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Lago Ogom: The Story of the Tactful Rendile Chief

Created by David Karanja In History 27 May 2022

The Rendile live in the vast lands of the North-Eastern part of Kenya. They are mostly concentrated in the Kaisut Desert and around Mt Marsabit.

Traditionally, the Rendile are nomadic pastoralists, tending camels, sheep, goats, and cattle. In talking of forebears whom the Rendile respect and revere, one name must come to the fore: Lago Ogom.

Lago Ogom was a supreme ruler. He was paramount chief over an area that now takes in Isiolo, Marsabit, and Moyale. His greatest contribution to his society was the education of nomadic children.

He oversaw the establishment of several schools in the area, including the first Rendile Native School in Marsabit.

Each Rendile clan contributed raw hides which were sold and the money used for the construction and running of the school. The smallest clans each gave at least one gorcha, containing 22 skins, and the largest as many as 66.

The money collected from the sale of these skins was used to build classes, pay teachers’ salaries and provide meals and boarding facilities for learners.

Lago Ogom faced many challenges. The British colonial authorities did not support the education of the native African communities because that would render them uncontrollable. Therefore, it actively discouraged formal learning, by refusing to allocate government funding to local education.

On the other hand, some Rendile families refused to send their sons to school because they felt that to do so would be to support an ‘alien’ tradition.

In other words, Lago Ogom was faced with the challenge of the Rendile fear of losing their children to a foreign culture against his passionate conviction that only the best education possible would enable his people to rid themselves of oppressive colonial rule.

So Lago Ogom resorted to offering an enticement. Each household would receive 30 goats if its children were sent to school. In certain instances, he offered camel heifers. Chief Lago Ogom was able to have more than 30 boys enrolled. They proceeded to the intermediate school outside Marsabit.

Among these pioneer students were the politician Kholkholle Adichareh, the civil servant Philip Legwanani, and the first Rendile inspector of police, Nchude Kahle.

Lago Ogom’s foresight permitted him to usher the Rendile into the modern world and for this reason, he will always remain a superhero.

Lago Ogom's legacy lives on

The town of Marsabit is an outpost of urban civilization in the vast desert of northern Kenya. The town is situated on an isolated extinct volcano, Mt Marsabit, which rises almost a kilometer above the desert. The hills here are heavily forested, in contrast to the desert beyond, with their own "insular" ecosystem.

The town currently has a population of about 5,000 people. It is mainly inhabited by the Cushitic-Speaking communities such as the Borana and Rendile.

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