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Beyond Nyamiranga

Beyond Nyamiranga[1]

By Matunda Nyanchama

March 30th, 2012

Click here for a .pdf version of this speech

A few years ago, I listened to a fellow Nyamiran speak about the unfolding of his world as a child. In a well-received speech to a graduation ceremony in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA) Professor Justus Ogembo spoke about growing up around the hills of Nyamiranga. As a little boy his world view, he said, was confined by the hills of Nyamiranga, the horizon of his being.

Over time, however, he came to realize how much more existed beyond the hills, an epiphany that unfolded as he travelled to the tea-growing estates in the Kericho region. Here, he ‘discovered’ another world, of people that spoke other languages; men and women that offered their labour in exchange of wages and others from foreign lands, with a difference skin – Europeans that ran the tea estates and factories.

Just traveling beyond the hills of Nyamiranga had opened a new world and extended the horizon of his being, he confessed. And indeed, the more he traveled the further this horizon extended.

Had he remained confined by the hills of Nyamiranga, he would probably have never become the professor he is, even when his horizon keeps extending as he walks new paths and discovers new worlds.


I want to use the metaphor of Nyamiranga to illustrate the concept of leadership in our community (Gusii) and country (Kenya).

One famed person is quoted as saying that a leader is a person that takes people where they ought to be rather than where they want to go. People will know where they ought to go only if they are well-informed and understand what lies beyond Nyamiranga, the equivalent of Canaan for the Israelites. Being informed means having a horizon beyond Nyamiranga. A leader who knows where his/her people ought to be must be one with a wider horizon, stretching beyond Nyamiranga! Canaan.

For a long time our leadership in Gusii and Kenya has confined us to concepts of clan, tribe and negative discrimination. Little have they capitalized on our diversity as a basis for our strength. Little have we challenged them to offer us an agenda of development. We have left them to lord over us, instead of us demanding they play the servant leadership role they are supposed to.

Take the concept of clan in Gusii and its application to political decisions. Often we pick people because they are “ours”; proclaiming ekebe n’eki’omonyene. We even add that ‘monyene tana gweitera!

In this respect we elect men and women from our clan/tribe regardless of their ability to meet the mandate we have charged them with.

In schools we protect non-performing teachers because they are “ours”; in elected politics we protect non-performing MPs, councillors and the like because they are “ours”.

My question is this: what of those that are hurt by poor leadership? Aren’t they “ours”?

Take the example of schools. Here our non-performing principals and teachers may, year in year out, obtain poor results. And over time, we end up with hundreds of students that fail. Question: aren’t these students “ours” too? And if they are ours like the principals and the teachers are “ours”, why protect one (or the few) at the expense of many?

In elected politics we would elect “our own”, and end up with a non-performing elected official. In the process the person fails to deliver, hurting all of us, including many of “our own”.

Is it right then to protect such a person just because s/he is our own even when s/he is causing a lot of suffering to hundreds of us?


Now take the flip side of the coin. And to do this, I will illustrate with the tenure of the late George Morara, a man that came from Bonyamatuta and one who served for only nine months! And this is a revered man with many, many people named after him across Gusii. And if naming is an indication of how revered he was, then George Morara was a man loved by many. And he was thus loved because he succeeded as a leader, bringing rapid development in a very short time while protecting the interests of the people he represented.

Among his accomplishments are the District Headquarters in Nyamira (now our County Headquarters) and one can rightly call him the architect and father of Nyamira County. As well, he is credited with the establishment of the Nyamira District Hospital, the plan that resulted in the Kisii-Chemosit road and the Nyamira Water Project that a lot of people depend on.

Today, we enjoy the benefits of his vision (seeing beyond Nyamiranga) as we ride on the road he fought for, as we get services at the government offices he architected and as we get health services in the hospital he put in the development plan; and indeed, as we enjoy the water from the water project he sought for our people.


Yet, I keep wondering whether those of his clan get priority when it comes to travelling on the road from Chemosit to Kisii? I ask whether government officials must confirm that one is Omonyamatuta so that one can jump the queue as one seeks to be served in the government offices and hospital. Indeed, I ask whether Abanyamatuta are prioritized when we seek water from the Morara-initiated water project!


The fact is that when you hit that road, you travel like anyone else using the road; when you go for government services you are treated like any other Kenyan seeking these services; and indeed, when you seek to drink water from the supply, you drink like any thirsty person seeking water from the water supply.

Friends, a good leader brings benefits to all; a bad one inconveniences us all. A good leader promotes the good of all; a bad leader, confined by narrow vision of clanism/tribalism/corruption, retrogresses all, including “his/her own”; this is one that cannot see beyond Nyamiranga.

Consider our own West Mugirango where there have been issues with Constituency Development Fund. (CDF). As you know because of these issues, more than Kshs 70 million may end up being sent back to the exchequer because of problems with the management of the fund in the constituency.

