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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Samburu laibon's sorcery and the death of Theodore Powys in colonial Kenya
Author:Fratkin, ElliotISNI
Periodical:Journal of Eastern African Studies (ISSN 1753-1063)
Geographic term:Kenya
land conflicts
About person:Theodore Francis Powys (1875-1953)ISNI
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2014.984828
Abstract:This paper examines the role that laibons (diviners and ritual healers) played and continue to play in warfare among Samburu pastoralists through their use of divination and sorcery to defeat external enemies. The paper focuses on the 1931 death of Theodore Powys, a white ranch manager in northern Kenya whose death was, in time, attributed to murder by five Samburu warriors. The event and trial occurred as conflicts increased among Samburu pastoralists, white settler ranchers of Laikipia District, and the Kenya colonial administration in the early 1930s. Although the warriors eventually were acquitted of murder charge, their laibon, Ngaldaiya Leaduma, was arrested before the trial under the Witchcraft Ordinance and deported for intimidating witnesses and interfering with the investigation. The larger Samburu community also faced harsh fines and disarmament and was incorporated into the settler-dominated Rift Valley Province. This paper focuses on three themes - conflicts over grazing land between the Samburu and the settlers; colonial responses to local ritual leaders such as the laibon; and Samburu conceptualizations and use of spiritual power in political conflicts. It demonstrates that ethnographic approaches and methodology can complement historiographical methods of archival research to present a multivocal account of a period of conflict and disruption. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]