The sacred hill of the Kipsigis called Tuluap-Sigis (Mountain of the Kipsigis) where before the advent of the colonialists’, religious ceremonies and sacrifices were done. It has been classified as a heritage site and is protected.
By BENEDICT TIROP
Leaders from Kericho County have called for urgent measures geared towards the conservation of the 350 acre sacred hill in the area.
The 350 acre sacred hill locally known as “Tuluap-Sigis” meaning mountain of the Kipsigis or “Tuluap Lakok” translating to the Mountain of the children.
Among the local Kipsigis people there are a few things that are as revered as touching on the Deity and Sin.
One of them is a seemingly innocent looking dome shaped hill overlooking the Kericho –Nakuru Highway near Londiani junction.
The British colonial authorities called it Mount Blackett, while the local community called it Tuluap-Sigis (the hill of the Kipsigis).
Tuluap-Sigis is an imposing landmark that stands at over 2,600 metres above the sea level and forms part of the expansive Mau Forest mountain chain.
The magnificent hill, clad in thick tropical forest, is situated near Londiani town in Kericho County.
Its splendor must have caught the eye of the Uganda Railway surveyors who did not hesitate to name it after their leader in 1898 as they surveyed the route for the railway line.
While working in the section between Mau Summit and Londiani, Blackett, the lead surveyor, had discovered that a shorter route to Lake Victoria was feasible if the line was built through Londiani, Kipkelion and Fort Ternan.
Indeed, it shaved off more than 120 kilometres from the alternative route that had been designed to take a more northerly direction to the lake.
For his efforts, Blackett was honoured; the Kipsigis hill was named after him and remains the official name of the hill to this day.
Kalenjin Historian and scholar, Mr Bill Ruto says,” Blackett and the Uganda Railway Chief Engineer, George Whitehouse had no idea they were actually “desecrating” a cultural site of immense religious and historical significance.”
According to Kipsigis tradition, Tuluap-Sigis hill held significance to the community in a number of ways.
Foremost, the hill was the gateway of the community to their present home counties of Kericho and Bomet, just as Mount Elgon was the gateway of the Kalenjin group as a whole into modern Kenya during their migration down the Nile Valley.
Folklore has it that the Kalenjin rested at the mountain after the great migration from Mount Elgon (called Kap Kuko) meaning, “our fathers place, en route from the Sudan.
The story which is hidden deeply in the best kept secrets of the community indicates the people were escaping from slavery in Egypt.
Historians believe the locals might have contributed in the construction of the great pyramids of Egypt.
The hill was also a central point for religious purposes, including the worship of Asiis, the Kalenjin God, annual thanksgiving and rites of passage ceremonies.
So important was the site in the Kipsigis social and religious life that the colonial government decided in 1905 to ban all the ceremonies conducted on the hill.
The reason was that the ceremonies and worship of Asiis were interfering with the “smooth” running of the colonial administration as the people were “negatively influenced.”
Mr Ruto, former chairman Kipsigis Myoot Council of Elders Josiah Sang and secretary ambassador Joshua Terer are of the view that the name of the hill should be changed to Tuluap-Sigis in the official maps of Kenya.
“The name of the hill should be changed in the official government maps to read Tuluap-Sigis,” says Rutto, who is also the Executive Director of the Kipsigis Heritage Foundation, an organization that spearheaded the gazettement of the hill in 2009 as a protected area under the provisions of the National Museums and Heritage Act.
Mr Ruto however said, with the gazettement of the hill as a protected cultural heritage site it is bound to re-capture its previous cultural glory albeit from a different perspective.
“Not only will the hill be preserved as a part of the Mau Forest biodiversity, its protection is a major contribution to the safeguarding of tangible and intangible cultural heritage of a community as espoused by UNESCO,” he added.
Asked to comment on the historic preservation of the hill, the chairman of the Kalenjin Council of Elders, Mr Sang said the site was of immense cultural and historical importance and the Kipsigis would protect and preserve it in all ways.
Others who have added their voice on the issue include area Member of County Assembly Mr Jackson Kikwai who says the community would not entertain anybody found destroying the sacred Tuluap Sigis forest since it “was of monumental forest to the current and future generations.”
He urged the council of elders to spearhead the conservation of the 350 acre Mount Londiani which has been gazetted as an historical shrine by the Ministry of National Heritage.
Mr Kikwai claimed forest guards and illegal loggers colluded in the lucrative trade of logging and charcoal burning.
The Governor Paul Chepkwony has said the county will spearhead efforts of conserving the hill which holds a special place in the culture of the local community.
Earlier this year the county government held a high profile prayer meeting at the hill which was meant to draw attention to the sacred site.