Oppressive, inhuman and utterly barbaric!

Posted on March 14, 2010


When I read this article that a friend shared; two things came to mind; (1) the above title (2) thanks to Daily Nation for highlighting it. There are a lot of things known about the Samburu tribe of Kenya. It is known for its colorful traditions that closely resemble those of the famous Maasai tribe of Kenya. Samburu district has one of the most remote and unforgiving climate in Kenya, defined by sporadic rainfall; long drought seasons; crazily rough terrain that sits on the eastern side of the Rift Valley, starting with the hilly, low-lying hills on the Loroki plateau and tapering off to the low, mostly dry and extremely sunny plains around Wamba and Barsaloi region, spreaing all the way to North Horr at the tip of Lake Turkana and goes further east towards Marsabit. Samburu is also home to a variety of unique flora and fauna and has a number of beautiful animal sanctuaries and life sciences research projects. Samburu people are known for their resilience amid all these trepidations of human versus wild defined survival.  Indeed the Samburu are quite proud of the region of Kenya in which they live in even though it is one of those areas that fall within the “Other Kenya Republic”, meaning the parts forgotten by the Kenyan Government.

The practice highlighted by the Nation article is one of a number of dark traditions embraced and loved by the Samburu. The community’s culture is notoriously male chauvinistic and criminally anti-women.  Take the above practice for instance. It is like being placed in the Garden of Eden and instead of being told not to eat the fruit, you are told to eat all the food in the garden and all the fruits in it but if you dare shit, you will be blown into a hundred little pieces.

Here are the facts: (1) The Moran consults (sometimes, I think) with the girl and they agree on him beading her (2) He buys a lot of colorful beads and takes them to the girl’s parents (usually very discreetly because he doesn’t want to be seen by them) (3) The girl’s parents (I think usually the mother) give the go ahead and they then proceed to lace the girl with the big guy’s niceties (4) they build the girl and the new boyfriend a small house where they can meet (usually at night) and do their thing  (5) Parents pretend not to know what is going on until an alarm, in the form of a pregnancy suddenly goes off (6) the article tells the rest

Now, in my opinion there are three parts to this practice, first the relationship between the girl and the Moran, second the role of the parents/Samburu culture and third the aftermath of a pregnancy

First: Is it wrong for a sexual relationship to exist between the girl and the Moran? Any Samburu out there will tell you that it is both inevitable and though disapproved by parents, they all understand that they have been there and did it over and over again. Most relationships among the Morans and “their” girls are purely sexual. This kind, cemented by beading, however is different in that the girl and the Moran are usually faithful to each other and have a close not only sexual relationship but also emotional relationship.

Second: The parents, the parents, the parents! These are the demons in my opinion. They usually have the final say whether the practice should go ahead or not. They even build the young couple a house where they can meet and share a bed every night. Seriously, what do they expect? Some kind of a miracle? In a way they also represent the expectations of the community’s culture.

When the girl gets pregnant, the father is the first to go ballistic and start demonizing the girl for bringing shame to him and his family. The mother and other women are then expected to clean up the mess.

Aftermath of a pregnancy: As mentioned, in the event of a pregnancy, that child is not even considered human (or normal human being). In fact it is not even allowed to come to life, usually curbed through traditional abortion methods carried out by the girl’s mother and other women experts. If it by some miracle it is born, I am pretty sure that it will be considered a bastard for the rest of his/her life. I am not going to go into the whole abortion debate and decide whether this is murder or not.

Funny thing is, all the blame is apportioned to the girl and rest assured her life will never be the same again. If she is lucky, someone, probably old, will marry her.

One may ask, did the girl have an option? Maybe she did. She could have said no to the Moran. But how could she? This kind of practice is celebrated by the Samburu culture as a measure of a girl’s beauty and worth of a warrior’s beads!

I don’t think this tradition will disappear any time soon. What can be done is simply make it safer for the girl in question, by limiting her chances of getting pregnant. So, all parties concerned should be made to go through some sort of safe sex education. The dude and the girl should be taught to use condoms. Given that there are high chances of sexually transmitted diseases spreading nowadays, these will prove a double edged sword.

The whole practice, if it must continue, should have a purpose, more than just a sexual relationship. By that I mean there should be an option for the two to get married after their relationship – I think this will solve other problems that usually arise when two people that have never met in their lifetime get married, as is the practice among the Samburu.

The parents need to take more responsibility, stop sticking their heads in the sand, stop sitting pretending that they don’t know what is gonna happen, and only come out when the inevitable happens, whereby they come out with all guns blazing ready to crucify their child, and probably fine the dude who impregnated her.

As I said, there are many things to be admired about the Samburu culture but the way this “beading” business is carried is barbaric in my opinion and should not be ignored at this time and age.

Pardon any misplaced facts, please correct them on the blog’s comments section.


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