Question: so who will gain? Perhaps none? Who will lose? Perhaps all of us, including those that claim the leader to be “their own”!


I want to challenge you, as people that have been exposed to higher learning, to extend your horizons beyond Nyamiranga. I would like you to see the necessity of good leadership and why you should fight for that good leadership with every ounce of energy so that the leadership can bring development for all. I want you to challenge conventional wisdom and fight corruption and practices that result in the election of poor leadership.

Leadership is NOT a function of what clan one belongs to. Rather it is the power of the person’s ideas, the means to convert the ideas into actionable plans and the capacity to implement the plans. So it may be that my clanisman/woman is NOT the best person for the job s/he seeks. However, someone from a neighbouring clan may offer better leadership. It should be no brainer to pick the latter.

Clans, I must implore you, need to be understood in the context they are supposed to be used. As a group of related people, our ancestors were smart enough to put boundaries on interaction, especially with respect to marriage. Thus inter-clan marriage was forbidden so as to avoid genetic decline. (I am sure those of you who have studied biology and genetics will understand that recessive traits find expression when there is repeated intermarriage between people with similar genetic make-up.) Such decline would result in undesirable (including being retarded, being disease prone, etc.) traits in the offspring.

Clans MUST NOT be used as a basis for leadership selection. And yes, omonyene nabo agweitera if the proposed leader would be retrogressive; one that could bury many, including his own.

As with clanism, leadership is NOT a function of how much money one has. If the moneyed individual cannot offer and implement plans that benefit the people then we would have realized nought!


As the elite of our society, you need to fight the vice of ogosera where contestants buy votes for as little as Kshs 50. In the process, our people give up their right to pick the right leader, and we end up with someone whose only interest is his/hers. In any case, the person would have bought the vote; and you have no right to demand services as the person would be busy recouping expenses spent buying the vote.


And there is a reason to do things differently this time around. We have tried these ways (clanism, ogoserwa and the like) and we have the results such as coming last nationally (anyone remember Nyakemincha?) in education performance; coming first in the corruption index, and ranking very high in the national poverty index.

The truth is that we have a choice: do things the way we have done in the past and end up (with 100% chance) with the same results we have had. Choose differently and we have at least 50% chance that we will do better.

Our forefathers were wise enough when the counseled that: gakiaborire ‘nchera maate, kerigerie ‘nchera rogoro. The time has come for change of tact. And that foresight is seeing beyond Nyamiranga.

I would like you to challenge contestants to identify their plans, how those plans can benefit our people and how they intend to implement those plans.

Ask them what they would do differently to avert the declining land holdings as our population grows. Ask them about job creation possibilities (say) in agriculture, e.g. agro-processing, branding, etc. Ask them about education and how we can radically change the face of Gusii and Kenya to better outcomes. Ask about how they could help us glow once again in the sports arena so that our gifted sportsmen and women can earn a living out of their talent. Ask them what they would do to promote our culture as a means of income generation? Ask them how they would enhance entrepreneurship in the region. Ask how they can help reshape training programs (e.g. with village polytechnics and polytechnics) so that many that don’t advance to university have a means of livelihood.

If and when you start asking those questions, you would have extended our horizon, and moved beyond Nyamiranga. We would have started painting the picture of the possible Canaan we can attain.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a duty to ourselves, those of fellow men/women and future generations. That duty includes electing the right people to lead us to our Canaan. We have a duty to educate our peers, fellow men and women and all others to head for the Canaan we seek.

And that is extending our horizon; and overreaching Nyamiranga.

NB: Dr Matunda Nyanchama is an information security professional and a possible candidate for political office in the coming elections.

[1] Versions of this speech were given on diverse dates in March 2012 to students of Egerton University, Kisii and Egerton campuses.

[1] Versions of this speech were given on diverse dates in March 2012 to students of Egerton University, Kisii and Egerton campuses.


Comment from Charles Gichane
Time: April 9, 2012, 9:50 am

Dear Mr. Matunda Nyanchama,

First and foremost, Happy Easter. I hope all is well with you and your loved ones,

Let me start by introducing myself.

My name is Charles Muraguri Gichane and I’m a Business Reporter and News Anchor for CapitalFM Radio and Online TV in Nairobi. I’ve recently proposed the idea of becoming the company’s “Diaspora Correspondent” to my boss, and he’s given me the green light to report the stories of Kenyan’s living in the Diaspora for Kenyans back at home. There are many stories that Kenyans in the Diaspora have to tell and I think it’s important that you guys are given a platform to tell them.

