Otenyo Nyamaterere

Featured Issue

When a rookie colonial administrator, G.A.S Northcote, popularly known as Nyaigoti, first set foot in Kisii in 1904, he had accompanied an expedition dispatched to Kisii to investigate reports that cattle rustlers had killed some people.

Kisii had earned the attention of the Nyanza sub-commissioner S.S. Baggie, after raiding a neighbouring community. Baggie dispatched 100 soldiers and 50 policemen.

As soon as the military hit the ground in Kisii, the soldiers went on the rampage, shooting people and seizing livestock.

One chief, Oyugi of Wanjare, was given Union Jacks to hoist on top of grass thatched village huts whose owners were supposed to surrender cows as a punishment for resisting the expedition. By the end of the expedition, Kisii had lost an estimated 3,000 heads of cattle to the soldiers during the month-long orgy of violence.

When Northcote was posted in Kisii in 1907 as an administrator, the locals were still smarting from his brutality and especially after a medicine woman, Moraa, taunted them to action.

On January 12, 1908, while Northcote was escorting cattle seized from the locals, Otenyo, one of Moraa’s disciples, ambushed the DC and hurled his spear.

The spear caught the DC by the shoulder and injured him, sending the entire Kisiiland into frenzied celebration in the belief that their tormentor had died.

Thus the myth of Otenyo, the man who killed a white DC, was born.

Otenyo would be apprehended later and subjected to a firing squad, but his death only gave life to his legend that survives to this day.