Song for the Samburu

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For about 25 years, my parents were regular travelers to Kenya, where they would visit various poor families they helped financially. The venture had started by sponsoring through the charity Actionaid, but having met the families, my parents realized it would be better to help them directly.

One of the families they sponsored was the Lekeritodos – a family of the Samburu tribe of northern Kenya. They were pastoralists, living in a village with no electricity or running water. They were a wonderful bunch of people, with the gift of being happy, generous and welcoming.  They loved singing.

I speak in the past tense, for sadly I don’t know if the Lekeritodos are still alive. My own parents passed on, and letters to our former contact went unanswered. Then in 2010 we heard the shattering news that Kenyan government forces and police had mounted a campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ against the Samburu people. The reports were of strafings from helicopters, machine gun and machete attacks. It seemed the violence was linked to the government’s desire to sell or lease the Samburus’ land to the Chinese for oil development. It has never become clear what it was all about. But thankfully, after a few months, the organization ‘Survival’ managed to persuade the government to stop the killings.

This song was written at the height of the time of violence and put onto Youtube to draw attention to Survival’s petition to give to the Kenyan government.

Painting by Lorna Reay