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HomeNewsKenya: Calls in Kenya for UK to Return Resistance Leader's Head

Kenya: Calls in Kenya for UK to Return Resistance Leader’s Head


Calls are mounting in Kenya for Britain to return the head of a revered tribal leader who led a bloody resistance movement against colonial rule more than a century ago, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Koitalel Arap Samoei spearheaded fierce opposition to the construction of the so-called “Lunatic Express,” a railway from Kenya’s Indian Ocean port of Mombasa through Nandi in the Rift Valley to Lake Victoria in Uganda.

Many thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the more than decade-long struggle that began in 1895 when surveyors first marked out land in Nandi as a route for the railway.

Kenyan historians say British colonial authorities lured Samoei to a meeting in October 1905 ostensibly to negotiate a truce but instead he and a number of fellow warriors were shot dead.

We demand the repatriation on Koitalel Arap Samoei’s head and his belongings back his ancestral home !! pic.twitter.com/TqWGDsIEEY— Kibet™️ (@kibeTweets) September 9, 2022

Samoei, an Orkoiyot or spiritual leader of the Nandi people, was decapitated and his head taken to England as a war trophy, according to Nandi elders.

The death on Thursday of Queen Elizabeth II, who was on a visit to Kenya in 1952 when she became monarch, has reignited demands for Britain to face up to the horrors of its colonial past.

Nandi County government attorney George Tarus told AFP the Nandi people wanted Samoei’s head returned to his ancestral homeland for a proper burial, a call echoed widely on social media in Kenya.

The queen “meant so much to so many people… despite the history of the British empire and its atrocities”, he said, highlighting the strong relations between Britain and Kenya today.

“But as the world is mourning the passing of Queen Elizabeth II maybe now is the right time to implore the British government to do what is only right — return the head of Koitalel Samoei and issue an apology publicly to the people of Nandi.”