chapter  4
22 Pages

“What Have We, Jo-Ugenya, Not Done? We Have Even Killed an Arab/Swahili Hermaphrodite”: Constructing a History of the Jo-Ugenya-Arab/Swahili War by Means of a Saying

WithOwino Meshack

The Jo-Ugenya are a sub-ethnic community of the Luo, who live in Nyanza province, Kenya. The Arab/Swahili who plied the western part of Kenya in the nineteenth century are not as easy to identify and define as Jo-Ugenya. Indeed, in Ugenya, the Arabs and the Swahili were known collectively as okoche a Luo word that was apparently derived from the Kiswahili word: mkora. The Jo-Ugenya campaign for a district of their own continued even after independence, since previous boundary changes had not ameliorated the principal complaint that they had: that of being ruled by their traditional adversaries. The Wanga were under extreme military pressure from the Jo-Ugenya, and the Arab/Swahili needed Nabongo Mumia's support to establish a base from which to hunt for game and slaves. A series of battles then ensued in which the Jo-Ugenya defeated the Arab/Swahili and besieged the Wanga.