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Marakwet

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People of Kenya: Marakwet

It is a sub-tribe of the larger Kalenjin group with an estimated population of 200 000. It is made up of the sub-dialects namely; Almoo, Cherangany (Sengwer or Kimaala), Endoow, Markweta (the sub-dialect giving rise to the common name), Sombirir (Borokot) and Kiptaani who presently predominantly live in Marakwet District in the North Rift Valley Province of Kenya.

They lead a simple rural life characterized by mixed small scale farming and keeping of dairy cows, sheep, and chicken. They grow mostly maize, potatoes, bean , millet, sorghum, cassava, vegetables and fruits mostly mangoes and oranges.The Marakwet were formed in groups/sections/clans characterized by their recognition of no authority higher than the asiswo (the assembly of all adult males of the section). 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. Marriage still follows an unusual ritual.

The young man dons a special pair of leggings with many bells. He dances vigorously outside the hut of the maiden, who expresses complete surprise at the visit and feigns distaste for the young man involved. If she seriously does not wish to marry her suitor she may beg her father not to send her away. When a man marries he will petition his clan elders to be assigned several plots of land. Children are considered an asset on the farm and any teachings of family planning are strongly resisted.

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.

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