A visit to Kapenguria Museum

I’ve always been a proponent of all counties in Kenya having their own museum. This will allow the different parts of the country to tell their own stories about their culture, history and past. These are places that the local people , students and even visitors can come to learn about that specific area. 

And so it was such a delight to learn that on our way to Turkana, we would be branching into the Kapenguria museum that is found in West Pokot County. Not only is this museum important for West Pokot County, but it is a National heritage given that history was made here with the arrest of the Kapenguria six in 1952.

When we got there we found that they have the required Covid 19 measures in place . We got one person from the museum who gave us a talk on the history of the museum and what is inside. 

The first block is the prisoner’s rooms. This is where the Kapenguria six were held, that is; Bildad Kaggia, Kung’u Karumba, Jomo Kenyatta, Fred Kubai, Paul Ngei, and Achieng’ Oneko. I found Achieng’ Oneko’s story interesting. That when it came to his defence, he correctly pointed out that his charge was that he was a Mau Mau and had been giving Oaths. But he is Luo, and the oaths were in Kikuyu language, so how could he have administered them?

He was released and because the British colonial government had put laws such that one could only get into kapenguria using a special pass( not the Kipande, to get to kapenguria where the 6 were arrested one had to get yet another pass- this was put in place to avoid people attending the trial including the witnesses and lawyers on the side of the accused). Anyway, so he was released and re- arrested less than a 100 meters away from the place since he didn’t have that special pass. And that is how he ended up spending time and being part of the Kapenguria six. 

Next is the Sengwer Cherangani gallery. This is a minority tribe in west Pokot that lobbied to have it’s culture showcased in the museum. The guide gave us tales about their girls and what they have to do to get married according to their culture while the gallery shows their cooking items, dresses and weapons of war.  

Next we have the prison where West Pokot Colonial resistance movement were held. A lot is said about Mau Mau but little is said about the countrywide movements that also fought against colonisation in Kenya. In this museum one gets a chance to learn about the West Pokot resistance. 

It was interesting to learn that Elijah Masinde had some influence here back in the day and convinced the Pokot not to pay taxes alongside their own leaders against colonisation. That’s why this prison existed to hold the arrested Pokot and other people from other communities in this place who refused to comply with the colonial government. They used to be imprisoned for 3 months on the average and then taken to plant a forest called Kamatra as part of their punishment. The forest still exists to date and can be seen as one goes to Lodwar via the winding roads of west Pokot. 

We were also told about Lukas Pkacha, the west Pokot leader who led his people against the colonial government. And the Koloa massacre that I didn’t hear enough off and thus wrote it down to come research about it later. 

At the back of the museum they have a large snake, a carbon viper and a compound with huts made to show visitors how a Pokot compound used to look like back in the day. 

I would say that the most valuable part of the museum, isn’t even the museum itself, but the talk from the museum guide. We were short on time but I learnt so much from him in the few minutes he spoke. I wish we would have had more time to listen and ask questions. So should you visit, try and learn all you can about west Pokot present and past from the guide. You are assured of being told of names and massacres that you didn’t even know had happened.

We then took a quick tour around the place and left. The museum is really well maintained and I loved the drawings on the outer walls of the buildings. They gave the place a real historical feeling. The place is also really well maintained and neat. 

It is my hope that other counties also do the same. 

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