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Kapsowar is a small-town Elgeyo-Marakwet County in the former Rift Valley Province, Kenya. In 1994 Kapsowar became the headquarters of the former Marakwet District. Prior to this, the Marakwet and Keiyo tribes were collectively grouped into the Elgeiyo-Markwet District. In 2010, the two districts were again merged into Elgeyo-Marakwet County. The Marakwet number approximately 200,000 and a part of the Kalenjin family of tribes, which collectively are the second-largest ethnic group in Kenya.

The town is located between the Kerio Valley and the Cherangani Hills and sits at an elevation of 7,500 feet (2,300 meters). The land surrounding Kapsowar is very fertile and the elevation creates a mild climate with a temperature range of 70-85 °F (21–29 °C). Kapsowar has a population of 9152 (1999 census, total population of the Kapsowar location).[1] AIC Kapsowar Hospital, established by Africa Inland Mission in 1933, is largely responsible for the degree of development presently seen in the town.


Kapsowar is largely populated by the Marakwet, a Kalenjin sub-tribe. The original inhabitants of Kapsowar originate from different clans. Among the most prominent are Kapterik, Talai and Kapswahili. The Kapswahili originally immigrated from Tanzania and more or less were absorbed by the Kapterik clan. Although there have been high rates of intermarriage among the Kapswahili, most have retained their Swahili names. The Talai and Kapterik are rival clans with the former being predominantly Protestant and the latter Catholic. They also tend to support rival candidates in parliamentary and local elections. There are cultural, political and religious differences between the Kapterik and the Talai clans as mentioned before. These are assumed to have been preexisting for a long time before the arrival of Christian missionaries. The kapterik are a large clan who have relatives both in Kapsowar and neighbouring areas as well as down to the underlying Kerio Valley. Those on the valley would migrate to the larger Kapsowar area because of the mild climate and better possibilities of farming and livestock keeping. This was though to the displeasure of the Talai because this meant a competition of available resources with the immigrants.

The second and more prominent cause of these rivalries started when the Christian missionaries arrived. Two groups showed up in the pre-colonial period: the Protestant English missionaries under the African inland mission and the Catholic Irish missionaries. These two groups brought their animosities with them from Europe with Christianity. In the pursue of followers they used two differing methods: The English missionaries used an assimilation policy to win followers. This meant convincing the locals to abandon their traditional way of life (polygamy, traditional alcoholic drinks, traditional weddings, traditional circumcision etc.). If they did this, they were given privileges such as being part of the running of different facilities brought by the missionaries and benefitting from them. The British missionaries established the Kapsowar hospital, schools and many other goodies to benefit and convince followers. The Talai, for their part, were convinced of this. There are reports of people denied treatment in Kapsowar hospital in the 70s because they were either non Protestants or they consumed alcohol. Nowadays religion plays only a peripheral role when it comes to treatment. The Irish more of used an integration policy. They converted especially the traditionally conservative Kapterik to Catholics and did not demand them to abandon their traditions. This led to the Kapterik still practicing a more traditional lifestyle. Many Kapterik boys get traditionally circumcised (and until recent times some girls too, this is mostly the area where female genital mutilation is still active in the greater Kapsowar area). The traditional circumcision involved an initiation ritual where boys are taught traditions, undergo a bravery test and learn a coded language (understandable only to initiated boys with a word assortment mostly not traceable to the usual Marakwet language but with the usual grammar). With this language, a person speaking fluent Marakwet and has not passed this traditional rite may be present during a conversation in the coded language and would not comprehend a thing. In such a situation, the men would tease politely and explain to the raw character (almost like to a child). Those who have not passed this rite and have undergone circumcision in the hospital were referred to as kaplinsi, after a famous white missionary (Dr Robert Stanley Lindsay) formerly of Kapsowar mission hospital who made great efforts (in convincing the Talai clan) to have their boys circumcised in hospital and not in the bush. These historical factors led to the Catholic Church in Marakwet being considered liberal and the Protestant church conservative, a total paradox to the known European relations.[citation needed]

Mission Hospital[edit]

Kapsowar Hospital

The Kapsowar Hospital was established by the Africa Inland Mission (AIM) in 1933 and transferred to the supervision of the Africa Inland Church Central Health Council.[2]

The hospital and its 126 beds serve the Marakwet tribe in the area.[3] Among its facilities are four dispensaries that provide essential healthcare. It offers mobile maternal and child health clinics that can travel up to 90 kilometres (56 mi). The hospital offers antiretroviral therapy, curative in-patient services, family planning, HIV counseling and testing as well as immunizations. Amongst the approximately 4,000 inpatient admissions and 15,000 outpatient visits per year, the most common diagnoses for children constitute pneumonia, malaria, gastrointestinal infections, meningitis, and injuries/fractures.[4] The majority of the diseases are communicable ranging from: HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory tract infections, malaria, diarrheal diseases, neonatal preterm births, measles, and tuberculosis.

Common emergency cases include child delivery, traumatic injuries, pelvic bleeding, intestinal obstruction, and peritonitis. Some of the surgeries performed include thyroidectomies, tonsillectomies, vagotomies, pyloroplasties, chronic osteomyelitis amputations, hysterectomies, tubal ligations, C-sections as well as eye surgeries.[4]

The Africa Inland Mission (AIM) established Kapsowar hospital with the primary goal of spreading the Gospel. The Mission made an agreement with the elders of Talai, Marakwet to purchase the Old Government offices, ‘boma’, at Kapsowar to build the hospital.[2] This represents a step forward in fostering relations between the church and the inhabitants of the former Eldoret District, members of the Kalenjin group.

On October19th,1934 the first dispensary was opened under the supervision of Reverend Reynolds.Later in September 1934, Dr. Lee Ashton and Mrs. Ashton had joined the facility as medical doctors. Near the end of the year, the first Marakwet woman came in for childbirth.

Difficulties in finishing the construction of the hospital began to arise as the missionaries themselves became the patients. In April 1938, Reverend Reynolds and his wife went on leave due to their sickness. Dr. Ashley had to take on the responsibility for serving as the superintendent of the Mission station and supervising Africa Inland Missions Schools in the district as well as offering medical services. Various missionaries came to substitute for their previous partners: Mr. and Mrs. Powley, Reverend and Mrs. Richardson, Dr. W. B. Young and Mrs. Young, Dr. Robert Stanley Lindsay, nurse Miss Banks, Dr. Phillip Morris. During the war years 1939 -1945, some of the missionaries were instructed to render their services. The Local Native Council present was advised to take over the dispensary due to the irregularities of the missionaries in the role of the superintendent.[2]

By the end of 1949, about seven African women, not from Marakwet, were in training for nursing and there were five male dressers.[2] As part of the mission leaving a permanent mark, the missionaries began training the locals to take over their roles. As Dr. Morris noted, “ an African Christian who has received training at Kapsowar Hospital can lead charge of the dispensary. He is encouraged to have his wife and family with him and live in the midst of his tribe; he has the opportunity daily of preaching the word and healing the sick. The success of these very isolated areas depends upon the individual African - his spirituality and his ability.” [2]


  1. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e Kibor, Jacob Z. "The growth and development of the Africa Inland Mission and Africa Inland Church in Marakwet, Kenya." Africa Journal of Evangelical Theology 24.2 (2005): 107-128. http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ajet/24-2_107.pdf
  3. ^ "Samaritan's Purse: International Relief World Medical Mission". 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b "Kapsowar Hospital". www.kapsowarhospital.org. Retrieved 2016-01-03.

Coordinates: 0°59′N 35°34′E / 0.983°N 35.567°E / 0.983; 35.567