The reason I wanted to become the Diaspora Correspondent for CapitalFM is because I lived in North America for 17 years of my life. I moved to Toronto when I was five with my mother, father and sister so that my mother could pursue a PhD in Education at Trent University. We moved to Vancouver when I was 9, and she got her Doctorate at the University of British Columbia. When I was 12, we moved to Oswego, NY where she currently teaches at Oswego State University. I went to Oswego High School and Syracuse University where I majored in Broadcast Journalism, while minoring in African American Studies. After graduating in 2010, I worked for a few years in Syracuse before deciding to move back to Kenya in September 2011. I’ve been working at CapitalFM since February of this year.

So in short, I’ve lived the life of a Kenyan in the Diaspora for the majority of my life. I understand the struggles and benefits of living abroad and I feel it’s paramount that such stories be heard on an international platform such as CapitalFM. If you haven’t checked out CapitalFM, please visit the site for details. The site gets over 3 million views per month, with the majority coming from Kenyans living abroad.

To sum up my reasons for joining and posting in this group, I plan on leaving for the States at the end of this month for my sister’s graduation and I will be in the US until May 31st.

…and what stories I plan to cover in this message, and I’d greatly appreciate if you can look it over and give me some input. I would love to do a feature story you because I think your life would serve as an inspiration to many Kenyans living here back at home. I’d also appreciate some contacts or advice on how to get Kenyans in DC, NY, and New Jersey because I will spend the majority of my time there.

Thank you for your time help and I hope to hear from you soon.

Have a wonderful Easter,


Charles M. Gichane

Comment from Jaspher Rori
Time: April 20, 2012, 2:22 pm

Some Reactions to “Beyond Nyamiranga”

Comment on beyond Nyamiranga
By Jaspher Rori (author of “A Beacon of Hope” – Nsemia Inc. Publishers, 2011; and upcoming “The Eye of Mayenga” – Nsemia Inc Publishers 2012.)

Dr Matunda,
This article beyond Nyamiranga is a great article. It is a moving speech for those of us who feel with our hearts. True. The problem with our community if I can paraphrase Chinua Achebe’s novel, the problem with Nigeria, is not in our air, or our land. It is in poor leadership that has failed to rise to the challenges. Bad enough, these poor leadership systems have propagated a means to an end: Poverty, low educations standards, lack of exposure, parochial culture, crime, gender insensitivity, resources skewness, suppression and a culture of silence as a means for subjects to tow the line of the masters. The results are a creation of society that is ill-equipped to meet and address the emergent challenges. A poverty stricken sister or brother in Nyamiranga or Nyamotentemi would ignorant but gladly elect one into leadership if s/he is given 50/= or her basket of maize is milled for free on a single day. Thus the electoral process that is supposed to be issue based end up expensively undemocratic. The results are void leadership. The Presence of leadership is not a panacea for development. Its presence can be as good as the absence of it if that leadership is not taking people anywhere. (See Somalia)
Nationally things are no better. In this age and times, some leaders still whip tribal emotions to galvanize support. What national goods can come from Gema, Kamatusa, mundu ku mundu, or “its our turn to eat” yet not half loaf reach the tribesmen/women. Hopelessness and confusion has made Kenyans to forget too soon 2007/08 disaster that almost brought the country to its knees. As Kenyans head to general election under the new constitution that provides for a devolved government and where the central government will basically be a coordinator and a research institution, some of our leaders are still trying to drive us into tribal enclaves. So many Kikuyu are landless, unemployed, poor and hungry despite Kenyatta and Kibaki having been in power for 15 and 10 years respectively. How many Kalenjins are in these states despite Moi having been president for 24 years? Then what is about Gema and Kamatusa? Is it about ICC or about power and who will benefit and who will lose out? How many Basamaros and Bagichoras are in desolate state despite Hon Obwocha and Hon Onyancha having been Mps for 15 and 10 years respectively?
The culture of the Gusii has for long been based on physical strength as opposed to the ability of the brain. It was a means of protecting our territorial rights from aggressive neighbours: the Maasai, the Kipsigis, the Suba, the Luo, and to some extent, our own sister clans. But times have changed, driven by various factor: technology, globalization, population pressure etc. We no longer require the physical mighty to scare our enemies. We need brains, integrity and competence in politics.
With the combined effort of the negative factors bombarding us, the people tend not to take seriously those who may see and have a way forward. Further, we have never had a central leadership that creates a forum for brainstorming. The elites are seen as outsides and as people who have failed them. Some people don’t even vote or know the importance of electing leaders. Yet voting is a duty and a democratic right to put in place an accountable, competent and legitimate government. Some do not register as voters while some have given up on changing society for the better through visionary leadership and hence stay away during the voting process. Yet, they expect services and cry foul when their rights are trample and their lots diminish by day while those in leadership fatten through corrupt means.
Good news Daktari is that you are in a class of more and people who are seeing beyond Nyamiranga and Nyamotentemi. The young generation that we are having is more Knowledgeable and are realizing that their problems stem from poor past leadership and if not tackled now will transcend to the generations to come. That is why when an old man says he cannot vote in a Luo, the son tells him, “dad, a leader is not the skin but one who can lead us to somewhere. Dad, a leader is not my clan but one who can change lives of our lots now and into the future like Hon George Moraa.” More forums, seminars, consortiums, clubs etc that brainstorm for attitudinal change on clanism, tribalism, culture of hand-outs, false promises, manipulations are required to empower and bring about attitudinal change. Further, our constitution, chapter six on leadership and integrity provides a basis for electing good leaders based on integrity and competence.
All said and done, it begins with us. I shall vote for leaders based on chapter six and chapter seven of the constitution of Kenya, 2010.
Daktari, Thanks again for that wonderful speech that is aimed at attitudinal change.

