” politics
from 1975 through the demise of President Jomo
Kenyatta in 1978 up to the end of 1980.
Undoubtedly, none of you would ever know what
that refers to or means within Bukusu politics.
Not even the present or the previous politicians
know it save one. You will need to ask Zeph and
I about that in future, God willing.
Copyright © 2004 Lumboka, All rights reserved.