Marakwet people

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Marakwet is also a district in Kenya, see Marakwet District

Marakwet is the name of one tribe of the Kalenjin ethnic group of Kenya. There are an estimated 200,000 Marakwet people, from the clans Almoo, Cherangany (Sengwer or Kimaala), Endoow, Markweta (the dialect giving rise to the common name), Sombirir (Borokot) and Kiptaani. Each clan of the Marakwet are characterised by their recognition of no authority higher than the asiswo (the assembly of all adult males of the clans). They forged a form of association through their common residence along the Kerio Valley and on the slopes of the Cherangani Hills.


The territory occupied by the Marakwet is one of the most beautiful and picturesque parts of Kenya, bounded to the east by the Kerio River at 1000 m above sea level, which runs through a small branch of the Great Rift Valley. To the west it includes almost the entire Cherang’any hills which rise to 3300 m above sea level west of the Marakwet escarpment. Marakwet people live in the Marakwet District, Trans Nzoia, and Uasin Gishu counties of the Rift Valley Province of Kenya, as well as in other towns in Kenya. Others have moved to live in places as far away as Australia, Southern Africa, and the United States.

The Marakwet lead a simple rural life characterised by mixed small scale farming and keeping of dairy cows, sheep, and chicken. They grow mostly maize, potatoes, beans and vegetables in the highlands. Those who live along the escarpment and the Kerio Valley keep mostly goats and beef zebu cows and grow millet, sorghum, cassava, vegetables and fruits mostly mangoes and oranges. There is a sophisticated pre-historic irrigation furrow system that supports this crop cultivation along the Kerio Valley that is thought to be over 500 years old.[clarification needed] Some of the greatest long distance and especially steeplechase runners in the world have come from amongst these people.

The traditional Marakwet religion consisted of multiple deities with hierarchical ranking. The most important deity was Assis (the sun), sometimes fondly referred to as Chebetip chemataw. He is mostly associated with blessings and good will. Another deity is Ilat (god of thunder). He is associated with rain and in dry seasons sacrifices were made to appease him. He is also associated with fury and vengeance whereby he causes droughts or strikes people with lightning if he is angered.

The Marakwet district headquarters is at the hilly town of Kapsowar. Other rural centres/towns are Chebiemit, Kapcherop, Cheptongei, Arroor, Chesongoch, Chesoi, Kapyego, Tot, Sangach, Kapchebau, Kakimiti, Meuno, Kamogo, Tirap and Embobut Mosop.

Marakwet people speak the Markweta language.


Traditional Social Structure[edit]

Traditional Marakwet society shared a number of similarities with other Kalenjin societies.


Traditionally Marakwet society is divided into thirteen patrilineal clans, each of which (with the exception of Sogom) is divided into two or more exogamic sections distinguished by totems.

Each person recognizes, as the primary part of his/her personal name, the name of their clan. For instance a man of the Kobil clan, asked, "Who are you?", would reply "I am Kobilyo", a woman of the same clan, "I am Kobilyo". Next they would be asked, "Of which totem?" and only after this primary identification can more personal names be given.[1]

Clan Masculine Sing. Feminine Sing. Totems
Kabon Kabonin Kabonin Baboon - Frog - Rat - Taiywa (a species of wild fowl)
Moi Kimoin or Moiyo Kimoi Buffalo - Crested crane - Osit (a bird) - Kosomyo (ground bees)
Kobil Kobilyo Kobilo Porcuine - Dog - Kipkuto - Black-necked crow
Mokich Mokichin Mokicho Moon - Fire
Saniak Saniakin Saniaka Monkey - Bees (Red or Brown)
Sogom Sogomin Sogomo Hawk
Sot Sotio Soti Sun - Mokyo (a worm)
Syokwei Syokweiyo Syokwei Black stinging ant - ?
Talai Talain Talaa Cheringis (a lizard) - White necked crow
Terik Terikin Teriki Kabongen (large elephant) - Kapkatien (small elephant)
Toyoi Toyoin Toyoi Ilat (lightning) - Water
Tingo Tingoyo Tingo Hyena - ?
Tul Tulin Tula Kipsero (large jackal), Chepkinjo (small jackal)[2]


Like other oral societies, the Marakwet developed a rich collection of folklore. Folk narratives were told to pass on a message and also as a means of keeping historical record. A common Marakwet folk tale is the Legend of fall of Kipteber, the rock-mountain.[3]

Relations with Pokot People[edit]

The Marakwet and Pokot tribes are both sub-groups of the larger Kalenjin. War started as a result of livestock theft, and the tribes have since gone through periods of war and peace. War raged between some of the Marakwet clans, e.g. Kapkau and Karel from the valley, because of a land dispute and this has resulted in a loss of lives (11 people were killed in Kapkau). There was a demonstration by people of the Sambirir region over alleged killing of people and they requested the government to carry out an operation in the lower part to remove all guns, but this has not been done. The district court promised to act in order to make Marakwet a peaceful place. Note: The Killings done by the Karel people were attributed to high handedness, arrogance and fraud on the part of the region's leadership. It's understood that land is an emotive issue and killings may continue, unless the oppressors stop grabbing land from their rightful owners.Kerbut land is known to belong to Karel... and until when they are given their rightful land, they are most likely to continue killing.

There have been immense achievements in terms of peace promotion among the Marakwets and the Pokots. War between them ended in the year 2000, marked by the killing of 47 people in Murkutwa Marakwet, 26 km east of Chesoi. The Marakwets and the Pokots coexist now and conduct trade, for example in the Kipchinda, Chesongoch, Kolowo and Tot markets. Marakwets also take cereals [maize, millet and sorghum] to the Pokots in the Kolowo and Kimnai markets in exchange for cash.


  1. ^ Kipkorir, B.E. The Marakwet of Kenya: A preliminary study. East Africa Educational Publishers Ltd, 1973, pg. 3
  2. ^ Kipkorir, B.E. The Marakwet of Kenya: A preliminary study. East Africa Educational Publishers Ltd, 1973, pg. 4
  3. ^ Kipteber: The Mountain that fell right from the sky
  • Marakwet of Kenya by Dr. Benjamin Edgar Kipkorir / F.W. Welbourn published in 1973 by the East African Literature Bureau.
  • 'The Expansion of Marakwet Hill-Furrow Irrigation in the Kerio Valley of Kenya' by W. Östberg. In Widgren, M. and Sutton, J.E.G. (eds.): Islands of Intensive Agriculture in Eastern Africa. James Currey publishers, Oxford, 2004 : 19-48.

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