Jaspher Rori
Author of: A Beacon of Hope by nsemia inc. publishers, Ontario Canada, 2011

Comment from David Nyameino
Time: April 20, 2012, 2:25 pm

Dear Matunda,

Your article reminds me of the story of Michelangelo the Artist, who was once found spending time chipping away on an ugly stone, shaping and molding it. He was asked why he was wasting time working on an ugly stone. He answered that there was an angel trapped inside it, that he wanted to release. The issues you have raised indeed renders our community an ugly stone; it needs dedicated artists like Michelangelo to shape and mold them.

It hurts to know that while all the issues you have raised such as clanism, decaying standards of education, high poverty levels and corruption are all occurring, there exists many elite personalities in our socioeconomic class that sit, watch, and merely wonder why these problems are hitting us. One thing for sure is that if we don’t intervene now, regardless of our interests in leadership, our community will rapidly decay and will soon be a no-go-zone for especially the elite, who obviously reside elsewhere.

Let us not pretend, we all know what is plaguing our community. As John Maxwell writes “As long as a person doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, he doesn’t grow”. Our current leaders have mastered this concept. They only tell the electorate what they want to hear and grease them with kshs.50/= and that is the end of the story. Our leaders know the truth, but they withhold it from the public for their self-interests. We have been tolerating this corruption–according to a recent survey, Kisii is the No.1 corrupt county in Kenya. Is that the news we want to hear?

Dr. Matunda I am one of those sons from Kitutu Masaba whose visibility was blocked by Nyamiranga hill because we border it from the other side of Mosobeti, and it was not until I took my first bus to Nakuru in the early 80’s when I realized that Kenya was actually big. Since then, I have gone far and wide and have realized that the world is even bigger and that there is life beyond the horizon. I want to share my experience and story with community. I am looking for honest people willing to promote a corruption-free community while dedicated to improve their economic status by using their hands and minds.

I am one of those who believe that we the elite have deserted our community. How many of us have a leadership role of any kind in the village we grew up in to share the good leadership skills that we are applying for companies that make millions out there? Not many of us. The challenges in our community are many and run deep. It requires a concerted effort of many selfless and dedicated individuals to ignite change from their small corners, but we must create un-suspicious platform to share the success stories. I am aware that any time the elite (professionals…)start a small development agenda they are fought by the selfish politicians. Times have now changed, one has to show results. With the advent of the county system, we all need one another to make any remarkable difference.

I am in agricultural development promoting productivity and the business in the entire value chain. I believe in mentoring the youth. You may have heard of the Inovation Empowerment Program “One Hen Project” in Kisii. I am motivating and nurturing the youth behind it. I look forward to sharing more with you. There is more we can do if we believe we can.


David Nyameino

Comment from Jared Aoma
Time: May 24, 2012, 7:53 am

Hi Mr Matunda, i am hereby humbly reminding you to note Mr David Nyameino’s remarks!

If we shall be privileged to find leaders who are motivated in this manner, then we shall be in a position of eradicating poverty in Gusii land (Nyamira County).

Action speaks louder than words.
Elder Jared Aoma

Comment from mosinto bwoburu
Time: August 25, 2012, 7:03 pm

this is the grand challenge to the educated!

Comment from hosea kiplagat
Time: May 15, 2013, 1:48 pm

this is absolutely inspiring kenyans should look beuond their ethnic hills.

Comment from Daniel Keire Mose
Time: January 3, 2015, 8:36 am

I concur with your argument and for sure if wishes were horses everybody might have rode.Let we abagusii think big before we decide so as to elect leaders to positions which they fit.And nevertheless leaders whose words are transformed into actions once they are elected to their respective positions.

Comment from Josephat M. Mandere
Time: March 30, 2016, 9:44 am

Hello Mr. Matunda,
This article has caught my cochlea,and in fact am re-energised once more,let’s all think beyond ” Nyamiranga Hills”…really wonderful.
Educating the electorates first at the ground in order to kill ignorance,
Thanks alot.
Upcoming Author, The Baptism Of Blood And Other Stories!
Josephat M. Mandere

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